Subdomains vs. Subfolders

Which is best to use? Subfolders, or subdomains? This question often gets an “either/or” answer, but the truth is they are very different, and can often be employed together to maximize your search marketing.

Subfolders, and When to Use Them

A subfolder of your root domain has a suffix followed by the forward slash after your domain, for example, yourwebsite.com/blog. Search engine performance and data analysis can be easily managed for the entire root domain, including the subfolders (or subdirectories) within it.

Reasons to use the subfolder/subdirectory approach:

  • Grow your site: Subdirectories help organize content into descriptive URLs. A good way to make your site search-friendly.
  • Build authority on a relatively small site: Many mistakenly believe that multiple sub-domains help build authority – they do not.
  • Easier to manage: You don’t necessarily need to engage engineering or your web development team to set up a subfolder. And moving content from one to another shouldn’t cause major SEO headaches.

Subdomains, and When to Use Them

A subdomain is really its own separate site, even though it has a prefix separated by a dot before the main domain identifier, for example, blog.yourwebsite.com. Search engine performance and data analysis will be specific to the subdomain, so if you need to be able to segregate your data easily, this may be a good option.

Reasons to use the subdomain approach:

  • Completely different content: An example is with domains that serve audiences in different regions, or languages. You could have a French version, at fr.yourwebsite.com, and a German version, at de.yourwebsite.com. The subdomain approach allows you to easily analyze the sites separately, and you’re not likely going to want to move content from one subdomain to the other.
  • Multiple, but related, competitive niches: If you have lots of money and the resources, subdomains provide a way to separately promote themes that can reinforce one another. For example, tools.yourwebsite.com and training.yourwebsite.com could have unique, deep content with the themes connected from the main site’s navigation, at yourwebsite.com.
  • Prepare to sell portions of your business/site: If your business plan includes partial divestment of a particular stream, or streams, having the content already parsed out via subdomains will make it much easier when it comes time for someone else to acquire it.

So it’s not a question of which is better, but which is better for you.

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