Subdomains and subfolders both offer SEO advantages when used correctly. But which among them is best for SEO rankings? That really depends on the unique needs of your website as well as your goals. To decide, it’s important to understand what subdomains and subfolders are, plus their pros and cons when it comes to SEO.
A subdomain is subsection of a domain, listed prior to the main domain name and extension. For example, in a URL like blog.petstore.com, the subdomain is ‘blog’.
To further understand subdomains, it’s important to understand a URL’s structure. Let’s use the same example above. You will notice that https://www.petstore.com/ has two parts:
- The ‘protocol’ (https:) is the set of rules that allow data to be sent as requests to a web server.
- The ‘domain’ (petstore.com) is the URL to the main page of the website. Domains also come with two parts: top level domain (i.e. .com, .net, .gov) and a second level domain (petstore).
Basically, a subdomain is the second name before a second level domain or SLD. So, if Petstore has a careers page like https://careers.petstore.com, then ‘careers’ is the subdomain.
Think of it this way: The subdomain of a website is like an apartment community with additional building numbers and apartment numbers, so residents and guests can easily find their specific residence. Subdomains deliver a sense of structure and organization to your site.
Purpose of the subdomain
The main purpose of subdomains is to divide websites into different sections. This makes it easier to organize a website while providing a simpler way for users to find what they need.
You can use a subdomain for special pages that are likely to stand out to your audience, such as customer support, events, locations, blogs, or anything else that you think must be separated from the main content page.
For example, if you have a coffee shop with several locations, customers should be able to view basic content about the business on the main page, and then get information about your other locations from a subdomain, such as newlocation.coffeeshop.com.
Another example would be to have an ‘order’ subdomain, like order.coffeeshop.com where customers can view the menu and make orders for delivery or pickup.
Getting to know the subfolder
The subfolder is also called ‘subdirectory’ and it a folder that’s part of another folder under the home directory. Think of it this way: Your website is a filing cabinet and the folders in it are the subdirectories.
Single directories are found on the right of the domain, as in ‘about’ in this URL: www.sampleurl.com/about.
Purpose of the subfolder
Subfolders are found on the same server and link back to a domain. They simplify the organization of sections of related content. Thus, web assets like images and downloads also exist in separate subfolders. If your site has an ‘About Us’ page, then there’s also an ‘About Us’ folder, and the pages describing every member of your team will have a subfolder under it. Your URL might look like this:
Subdomain vs. Subfolder
Although they are both repositories for content, they have key differences that can affect your SEO strategy. Knowing their benefits and disadvantages can help you decide which is best for your SEO campaign.
- Every subdomain is identified as a distinct website, so search engine results page may display the subdomain and parent domain, which could help push down the ranking of your competitors.
- Subdomains can be used to target a market segment, reading group, or country.
- When used correctly for a well-ranking website, the subdomain can easily benefit from its parent domain’s good ranking.
- Subdomains are clear and concise, so users already know what to expect from the link.
Disadvantages of subdomains
- Expect additional hosting fees because they are on separate hosting accounts.
- Subdomains don’t share authority from backlinks, so they may not have the same link authority as the content on the main site.
Benefits of subfolders
- Subfolders let you focus on optimizing your website rather than competing with yourself.
- The site has a chance to be crawled more frequently as you add more content to every folder.
- Users can navigate between every page.
- Google Analytics can display your data for the entire site.
Disadvantages of subfolders
- Authority is shared by all pages in the domain. This could cause authority to dilute when the subfolder is not as practical as the main content.
The verdict: Which one is best?
Subdomains are typically good for big companies with many services/products and lots of varying content on their website. It might be easier to optimize subdomains with very different themes for different keywords. But if you have a smaller website and your goal is to achieve long-term SEO rankings, subfolders are often better. Using subfolders ensures that you don’t dilute backlink strength and that you don’t confuse search engines.
Need help figuring out which is better for your case? Contact SEOValley. We provide comprehensive SEO strategy and implementation.