Subdomain vs Subdirectory: Which One Should You Choose 

Subdomain vs Subdirectory: Which One Should You Choose 

Subdomain vs subdirectory is a long-standing discussion, specifically in the SEO. The debate is focused on using subdomains or subdirectories for organizing a website, as that would affect the impact on SEO. 

Ideally, subdomain and subdirectory can both be used, depending on your goals.  

For a better understanding, here is a guide on the difference between subdomain and subdirectory. 

What Is a Subdomain? 

Subdomain and subdirectory are both created for a special reason. However, a subdomain is a part of your main website address and works like its own website.  

For example, you can make a subdomain like blog.bigrock.com just for your blog. You might also use a subdomain to keep the shopping part of your website separate from the main part by making a subdomain like shop.bigrock.com. This lets you give your online store a different look and feel from your main website.  

Subdomains are also useful for hosting different languages or regional versions of a site. You will see subdomains like these all over the internet, as they are very common. 

What Is a Subdirectory?  

A subdirectory, also called a subfolder, is like a smaller folder inside the main folder of a website. It’s part of the main website’s address and helps keep the website’s content organized. For example, in the website address bigrock.com/blog, “blog” is a subdirectory of the main website “bigrock.com.” 

Using subdirectories, website owners can sort their content into different sections, making the website more organized. This sorting helps users find what they’re looking for more easily, making the website easier to use.  

In the ‘subdirectory vs subdomain’ debate, subdirectories usually win when it comes to making the website more user-friendly and organized. 

Subdomain vs Subdirectory  

As mentioned before, choosing between a subdomain and a subdirectory can have implications for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  

Here’s a comparison of how each approach might impact your SEO efforts. 

Subdomains 

Separate Entities:

This is an important difference between subdomain and subdirectory. Search engines often treat subdomains as separate entities from the main domain. This means that the subdomain needs to build its own authority and rankings from scratch, which can be more challenging.

No Link Equity:

Since they are treated as separate entities, the link equity (the value passed through links) is not shared between the subdomain and the main domain. Which means, if you have a main website and a separate section of it (like a blog or a store) that’s set up as a subdomain, the popularity and credibility of your main website won’t automatically boost the subdomain. 

For Large Organizations:

Subdomains can be useful for large organizations with distinct business units or for targeting specific geographic regions or languages with different content. 

John Mueller from Google had once stated that both subdomains and subdirectories are acceptable options. However, this is still being debated. 

Subdirectories: 

Shared Authority:

In comparison to subdomains, subdirectories are part of the main domain and are typically used to organize content within the website. Because they are considered part of the main domain, they inherit the authority and credibility that the main domain has built up over time. As a result, any new content you add to a subdirectory, such as a new blog post or a new product in your store, can potentially rank well in search results more easily than if it were on a separate subdomain or a completely different website.   

Consolidated Link Equity:

The point for link equity goes to subdirectories in the subdomain vs subdirectory discussion. Link equity is shared across the entire domain, so any backlinks pointing to the main domain or any of its subdirectories can help boost the overall SEO performance. 

Easier SEO Management:

When you have one main website and organize your content into sections like website.com/blog or website.com/store, it’s easier to manage your SEO. You’re working on boosting the reputation of one site, which helps all parts of it do better in search results. On the other hand, if you have separate sections like blog.website.com and store.website.com, you’d have to work on improving each one separately, which can be more complicated and take longer. 

When You Should Use a Subdomain 

Organizational Structure:

When a website has distinct sections or departments with different content or purposes, subdomains can be used to organize and separate these sections. For example, a university might use subdomains for different faculties or departments (e.g., engineering.university.edu, arts.university.edu). 

Localization:

For businesses operating in multiple countries or regions, subdomains can be used to create localized versions of the website. For example, a company might use fr.website.com for its French audience and de.website.com for its German audience. 

SEO Strategy:

An important difference between subdomain and subdirectory is that subdomains can be used to target specific keywords or topics. So, if you own a lifestyle blog, you might use a subdomain like travel.blogsite.com to focus on travel-related content, which can help improve search engine rankings for travel-related queries. 

Testing and Development:

They can be used to create separate environments for testing and development purposes. A company might use dev.website.com for development and staging.website.com for staging before deploying changes to the main site. 

Branding and Marketing:

Subdomains can also help create distinct branding or marketing campaigns. For example, a promotional campaign might use a subdomain like promo.website.com to create a dedicated landing page. 

E-commerce and Product Lines:

Subdomains can be used to organize products for businesses with multiple product lines or an e-commerce site with different categories. For example, shop.website.com will be for the main store, electronics.website.com will be for electronics, and fashion.website.com will be for clothing. 

When You Should Use a Subdirectory  

Organizing Content:

Subdirectories help organize your website’s content into logical sections. For example, you might have a blog section under www.website.com/blog/ and a product section under www.website.com/products/. This makes it easier for users and search engines to understand the structure of your site. 

SEO Benefits:

They can improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Search Engines view content in subdirectories as part of the same site, which can help consolidate your domain’s authority. This is especially important if you have content in multiple languages or regions, as you can use subdirectories to target specific languages or countries (e.g., www.website.com/en/ for English and www.website.com/fr/ for French). 

Simplifying Navigation:

When contemplating subdomain vs subdirectory, user experience is a crucial point. Subdirectories can make it easier for users to navigate your website. They provide a clear path to follow, which can enhance the user experience and reduce bounce rates. 

Maintaining Consistent URLs:

Using subdirectories can help maintain consistent URLs across your site, which is important for branding and user recognition. 

Local SEO:

For businesses targeting specific geographic locations, subdirectories can be used to create localized content. For example, www.website.com/us/ can be for the United States and www.website.com/uk/ for the United Kingdom. 

Managing Multilingual Websites:

Subdirectories are a common way to organize multilingual websites, with each language having its own subdirectory (e.g., www.website.com/en/ for English and www.website.com/es/ for Spanish). 

The subdomain vs subdirectory debate is often based on factors beyond SEO, as both can be SEO-friendly when properly optimized. Regardless of your choice, it’s crucial to focus on key SEO practices such as targeting the right keywords, implementing on-page SEO, building backlinks, and avoiding technical SEO issues to improve your chances of ranking well in search engines. 

It All Starts with A Domain Name 

Choosing the right domain name is the foundation for both subdomains and subdirectories. A good domain name should be memorable, relevant to your brand or content, and easy to type. Once you have a strong domain name, you can then organize your website effectively using subdomains or subdirectories based on your needs and goals. 

In case you have any doubts, queries or feedback for this article, please share them in the comments section below.

WRITTEN BY:

Web hosting specialist with a knack for creativity and a passion for baking, serving up tech solutions with a side of sweetness.

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