Subdomain vs. Subdirectory: Which is Better for SEO?

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

As a website owner, you may have heard the terms “subdomain” and “sub directory” thrown around when discussing SEO strategies. But what is the difference between the two, and which is better for SEO? The best choice depends on your website’s needs. 

With the vast number of techniques available to help improve your main site, it’s essential to understand how sub domains and sub directories can impact your SEO efforts. Let’s find out more in this blog.

What is a Subdomain?

A subdomain is an individual website that is hosted within the root domain. For example, the root domain of a website might be “example.com,” and a subdomain might be “blog.example.com.” Subdomains are often used for specific GUI websites or distinctive purposes, such as a blog or forum. 

Difference Between Domain and Subdomain

A domain is an independent website, usually the ‘main’ website for a business or organization. A subdomain is a branch of the main directory utilized for various purposes like an ecommerce store, video articles, hosting blogs, different market websites, separate mobile sites, and quote forms. It should be noted that the subdirectory, also known as a subfolder, is located within the main directory.

Subdomain vs domain

  1. Cost: Sub-domains are generally cheaper (or accessible) to set up than domains.
  2. SEO: A subdomain may not rank on the same level as a domain.
  3. Branding: Subdomains are less recognizable than domains.
  4. Security: Domains are independent sites offering more data security than sub-domains.

Why and When Should You Use Subdomains?

SEOs can use a subdomain to organize and structure their website for a better user experience. 

  • You can use it to segregate content from different parts of your website. 
  • One can use subdomains to create a separate site for specific countries or languages and create a branded directory for special projects. 
  • In the same way, they create microsites and landing pages for online advertising campaigns.

Are you wondering, “Do Subdomains hurt SEO?” the answer is No. In many cases, sub-domains can help with SEO by allowing you to structure your website into distinct sections. This can make future instances for users to find relevant content so that an SE indexes your site more accurately. However, this does not mean that you should use subdomains or subfolders mindlessly; it’s essential to use them strategically and in a way that makes sense for your server, website, and content.

What are Subdirectories?

Subdirectories or subfolders are sections or folders within the root directory. E.g., “example.com/blog/.”  It’s like creating a new folder on Windows. These Subfolders are often used to organize content within a website, such as blog articles, product pages, etc. 

Subdomain vs Subdirectory for SEO

In SEO, many terms and concepts can confuse the average person. One of the most commonly misunderstood concepts is the difference between sub-domains and subfolders. While both can help with SEO, it’s essential to understand their differences to make the most of each.

URL Structure

A subdomain will have a different URL structure than a subdirectory. For example, an SEO subdomain might be “blog.example.com,” while a subdirectory might be “example.com/blog, ” a separate page. This difference can be significant for SEO, as web browsers may treat sub-domains and sub-directories differently.

Link juice is the amount of authority or “juice” a link gives to a page. Sub-domains tend to get more link juice than subdirectories. Google views subdomains as part of the parent directory, so any links to them will also give the main site authority.

Keyword Focus

With subdomains, you can use different keywords in the URL structure, which benefits your SEO efforts. For example, if you have a blog about “dogs,” you could use the keyword “dogs” in the subdomain URL, such as “dogs.example.com.” This can help you rank for “dogs” and other related keywords.

Traffic

Sub-domains also gain more traffic than subdirectories. This is because these files are part of the main domain, while a subfolder is seen as a separate entity. As a result, they tend to have higher click-through rates and more organic traffic.

Linking

Links from other websites to the root directory are more valuable since they are from a particular website. The same links to the subdirectory are treated differently and may not be of much help. 

Indexation

Because of how search engines treat subdomains, they can be indexed differently than subdirectories. Web crawlers may crawl the subdomain more often than the main domain, resulting in different indexation levels. 

Factors to Consider Before you choose Subdomain or Subdirectory

Domain Authority (DA)

DA is a metric used by SEO professionals to measure the strength and authority of a website. Generally speaking, search engine algorithms will treat subdomains as distinct and separate entities, while subdirectories will be seen as an extension of the overall domain. 

Target Audience

The first thing you may focus on is your target audience. Subdomains can target specific segments of your audience, making reaching out to the right people easier. However, you can use subdirectories to organize content, and users can navigate better.

Content Relevance

If the content is coherent, and you want to keep it all together, then a subdirectory may be the way to go. However, a subdomain may be better if the content is less connected, and you’re looking to target specific audience segments.

Pros and Cons of Using Subdirectories and Subdomains for SEO

Organization

– A Subdomain and Subfolder are a great way to organize your content, making it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.

Ease of Use

– Creating and managing subdomains & subdirectories is easy, and its services are also simple. 

Faster Load Times

– A Subdirectory can load faster, as search engines can crawl the entire domain simultaneously.

Duplicate Content

– Subdirectory and Sub-domain can cause problems if you’re not careful with your content. If you’re using the same file & folder, Google may perceive this as duplicate content and penalize your site.

Slow Loading Times

Multiple subdomains can slow down your website, as SEs have to crawl each parent directory individually.

URL Structure

– The subdirectory that comes with the parent directory can make your URLs longer, causing problems with usability.

Final Words

Subdomains and subdirectories can be helpful in SEO, but weighing their merits and demerits is essential too. This concludes our article on which option you may choose depending on the hierarchy of your projects and the operating systems.

FAQs

A subdirectory enhances the user experience and search engine crawler. You need to use a subdirectory for the following:

  1. Search Engine Crawlers: Subdirectories are a part of the main domain. This means that any backlinks or ranking in your main domain can benefit the content in the subdirectory. It is easier for search engines to understand the leading sites and subdirectories.
  2. Enhanced User Experience: Navigating a website with Subdirectories is usually easier for users. They can easily understand the site’s structure and how to find information.

Subdomains are not inherently bad for SEO. However, if you are using SEO mainly to gather more traffic for your website, it is better to use a more cohesive approach.

Each subdomain is considered a separate entity by the search engine. This means that managing the SEO for multiple subdomains can be more complex and resource-intensive. However, subdomains can be beneficial if you want to create separate, distinct websites or sections with their own branding and content.