Search Engine Optimization with subdomains and subdirectories.
In the SEO process there are many questions and issues that we need to think about when doing our awesome conceptions. In my experience one of these questions still is: Should I use subdomains or subdirectories for parts of my website? How does it affect my SEO process? And what’s recommended by search engines?
After all possible variations and opinions have come to my attention, I tried to look closely at this issue. In my own opinion it depends on what you want to do and what this part of your website is created for. There are differences especially if your online marketing tasks are only indirectly affecting search engines.
If you’re looking for the best SEO-tool to optimize your subdomains or subdirectories for search engines, try the Raven Tools set.
How does Google treat a subdomain and directory?
Some years before in the early days of Google links from subdomains were treated as external links for the entire domain. So the pass of value through this links was slightly different than it is today. In the end of 2012 Matt Cutts answered a question concerning subdomains and subdirectories in his webmaster help video in which he showed the historical context and some more advices for their usage. In the early days of search only results of a domain were listed for each query. So webmasters created a bunch of subdomains to get listet with more than these two pages which seems a bit spammy nowadays.
Since 2011 Google and other search engines add links from subdomains to the internal link profile of the general domain even in Webmaster Tools.
So why do people use subdomains, if it makes no difference for search engines?
In my opinion you should do whatever you want to build awareness for your project or website. If this needs to use a subdomain instead of subdirectory – just do it! Subdomains are definitely helpful if the content of this part of the website differs from the main domain and should be bounded. For example if you have pages for logged-in users only it’s usual to create them. I also recommend to use subdomains for shops and other eCommerce systems if the other parts of your website are for research purpose only. During my research for this article I found another statement of Google’s Matt Cutts. In 2007 he determined:
My personal preference on subdomains vs. subdirectories is that I usually prefer the convenience of subdirectories for most of my content. A subdomain can be useful to separate out content that is completely different. Google uses subdomains for distinct products such news.google.com or maps.google.com, for example. If you’re a newer webmaster or SEO, I’d recommend using subdirectories until you start to feel pretty confident with the architecture of your site. At that point, you’ll be better equipped to make the right decision for your own site.
And although this statement is about seven years old, it’s still the perfect approach – also in case of SEO. It is of course more convenient and sometimes less complicated to realize subdirectories because of CMS issues or DNS settings. But usually it doesn’t make a difference in search engine optimization.
Where are the most common problems and mistakes?
Nevertheless if you’ll create your next project you should not only think about SEO and search in general. Sometimes problems occur if you use subdomains. On Google+ you can only use one official domain for business or brand sites which makes it a bit difficult. If you link it to your main domain www.example.com the rel=”publisher” markup won’t work for your subdomain shop.example.com. And the other way around it’s still the same. If you use directories like www.example.com/shop instead you won’t have any conflicts when using Google+. So always think about what you want to do with your new project and how it should work together with all other services.
Conclusion: All in all nowadays search engine optimization and subdomains are more compatible, as they were before. I personally use directories for all parts of my websites unless they require something special.
If you also thought about this topic in the last time or found any new opinion or answer which helps you improving your work – feel free to share!
Published by Daniel Herndler on August 4, 2014
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