One of the most hotly contested debates among search engine optimisation (SEO) strategists and online marketers is whether subdomains or subdirectories on a website work best for page rankings. On this, experts are divided. In one corner, some believe that subdomains have a greater positive impact on SEO, while others advocate for the use of subdirectories instead.
We take a look at both sides of the subdomain vs subdirectories debate to help you understand how each works and which is right for your website.
What is a Subdomain and Subdirectory?
A subdomain is a standalone website that is linked to the same domain as the main website. It is the additional piece of information added to the beginning of a web address that points to a different IP address than the primary domain name. For example: In the URL http://blog.happypeople.com, the subdomain is the inclusion of “blog” in the site address.
Subdomains allow you to create a “second website” or “sub-website” and are treated as separate entities, but linked together under a single web server.
Sub-directories, as the name suggests, are sub-sections on a website. It is a special type of directory used to group related content areas such as blogs and portfolios in a more organised way.
Sub-directories are part of the primary website. This means that they are on the same level as the rest of the content.
In the URL, http://www.happypeople.com/about, the “/about” section of the address is a sub-directory. Think of a website as a filing cabinet. The folders within the filing cabinet would be subdirectories of your website.
Which Is the Most SEO-Friendly?
The truth is that the answer is not so cut and dry. Determining whether subdomains or subdirectories work best for SEO efforts often depends on the nature of the website.
The Case for Subdomains
Subdomains affect SEO in three different ways. They allow keywords to be included in a URL, improve the user experience and can appeal to a more niche audience with a higher click conversion rate.
A subdomain works best for businesses that are content-heavy and difficult to manage all on one website. Thus, separate websites are added under a single primary domain. These can be blogs, competition entry forms, sign-up documents and more.
The use of subdomains enables a business to streamline its website hierarchy and improve how users navigate the site. This helps audiences locate the information they need more efficiently, improving a website’s SEO performance.
The Case for Subdirectories
As a website grows and becomes more complex, content may need to be split into sub-directories to improve page performance and enable easier access to content. Subdirectories concentrate a business’ keywords into a single domain, an important factor for determining web rankings in search results.
For personal or smaller websites, subdirectories may work best as they are easier to pass link equity to indexes and category pages as well as individual sites. The keywords in each subdirectory are ‘owned’ by your website domain, helping to build credibility which impacts SEO performance.
Some experts believe that subdomains negatively affect SEO as Google treats subdomains as separate websites. However, according to Google, the search engine crawls, indexes and ranks both subdomains and subdirectories the same way. Ultimately, the nature of your website will determine whether a subdomain or subdirectory approach is best for your website and how it facilitates the achievement of organisational objectives.
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