SUBDOMAIN VS SUBFOLDER: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE FOR SEO?
Should you put your blog on a subdomain (i.e. https://blog.yourdomain.com/) or in a subfolder (i.e. https://www.yourdomain.com/blog/)?
This question has caused some controversy in the SEO world. In this post, I’ll try to sort it out.
SUBDOMAIN VS SUBFOLDER: WHICH IS BETTER FOR SEO?
The consensus among SEO experts is that most sites should host their blog in a subfolder rather than a subdomain.
Let’s examine why this consensus exists and why there is some controversy.
GOOGLE CAN CRAWL BOTH
Google’s own John Mueller was asked the subdomain vs subfolder question, and his response basically boiled down to “we crawl subdomains separately, but we can crawl them, so it’s mostly up to you.”
This answer, however, is misleading.
John’s statement makes it sound like there is no SEO advantage or disadvantage to either approach, because Google’s crawler can understand your content either way. Crawlability, however, is only one of many facets of SEO.
WHY SEOs PREFER SUBFOLDERS
Rand Fishkin explains why Google’s official word on this subject does not translate to viable SEO strategy in this popular Whiteboard Friday:
“I think one of the reasons [this question] emerged in the last few years is, unfortunately, some statements by Googlers themselves … basically saying, ‘Google has gotten much better at identifying and associating content that’s on a subdomain with the main domain, and you don’t need to worry about placing content on two separate subdomains anymore.’ I am sure that Google has actually made strides in this area, but this question still has the same answer that it did years ago. … From a technical operations perspective, some things might be easier [with a subdomain], but from an SEO perspective this can be very dangerous.”
"Some things might be easier with a subdomain, but from an SEO perspective this can be very dangerous."
A blog post from Cloudflare contains a more detailed explanation of why subdomains are dangerous for your SEO:
“Keywords are diluted across subdomains. Each additional subdomain decreases the likelihood that any particular domain ranks in a given search. A high ranking subdomain does not imply your root domain ranks well. In a search for “Cool Blog”, bobtopia.com suffers from keyword dilution. It doesn’t rank because its blog keyword is owned by blog.bobtopia.com. …
“Subdomains also suffer from backlink dilution. … [An] attribution to a post [on] blog.bobtopia.com does not help bobtopia.com because the subdomain is treated separate but equal from the root domain. If Bob used subdirectories instead, Bob’s blog posts would feed the authority of bobtopia.com. …
“If you’re a startup or small business looking to optimize your SEO, consider subdirectories over subdomains. Boosting the authority of your root domain should be a universal goal of any organization. The subdirectory strategy concentrates your keywords onto a single domain while the subdomain strategy spreads your keywords across multiple distinct domains. In a word, the subdirectory strategy results in better root domain authority. Higher domain authority leads to better search rankings which translates to more engagement.”
"The subdirectory strategy results in better root domain authority. Higher domain authority leads to better search rankings."
We agree with these assessments.
It’s not just theory, either. Evidence suggests that sites whose blogs live in subdirectories outperform sites whose blogs live on subdomains.
Hosting your blog on a subdomain isolates the potential SEO benefit of blogging to the subdomain, which is probably not what you want.
Instead, you want your blog (and any backlink equity your blog generates) to contribute to the SEO goals you have for your main site.
Interested in learning more about how Longtail Dragon can help improve your performance in Google searches? Learn about professional SEO services!