Subdirectory vs Subdomain

subdomain vs subdirectory

What is a Subdirectory?

Subdirectories are just folders within a main domain; for example, www.targetclickmarketing.com/blog, where /blog is a subdirectory of the TargetClick Marketing domain. Another example – http://davematthewsband.com/tour, where /tour is a folder within http://davematthewsband.com, and http://davematthewsband.com/tour/archive, where /archive is another folder within /tour.

What is a Subdomain?

A subdomain is another website within an original domain; the part just before your root domain. Every website has a subdomain. For example, www.targetclickmarketing.com is a subdomain of targetclickmarketing.com. Craigslist is a popular example. When you search a city through Craigslist, that city site becomes a subdomain. For example, portland.craigslist.org.

When Should I Use a Subdirectory?

In most cases, subdirectories are the right choice. Because subdirectories are simply folders within an existing site, you are usually able to update it through the CMS you are currently using. Subdirectories are an easier and correct option for you to consider if you:

  • Are trying to build authority for your site in an easier way than through a subdomain
  • Want to grow and categorize your content in a logical way
  • Do not have the budget and time to double SEO efforts

What are the Cons of Using a Subdirectory?

One of the few times a subdirectory wouldn’t be the optimal choice is when your CMS isn’t able to incorporate a true blog into your site and give the option of iFraming it in instead. We see this often with dealer CMSs. iFramed content cannot be crawled the same as true, on-page content, meaning the content you worked hard to create for your site might not even be noticed by search engines. You would be forfeiting the opportunity to rank your blog posts. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

When Should I Use a Subdomain?

Subdomains are considered a separate site by search engines. Because of this, linking to the main site from a subdomain will pass link value (although we are not sure if it passes 100% of the value), helping develop the main site’s authority. Also because it is considered a separate site, your SEO efforts on your main site would not affect the subdomain. You would have to implement a second SEO strategy to build the subdomain’s authority. You should consider a subdomain if you:

  • Want to build brand recognition through separate content and strategy
  • Are working for a business with separate franchises or are located in other cities AND have unique, separate content to promote
  • Offer different languages
  • Want a blog on-site, but are only able to iFrame it in
  • Have the budget and time to double your SEO work

What are the Cons of Using a Subdomain?

Again, because subdomains are considered a separate domain from the main domain, all SEO efforts will have to be doubled. Links your main site receives will not pass authority to the subdomain and vice versa.

So, subdirectories are for building power and authority for your main website; subdirectories are basically brand new sites that need separate SEO nurturing. Subdirectories are typically the better option because any authority you gain for it, you also gain for the entire site, helping increase rankings.

4 Responses
  1. Hi Trish,

    It is a great piece of writing and I came across this article while I was searching for a solution for my current website scenario, please guide me on this.

    We have just moved our sub-domain to a sub-directory of our main website. The sub-directory and main domain are in different CMS (namely asp.net & WordPress), and is tracked as separate property by Google Analytics.

    Please let me know if having this setup will have any benefit over DA of the website? Or should we keep the entire website CMS as one? Will the movement of sub-domain to sub-directory benefit?

  2. Dave Meindl

    should we keep the entire website CMS as one?

    Makes no difference.

    Will the movement of sub-domain to sub-directory benefit?

    Possibly, especially if you had external links pointing to your subdomain and you handled the redirects to the URLs of the subdomain-to-subdirectory properly.

  3. Dave Meindl

    Possibly, especially if you had external links pointing to your subdomain and you handled the redirects to the URLs of the subdomain-to-subdirectory properly.

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