In 2018 we’ve found the following question still being posed: Does having one or more website subdomains dampen or hinder a website’s search engine optimization? We decided to break down this misconception and provide examples to support the answer.
What is a subdomain?
A subdomain is a web address created by adding a third-level domain to your existing domain name. Examples of subdomains for yourcompanyname.com would be blog.yourcompanyname.com or shop.yourcompanyname.com.
When would a subdomain be used?
Subdomains are often used when companies want to separate pages of distinct content from their main website. For example, a blog with an enormous amount of content or an e-commerce side of a business – may live on a subdomain because these pages may need special servers and software help keep load times, processes, collaborative access, and security protocols – all in check.
Subdomains can also be used to provide a mobile-friendly experience for visitors. Some companies may opt to build an adaptive approach that offers a unique experience for different mobile devices as opposed to building a single responsive website with elements that respond to all screen sizes.
What is the difference between a subdomain and a subdirectory?
A subdirectory is the part of the URL that houses a specific subset of content. If you think of your website like a filing cabinet, the folders within the cabinet would be subdirectories of your website.
For example, if you have a blog on your www. domain at www.yoursite.com/blog, www. is the subdomain and /blog is the subdirectory. A blog post example would look like this: www.yoursite.com/blog/blog-post-article.
Instead of www. you could set your subdomain as blog. for example. A post URL would look like blog.yoursite.com/blog-post-article. You’ll notice that there is no /blog subdirectory. In this case you don’t need that extra level of hierarchy since you’ve set blog. as the subdomain.
While every website is different, it will depend on the goals of a company to determine whether it is necessary to set up separate subdomains or go about using subdirectories – this is often a decision related to company goals, the amount of content, software, hosting, and server load.
A Pro in Subdomain Use
HubSpot, a popular developer and marketer of inbound marketing and sales software designed to provide tools for content management, social media, web analytics, and search engine optimization offers companies the ability to easily create subdomains within HubSpot Marketing.
From HubSpot the subdomains automatically integrate with the software’s analytics, tracking, and lead capture forms. They can be used to quickly and efficiently utilize features of HubSpot, including creating landing pages on the fly without additional development. This saves time and money in development, and leverages the full power of HubSpot without additional integration.
In campaigns that we at Gate 39 Media have run for major exchange clients, alternative managers, and select others—sub-domains have not had an issue indexing. As an example, one of the most trafficked websites for one of our clients is a blog that lives on a subdomain and it indexes even better than the main site.
The Answer to the Subdomain-SEO Question
The way that the algorithms of search engines are structured has evolved and now they focus more on the structure of the content rather than the technical implementation (subdomain vs subdirectory).
Google, as well as other search engines, can understand intent in people’s search queries and because of this as long as your content is properly linked among topic clusters, Google will still be able to properly rank your website at the top of a search engine results pages (SERP) even if you’re using a subdomain instead of subdirectory.
HubSpot uses a sub-domain on their own blog—one of the most trafficked sites for marketing on the web – and it has incredible SEO. As a testament to this answer, HubSpot’s own website is broken out in different subdomains.
Additionally, when HubSpot users leverage HubSpot’s subdomains, the HubSpot domain name (the HubSpot name) does NOT appear on these pages or in the URL. And any issue with regards to duplicate content on different subdomain and canonical URLs is something that has been addressed by major search engines such as Google over the past 2-3 years.
Companies like HubSpot are aware of all the challenges that ranking in the top of SERP entails and are constantly working to provide customers with the best SEO tools.
In fact, HubSpot is the only marketing platform to provide, as of today, a content strategy tool that allows customers to easily map and organize their content in a way that Google can understand. And hosting content on subdomains versus subdirectories is still not a detrimental factor in SEO.