Subdomain vs. Subdirectory - Which One to Choose?

Tati Khumairoh

Tati Khumairoh

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image cover: subdomain vs subdirectory

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    SEO specialists likely experience a similar dilemma when discussing the superiority of subdomains versus subdirectories for SEO purposes. For marketers, this ongoing debate can be perplexing and lead to overthinking. 

    This article aims to clarify the disparities between subdomains and subdirectories, shedding light on their respective impacts on SEO. Recognizing that both options have their advantages and drawbacks, it is crucial to carefully weigh these factors before making decisions about your website project. 

    What Is A Subdomain?

    A subdomain is a subset of a larger domain, forming part of its hierarchical structure in the Domain Name System (DNS). In simpler terms, it's a way to organize and categorize content within a website. The structure of a subdomain is typically expressed as "subdomain.maindomain.com."

    For example, consider a website with the domain "example.com." If this website has a blog section, it might be organized as a subdomain, such as "blog.example.com." In this case, "blog" is the subdomain, and "example.com" is the main domain.

    Subdomains are often used to create separate sections or departments within a website, each with its own distinct URL. They can be utilized for various purposes, such as organizing content, creating a specific user experience, or implementing different functionalities.

    It's important to note that search engines treat subdomains as separate entities from the main domain, so they may have their own SEO considerations. When deciding whether to use subdomains or other organizational structures like subdirectories, webmasters often consider factors such as the content's independence, branding, and technical requirements.

    What Is A Subdirectory?

    A subdirectory is a folder or directory that exists within the main directory of a website's URL structure. It's a way of organizing and categorizing content hierarchically under the main domain. The structure of a subdirectory is typically expressed as "maindomain.com/subdirectory."

    For instance, consider a website with the domain "example.com." If this website has a blog section, it might be organized as a subdirectory, such as "example.com/blog." Here, "blog" is the subdirectory, and "example.com" is the main domain.

    Unlike subdomains, subdirectories are considered part of the main domain by search engines. They share the same domain authority and are generally seen as extensions of the main site. This means that content within subdirectories is often perceived as more closely related to the main domain than content in separate subdomains.

    The Key Differences between Subdomain and Subdirectory

    The key difference between subdomains and subdirectories lies in their organizational structure within a website's URL hierarchy. However, there are other factors that differentiate them. Here is the table.

    Table 1: Difference between subdomain and subdirectory.

    When to Use Subdomain or Subdirectory

    The choice between subdomains and subdirectories depends on your specific organizational needs, branding strategy, and the desired user experience, as well as considerations related to SEO and technical requirements. Here is the explanation of each use:

    1. When to Use Subdomains

    Here are some conditions where a subdomain is preferred:

    • Support Page and Branding: Subdomains are suitable when you want to create distinct and independent sections within your website, each with its own branding and identity. For example, support pages such as support.google.com, need to be separated.

    • Different Target Regions: When your business operates in multiple regions and you want to tailor content or offerings specifically to each region. In this scenario, the subdomain is preferred to provide localized content or services for different target regions.

    • E-commerce page: For a more convenient shopping experience, a subdomain is needed to create an e-commerce page of a brand.

    2. When to Use Subdirectory

    Using subdirectory is also preferred in a certain scenario such as:

    • Content Continuity: Subdirectories are suitable when you want a more seamless and connected user experience, with content logically organized under the main domain.

    • Simplified Management: When it's more convenient to manage content within a single domain structure, subdirectories are a practical choice, especially for smaller websites with interconnected content.

    Which One Is Better for SEO?

    The choice between subdomains and subdirectories for SEO depends on various factors, and there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. Each has its advantages and considerations, and the decision should align with your specific goals and website structure. Here are key points to consider:

    1. Subdomains

    Independence

    • Pros: Subdomains are treated as separate entities by search engines, allowing for independent branding, content, and SEO strategies.

    • Cons: This separation can dilute the overall domain authority, and each subdomain must build its own authority.

    Specialized Content

    • Pros: Useful for organizing specialized content or distinct sections that require autonomy.

    • Cons: May lead to increased management complexity, and SEO efforts need to be dedicated to each subdomain.

    2. Subdirectories

    Unified Authority

    • Pros: Content in subdirectories contributes to the overall domain authority, making it easier to build and maintain a strong SEO foundation.

    • Cons: Less independence for sections requiring distinct branding or content separation.

    Simplified Management

    • Pros: Easier to manage, especially for smaller websites with interconnected content.

    • Cons: May not be the ideal choice for large websites with diverse, independent sections.

    Picture 1 - illustration of subdomain and subdirectory

    Picture 1 - illustration of subdomain and subdirectory

    Wrap Up

    In conclusion, the decision between using subdomains and subdirectories for SEO is contingent on the unique needs and objectives of a website. Subdomains provide independence and autonomy for distinct sections but may require separate SEO efforts. 

    On the other hand, subdirectories contribute to unified domain authority and simplified management but may not be as suitable for sections requiring distinct branding. 

    The choice should be guided by considerations such as website structure, branding goals, SEO strategy, and user experience. Ultimately, there is no universally superior option, and the optimal choice is the one that aligns most closely with the specific characteristics and objectives of the website in question.

    Additionally, you can track the website performance using the ultimate SEO tool, Sequence Stats. This tool offers many useful features that can assist website owners in doing SEO. Whether you are using a subdomain or subdirectory, you can track all of the pages. 

    Explore our feature by registering yourself to Sequence Stats now!