Subdomain VS Subdirectory Debates: Who is Better for SEO and Why?

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Subdomain vs. Subdirectory Debates
Subdomain vs. Subdirectory Debates
Subdomain vs. Subdirectory Debates

Subdomain vs. Subdirectory:  Its a debate that has been going in SEO circles for years and it doesn’t seem to be close to ending anytime soon, Is which one is better for SEO purposes, Subdomains or subdirectories?  Many people ask whether it is a good idea to migrate, for example, a blog or e-Commerce store from a Subdomain over to a subdirectory instead.

Also, will it improve your SERP ranking on Google and other search engines? And today we will discuss about all the above thing which is mentioned.

Subdirectory & Subdomain Difference

First we will discuss about the difference between Subdirectory and Subdomain.

About Subdirectory

The easy way to understand a subdirectory is to think of it as a file cabinet with different file folders. All of the folders which are stored in the same cabinet, but they all have the different information. Thats why subdirectories are also called as subfolders. With a subdirectory ranking, the root domain URL will always be followed by the subdirectory. For example using The HOTH, like our domain name is theHOTH.com. And If you want to sign up to be a member, For that your subdirectory is theHOTH.com/signup. If you wanted to drill more deep and become, for example an SEO reseller, that subdirectory is thehoth.com/ signup/ pick role.

You can also keep adding more subdirectories ad infinitum until all the content you want is fixed together. Its not that you should, but you can. More on why you should not drill down too deeper.

Know to About  Subdomain

The simple way to think of a Subdomain structure is to think of every folder as its your own, separate website, with separate content management, analytics, etc. Rather than fixing inside one another, Subdomains stand next to each other. With a Subdomain, instead of following the root domain URL, it leads it. However the Hoth does not use Subdomains, if we did, they would look like this

  • com
  • eyesonnews.com
  • eyesonnews.com

You notice the difference? Rather than all folders arise from the main domain URL, each has its own domain, and all the URL are on the same level. None of them have subdirectories or even very few if they do, as they all deal with one specific part of the overall whole and nothing more. Another way to explain this is that, instead of all folders in one file cabinet, every folder will have a separate cabinet.

Subdomains are always used for a variety of reasons that are similar from one organization, entity or business to the next, including likes

  • Blog sites. (One of the most controversial topics of the discussion.)
  • Mobile sites. (Mobile content is structured more differently than desktop content)
  • Intra and international websites
  • e-Commerce websites
  • Forms of different type

This is an easy way to understand the difference between a subdirectory and a Subdomain is that a subdirectory is another page on a website, while a Subdomain is a separate website altogether.

And again, if a subdirectory will always be placed after the main domain URL while a Subdomain will always be placed before the main domain URL

When to Use Subdirectories For SEO

Structuring a website with subdirectories supports search engine optimization in several ways most of them related to link equity and domain authority.

  • First Link Equity: The link equity is a search engine ranking factor based on the concept that links can pass value and authority from one page to another. Even if a link passes equity is determined by the referring website quality and its thematic relevance to the content on the page it’s linking to. Links to your website from reliable domains signal your content quality to Google and boost your website’s authority within your topic or industry.
  • And Domain Authority: The domain authority scores are metrics developed by third-party companies, to quantify the authority of sites. Its very important to note that these are trailing metrics, not ranking factors. As a trailing metric, domain authority can only gauge a website potential to rank higher than its competitors in search engine results.

Why Subdirectory Structure Are Relates to Link Equity and Domain Authority

Using subdirectories will established your keywords and link equity onto a single domain. When you keep those ranking factors focused on your root domain, you will also meet the signals that Google will clarify, which will help the domain authority to translate into better search rankings. On the other hand, spreading keywords and link equity across multiple domains will dilute your authority and require you to do more effort and resources to get Subdomains to rank competitively.

When to Use a Subdomain rather than a Subdirectory?

The biggest points when we discussing about the Subdomains vs subdirectories is that if subdirectories are better for SEO, user experience and search engine web crawlers, then why bother with Subdomains? The answer to that question is in some instances, it is better or you can say necessary to have a Subdomain. For example, let’s say your organization has a huge amount of online content, so much content that hosting it all on the one website would simply be not possible. In that case, having several Subdomains would spread that content around and make it easier for searchers to find what they are looking for faster.

For this Disney is a very example. The Disney corporation is so huge that putting all of its content on one domain would probably make it the biggest website on the planet. For that reason, Disney has spread their content into Subdomains to make it easier for its millions of customers, clients, subscribers, and searchers to find what they want to.

So, Disney has Subdomains for its videos, parks, different properties like Marvel, Pixar, Fox, etc and several more. By the way, all of these Subdomains are treated by Google as completely separate entities or websites. The responsibility of linking them all together falls to Disney itself, using links from one to the other.

There are several other reasons to use Subdomains, which we have mentioned. Now here in the below we will take a closer look at them, including:

Blogs: As we briefly mentioned that blogs are a main point of contention in the subdirectory vs Subdomain debate. Some people believe that they perform better when placed in a subdirectory, and stats seem to back up this claim. That being said, some companies and organizations choose to host their blog on a Subdomain when they plan on, for example, having alot of content campaigns. In this case, it is actually possible to serve a Subdomain as a subdirectory and get the best of both worlds. Subdomains are also very useful for building authority within a certain niche.

e-Commerce Stores: Organizations who sell the merchandise along with their other services and products often choose to host their e-Commerce sites on a Subdomain to make it easier for their customers. In some cases, they depend on the type of e-Commerce store they host, it’s necessary, as some use code incompatible with their main domain.

Customer Support: It depends on the product or services you sell, having your support page as a Subdomain sometimes makes more sense. This choice is usually due to website structure differences but can also be due to wanting to compartmentalize the support section of their site and keep it apart from their main website.

Multiple Geographic Regions: Alot of businesses use Subdomains to separate their organization by different national and international regions. This is often the result of language differences from one region to another but can also be for regions widely separated by space and sensibilities. And a company which has locations on the west coast, east coast and mid west might need to choose to use Subdomains for this very reason. One with locations in the United States, Germany and Hong Kong would do the same.

And Events: This is the last category usually applies to massive corporations and entities like Microsoft. They have so many events and in so many locations, having their events page as a sub domain will makes more sense than a subdirectory.

Using Too Many Subdirectories can be harmful

Earlier we mentioned that you could use subdirectories or subfolders, to all your heart’s content if you like when structuring your website. Honestly, however, using too many subfolders is not the best idea. The reason of twofold is the user experience and search engine crawlers.

First start with user experience. The best websites to make it easy for visitors on the site to navigate from one page to another when they need to find different content, information etc. Moreover, if you use too many subdirectories, you start to interfere with that user experience and in fact make it more difficult with every click an internet searcher makes.

If we take example, the URL string can become  uncommonly long when too many subfolders are used. That, in turn adds to a searcher’s confusion on your website and it creates the risk that, at the next click, they become so confused and frustrated they click away and game over.

Next is search engine crawlers. When you use subdirectory after subdirectory, you will make it more and more difficult for those crawlers to find new content on your website as they have to keep scrolling further down to find it.

In both the scenarios, your SEO will suffers, you risk of losing visitors, clients and sales will increase and any progress you might have made with your SEO goes out of the window.

For these two reasons, its best not to go too deeper with the subfolders. Use them, of course, but use them rarely. Your backlinks will be preserved when you do and any authority you have built with your domain will remain also.

Marketing a specific web page which will remains simple when you don’t overdo it with the subdirectories as the URL string will remains short. At Last, the page authority you create on your various subdirectories will remains closely linked to the root URL domain, essential to ranking highly on Google and other search engines.

Effect of Subdirectories and Subdomains on SEO?

The debate of subdirectory vs Subdomain to decide which offers the best SEO results is the biggest challenge, but why? Because Google says one thing about these two categories that they are judged equally while stats say that subdirectories get more traffic from Google and thus better SEO results and higher ranking.

Many SEO experts claim that Google’s web crawlers routinely mistake Subdomains for completely different websites, which is difficult as far as SEO, page authority, links and so forth are concerned. Most importantly, they argue about that this designation as a separate website puts a big hurt on their Google page ranking. On the other side, Google says that, besides a little lag time for Subdomains, their crawlers index and rank Subdomains in the same way they do with subfolders. In a famous video, Google search advocate John Mueller said that ‘Google web search is fine with using either Subdomains or subdirectories’.

Moreover as pointed out by various SEO experts over the last several years, stats show otherwise. There are alot of examples of blogs previously hosted on Subdomains being transferred to a subdirectory and, almost instantly, seeing a massive increase in organic traffic. Yes, in some cases, using Subdomains is a better strategy. However, subdirectories would seem to be the better choice for small companies with less content, smaller budgets, and few or no extensive verticals.

Some Final Words on Subdomain vs Subdirectory Debate

For the major part of organizations and businesses, using a subdirectory hierarchy is a better choice than one based on Subdomains. They provide a better user experience, ranking and SEO results.

Subdomains still serve a very major purpose though especially when hosting forms, support centers and even blogs when the goal is to rank for a different niche. If you have a compelling business reason to create Subdomains for your content, your SEO strategy will be better served with subdirectories. Having one root domain will assemble your link authority in one place, concentrates cumulative keyword gains, communicates a clear structure to Google, and keeps your overhead low. Subdirectories are also easier for you, easier for Google, and easier for your visitors also. Its win situation on both.