Subdomain vs. Subdirectory: What is better for your Blog SEO?
Blogging is one of the most effective inbound marketing strategies implied by many online businesses nowadays. It is proven prioritizing blogging tends to drive more organic traffic, improve conversions, and increase returns of investments. Of course, in order to drive quality traffic, you have to be sure that you are promoting quality content and your website is SEO-optimized.
SEO is an extremely complex subject and combines a lot of elements. The main reason for its intricacy is the constantly changing ranking algorithms. This requires regular adjustments in order to be compatible with the latest factors and to be “liked” by Google and the rest of the search engines. Some of the main factors determining your website SEO are security, speed, mobile-friendliness, content, user experience, technical SEO, etc. The architecture of your website is also critical for SEO. Considering how much time, effort, and investments you will put into your blog you want to structure it in an optimal way. One of the fundamental decisions you need to make is whether to host your blog on a subdomain or in a subdirectory. Before you come to a conclusion, you need to understand how each configuration will impact your search engine ranking. It is important to make a decision before you start your blog. because making changes to the site structure can definitely harm your SEO.
There are lots of controversial opinions o the debate of whether it is better to host a blog on a subdomain or a subdirectory. Each configuration has its pros and cons and we will outline them in the following lines. To decide which configuration is more suitable for you, you need to first determine what outcome you expect from your blog. In short, the configuration of your blog can significantly impact your SEO and help you achieve the targetted results.
What is the difference between Subdomains and Subdirectories?
- Subdomains– Simply put, a subdomain is a domain that is part of your primary domain name. More precisely, the part that comes before the domain name and the domain extension, e.g. blog.yourdomain.com.
- Subdirectories – A subdirectory is a child folder located within the root folder of your primary domain name. In other words, a pathway within your website. An example of a subdirectory is yourdomain.com/blog.
The advantage of subdomains is that, generally, they are easier to set up and configure, especially for remotely hosted websites. Considering that the DNS works only on a domain name level, you can easily route your subdomain (by A record or CNAME record) to a remote server if you want to host it separately from your primary website. Subdomains are a better solution for substantial parts of your main website or additions that need a separate hierarchy. In addition, they allow you to organize your content in a neat and tidy way. Many businesses choose to use subdomains for their mobile versions, support channels, eCommerce stores, multilingual websites, blogs, and more.
Subdirectories are a hierarchical level defining a pathway within your primary website. Essentially, subdirectories are individual subsets of the content of your website located within subfolders of the domain’s root directory. Similar to subdomains, you can host a blog, online store, different language variations, etc. in subdirectories. In such a configuration, all your website content is in one place, so managing and organizing it can be a lot easier. It is recommended to use subdirectories for website partitions that are not excessive enough to require their own dedicated site. Also, keep in mind that subdirectories are harder to configure on remote servers compared to subdomains.
Are Subdomains or Subfolders better for your Blog SEO?
Of course, there is no short answer that is ultimately correct under all circumstances. It depends on what you expect to get out from your blog. In order to make an informative decision, you need to first understand how Google treats subdomains and subdirectories.
Both – subdomains and subdirectories are treated the same by Google’s ranking factors and algorithms. So, they technically have the exact same chance for ranking in search results, as each has its unique sets of keywords. But …
Although Google contends that their crawlers are able to recognize subdomains as part of the primary domain name there are a lot of debatable opinions. Many SEO experts claim that based on their tests and researches Google sees subdomains as separate websites while subdirectories as part of the primary website. What does that mean exactly?
Considering that the subdomain is distinguished from the primary domain, its keywords are treated independently and can be ranked separately from the main website. In simple words, you may lose the benefit of the subdomain organic ranking as it is treated as a separate instance from your primary website. With that being said, if your goal is to drive organic traffic to your website through your blog content you should strongly consider hosting it in a subdirectory. In fact, even John Mueller (Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst) recommends keeping your blog in a subdirectory if the content is tightly related to your primary site.
“In general, we see these the same, I would personally try to keep things together as much as possible. So, if it’s the same site then try to put them on the same site, essentially, and use subdomains where things are really kind of slightly different.”
Furthermore, subdomains have their unique backlink profiles. That means that they do not share the same authority that your root domain name gets from backlinks.
In terms of SEO in most cases, it is better to use subdirectories for your blog. Configuring your blog in a subfolder will increase the likelihood for your root domain name to appear in search results for specific keywords. Whereas, a subdomain blog may compete with your primary domain name. Of course, subdomains have their advantages over subdirectories as well. For instance, if you are targeting a specific segment different than your primary domain’s niche it will be more relevant to configure your blog on a subdomain instead.
To conclude, if you are a startup, a small or mid-sized business aiming to improve your SEO and drive organic traffic to your website it will make more sense to configure your blog in a subdirectory. That will result in better domain authority and concentrate your keywords onto your root domain name. Consequently, this will lead to better ranking and more quality traffic.