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When to Use Subdomains and Subdirectories

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What is a Subdomain?
A subdomain is a division or alias of your domain that can be used to organize your existing website into a separate site. Typically, subdomains are used if there is content that is distinct from the rest of the site. Subdomains are indicated by the section to the left of the root URL. For instance, blog.examplesite.com and shop.examplesite.com are subdomains of www.examplesite.com.

Since subdomains are used to house sections of your site that are completely different than the scope of your main site, one of the reasons businesses use subdomains is because they need different servers and software to run these separate sections of their site. Many sites use subdomains for mobile versions of their blogs or stores. If your site has an international audience, separate subdomains allow for variations in content and language, but all versions are linked together under the main site.

Advantages of Subdomains

  1. Search engines see subdomains as unique websites unrelated to the main domain.  This could have the potential to allow subdomains you create to appear along your parent domain in search engine results pages (SERPs), pushing your competition further down in results, enhancing your authority for your product or service
  2. Subdomains can be used to target a specific market segment, reading group, or country
  3. The ability to utilize a keyword for clarity, search engine, and promotional purposes. When you use google maps, the url is formatted maps.google.com which describes it’s exact purpose.
  4. When used correctly, if a subdomain is created for an already existing site that ranks well, the subdomain will be indexed quickly and benefit from the main domain’s good standing.

What is a Subdirectory?
A subdirectory is the part of the url that houses a specific subset of content. A website is like a filing cabinet, the folders within the cabinet would be the subdirectories of your site. Individual directories are located to the right of the domain. Example: www.examplesite.com/blog or www.examplesite.com/shop

When creating your site, subdirectories are the most straightforward way to organize related pieces of content on your site. Assets such as images or downloads would be in their own subdirectories. Or if you have an About section, there could be a folder for About, and then the pages for each person on your team would be in the about folder: www.examplesite.com/about/johndoe.html .

Advantages of Subdirectories
Using subdirectories over subdomains has several advantages when looked at for SEO purposes:

  1. Instead of competing with yourself with a subdomain that may have fresher content than your main domain, your focus could be on making a single website optimized.
  2. Your site could get crawled more often as you are constantly adding content and blog posts; because of this, the SEO authority that you have will be inherited by your  primary site.
  3. If you have a blog post focusing on new features or products, your users can easily go between your blog and your product/service pages.
  4. Finally, if you are tracking your site’s performance in a platform such as Google Analytics, the data is consolidated for the entire site, rather than having to look at two data points as a result of using two domains.

Which is method is preferred?
This is a somewhat debated issue, however subdirectories are generally the preferred method, Every website is different and the question of subdirectory vs subdomain should be made on a case by case basis.

To get some further insights, check out these discussion threads on Moz.com

An easy way to differentiate the two is that a subdomain is a separate site altogether from your main site while a subdirectory is a label for describing the theme or meaning of a page or group of pages on your site.  Truthfully, either approach if technically executed correctly can be successful. Rather than spending too much time on which approach will give you the most results and conversions, the focus should stay on creating and maintaining a structure that makes sense for your content.

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11 Comments:

Fresh Mango

This is amazing, I have captured all I needed to know about subdomains, I am still a bit catching up on directories and subdirectories, but indeed I would really love to create a subdomain for my blog, now that I know where to apply the throttle. Thank you once again, and you have such an amazing website.

junaid khan

thnkx sir.

HEALTHY and FITNESS

Good and Well explained article. It removed my old confusion. Thank you.

Mazino

I stumbled on these page while trying to create to decide whether to use a subdomain or subdirectory. I needed a add a job section to my blog. From your post as regard seo and google analytics, sub directory may be a choice.

Kun

When building a global brand, with presence in many locales and different product lineup on each country. Is it better the subdomain approach? In the form of region.domain.tld

nemvicx

i have really learned a lot. Thanks so much.

John Graves

I am trying to build a gift store ands thought i may be a good idea to have a Subdirectory or Subdomain for key products that are more heavily advertised - the link would be cleaner and take customer directly to the product they want to purchase.

Thinking about the “Folder in the File drawer example used in this article, a Subdirectory would be right way.
WHAT DO YOU ADVISE?
Thanks, J. Graves

Andrew

Thanks for the clarification! Super helpful.

whitehatdevil

My website is about Free Tricks and now I want to add scripts (facebook auto poster) to my website. I am confused if I should create a subdomain or add as sub directory.

Rick Owen

Great explanation.

Lisa Chapman

This is s great explanation that’s concise and gives good examples. I would love to see some disadvantages of subdomains, as well as advantages. Even so, this article answered my question, and I appreciate the related info on SEO aspects. Thanks.

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