Do Subdomain vs Subfolder Sites Rank Differently?

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June 3, 2024

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Do Subdomain vs Subfolder Sites Rank Differently?

Do Subdomain vs Subfolder Sites Rank Differently?

Have you ever wondered whether hosting your content on a subdomain or a subfolder makes a difference in how it ranks on search engines? As an SEO enthusiast and the owner of an SEO agency in Manchester, UK, I’ve spent countless hours researching this topic. And let me tell you, the debate around subdomains vs. subfolders is one that’s been raging on for years.

In this in-depth article, we’re going to dive deep into the world of subdomains and subfolders, exploring the pros and cons of each, and ultimately answering the question: do subdomain and subfolder sites really rank differently?

The Subdomain Dilemma

Let’s start with subdomains. When you create a subdomain, you’re essentially carving out a separate section of your website that exists under a different URL. For example, if your main website is www.mcrseo.org, a subdomain might look something like blog.mcrseo.org or resources.mcrseo.org.

The common belief is that subdomains are treated as their own independent entities by search engines. This means that the content on your subdomain may not directly contribute to the overall authority and ranking of your main website. In other words, the rankings and search visibility of your blog.mcrseo.org subdomain might not have a direct impact on the performance of your main www.mcrseo.org site.

According to Moz, the general recommendation has been to place “link-worthy content like blogs in subfolders rather than subdomains.” The reasoning behind this is that search engines may view subdomains as separate entities, potentially making it harder for them to pass along ranking signals and authority to the main domain.

However, as Matt Cutts, the former head of the Google webspam team, has stated, the difference between subdomains and subfolders is often so small that it’s not worth worrying about. He suggests that webmasters should use whichever option is easier for them to manage and maintain.

The Subfolder Advantage

On the other hand, subfolders are a part of your main website’s URL structure. For example, if your main website is www.mcrseo.org, a subfolder might be www.mcrseo.org/blog or www.mcrseo.org/resources.

The general consensus among SEO experts is that subfolders tend to have a slight advantage over subdomains when it comes to ranking. The reasoning behind this is that search engines may view the content within a subfolder as more closely associated with the main domain, making it easier for that content to inherit the authority and ranking signals of the parent website.

In fact, in my own experience, I’ve seen clients who have moved their blog content from a subdomain to a subfolder experience a noticeable boost in their search engine rankings. It’s as if the content suddenly became more “connected” to the main website, and Google started to treat it as a more integral part of the overall online presence.

The Hybrid Approach

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Some websites, particularly those with a strong international presence, may opt to use subdomains for language-specific versions of their site. For example, en.mcrseo.org for the English version, fr.mcrseo.org for the French version, and so on.

In these cases, the use of subdomains can be a strategic decision to help with geotargeting and ensuring that users are directed to the most relevant content for their location. According to the experts on the Webmasters Stack Exchange forum, this hybrid approach can be an effective way to manage a multilingual or geographically-diverse website.

The Bottom Line

So, what’s the verdict? Do subdomain and subfolder sites really rank differently? The short answer is: it depends.

While there is a general preference for subfolders over subdomains, the reality is that the difference is often negligible. As Reputio’s research suggests, the impact on search engine rankings can be quite small, and the decision often comes down to technical considerations and personal preference.

The key is to focus on creating high-quality, valuable content that your audience will love, regardless of whether it’s hosted on a subdomain or a subfolder. After all, at the end of the day, Google and other search engines are primarily interested in serving up the most relevant and useful information to their users.

So, if you’re agonizing over whether to use a subdomain or a subfolder for your blog, your resources, or any other section of your website, don’t stress too much. Choose the option that works best for your overall site structure and maintenance, and then pour your energy into crafting content that will delight your visitors and keep them coming back for more.

And remember, if you’re ever in need of expert SEO guidance for your Manchester-based business, the team at MCR SEO is always here to help!

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