What Are the Benefits of Subdomains and Subdirectories and Which Should I Use?

By 05/25/2018SEO, Web Design

It’s common knowledge your URL plays a part in website rankings, but did you know the style of your URL is just as important? Subdomains and subdirectories, also known as subfolders, are the two most prominent URL types that affect your website rankings, and it is essential to keep your website in alignment with the most proficient uses of each type. There are pros and cons to both approaches, but for most sites, there is only one choice based on the kind of website you have. Let’s take a look at precisely what the differences are between a subdomain and a subdirectory, and then we can determine which URL method best suits your needs.

What is a Subdomain?

A subdomain is a segregated segment of your website used to catalog your overarching website into a series of individual sites. You will recognize a subdomain URL by the indicator to the left of the primary domain name. For example news.example.com or blog.example.com

Domain vs Subdomain

Subdomains are used to differentiate vastly unique topics on a single domain. These are often referred to as microsites because the site lacks the content to rank in search alone effectively. For example, if your website is a How-To blog, and you have a separate section for Automotive how-tos and another section for Pet Care how-tos, you have the option to break these out by subdomains like auto.example.com and petcare.example.com to distinguish between the main topics within your website.

What are the Benefits of a Subdomain?

  1. A subdomain is, fundamentally, an individual site hosted on a common domain. Search engines view subdomains as unique and unrelated to the root domain; this standard of URL informs Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines each site should be treated as a different entity.
  2. Separate entities potentially mean more results in a search returns. If both your primary domain and your subdomain (or subdomains) list in the top search results, you are not only giving users more opportunity to access your website, you are pushing the competition down the list.
  3. When running SEO tests, 100 percent of link juice flows through a subdomain vs. 90 percent with a subdirectory.
  4. You can integrate keywords into the URL to boost search and clarify to users the exact purpose of your website.
  5. Google likes to rank specialty sites more than large authority sites. Only very prominent websites, such as large news publications or retail brands can get away without using subdomains because of the sheer volume of links within their site. A good example is Wikipedia.
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What is a Subdirectory?

A subdirectory, by definition, is a directory within a directory. It’s a digital filing system akin to a card catalog or file cabinet with main folders and additional folders under the original organizational scheme. Computers use subdirectories to construct software systems, but subdirectories are also a URL format used to organize web pages. A subdirectory link configures with the indicator to the right of the principal domain name. For example www.example.com/blog/ or www.example.com/news/

Subdirectory

Subdirectories are the more direct approach to organizing your website, keeping all of your web pages under the umbrella of one primary topic. If all content and keywords are substantially related to your main site, using subdirectories is the way to go.

What are the Benefits of a Subdirectory?

  1. Subdirectories allow your website to remain focused and streamlined. It is much easier to optimize a single website with subdirectories than multiple sub-websites under subdomains.
  2. It is easier to transition users between subdirectories. After reading your riveting About Me page, users can quickly hop to your blog or services page, making the user experience seamless and more enjoyable.
  3.  It is easier to edit code within a subdirectory. Since the code is usually all in the same filing system, it is easier to find and make changes or even move the code to another location within the primary domain.
  4. Subdirectories are easier to track analytically because all information is in the same area. When comparing sites and looking at site usage, an analytics platform such as Google Analytics will amalgamate the data into one place. Search robots view subdomains as separate entities, so data comparison is parsed out based on each site.

What Should You Choose for Your Website?

While both organizational schemes have benefits, the more preferred formatting is to use subdirectories. Subdomains are going to be your best choice when you have vastly different topics hosted under one primary domain. Breaking these topics out into subdomains or microsites can enhance your keyword ranking for each subject. Subdomains can significantly improve your web presence when attached to a root domain with high standing in the search rankings.

If your website has one primary focus revolving around the subject matter, subdirectories, however, are easier to maintain, navigate and organize structurally. Unless you are branching off into completely unrelated topics from your primary domain, sticking to subdirectories is going to enhance your search ranking and allow for a better user experience. Subdirectories receive all the benefits of the root domain, while still allowing you the flexibility to build out your website.

If you are new to website building or SEO, the recommendation is to stick to using subfolders/subdirectories until you feel confident in your architectural internet skills. After you have mastered subdirectories, you will have greater assurance and comfortability to decide which organizational scheme works best for your needs.

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In Conclusion

Ultimately, the choice is up to you. It is important to remember no decision is irreversible, but some choices are easier to change than others. When deciding between subdomains and subdirectories, consider your long-term business goals, website goals, and marketing goals before landing on one structure or the other. Are you locked into a single topic or theme, and you know you do not have the time or finances to manage multiple sites? Do you have plans of grandeur to expand your business into numerous unrelated industries and a full team to run your website?

Subdomains and subdirectories play a considerable role in your SEO rankings, so do your research, weigh your options, and be confident in the decision you make.

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