Subdomains and SEO – Pros and Cons of Subdomains vs Subdirectories

by | Aug 14, 2022

Pros and Cons of Subdomains and Subdirectories in 2022

If you want to manage multiple websites for your business or your clients, one way to achieve subdomains or subdirectories on WordPress is to use WordPress Multisite (formally known as WPMU). This creates a network of websites that all share a similar WordPress dashboard, meaning any plugins and themes share a common installation. This makes it much easier to update your websites, since otherwise you would need to update each WordPress website theme and plugin (and even WordPress version) manually.

For example, Harvard University has a WordPress multisite network called Harvard Blogs that allows anyone with a harvard.edu email address to create their own blog. Bloggers can publish blog posts on their own sites, but only the owner of the multisite, called the “super admin”, can install plugins or make other sitewide changes.

Subdomain vs Subdirectory

The main difference with a subdirectory is that appears as a distinct site (branch1.yourcompany.com looks more unique to “yourcompany.com/branch1”). Remember, when using WordPress Multisite, you will need to add the CNAME record for each subdomain in your DNS management for your TLD (Top Level Domain) or use a wild card (*.yourcompany.com).

This has been an extremely educational article for 1,000’s of companies. If you determine you want to create subdomain websites, please consider the experience of the Author to consult with before spending unnecessary expense to create or maintain your subdomain websites. Please leave a secure message for Michael Kramer.

What is a Subdomain?

SubdomainVSsubdirectory

Every website has a subdomain.  In the example https://www.google.com, the subdomain is “www“.  It’s the section just before your main domain, or “top-level” domain, site-ninja.com. By default, each top-level domain has a subdomain of “www”.  You can replace the www with a different subdomain.  One of the best examples I can give of an extremely successful subdomain website is http://santabarbara.craigslist.org.  After you go to this page, click to a different city.  You will see the website looks exactly the same, but the URL has changed to a different subdomain. Each subdomain website is Search Engine Optimized for that city.

What is a Subdirectory?

Subdirectories, also referred to as Folders, are any extension of the main domain.  For example www.ameravant.com/blog.  The word “blog” is a subdirectory of the main domain.

What Are The 3 Most Common Reasons to Use Subdomains?

  1. Serving Different Regions – You have multiple geographic regions, and your clients search for your products or services within each region.  For example, if you had a pet store and you wanted to open locations in 5 different cities, you would create subdomain websites for each region.  http://www.lovingcarepetservices.com would be your main Corporate website, and each city would have a subdomain site, http://chicago.lovingcarepetservices.com, http://denver.lovingcarepetservices.com, etc.
    Victory-Gyms-Sandiego-Subdomain
  2. Franchises – If your company offers franchises, then you help your franchisee by giving them their own website, so they can optimize the content for their region.
  3. Different Product Lines – Within your company, your products or services vary enough that you want to focus the homepage of each subdomain site on niches within your product line.  The reason to do this is, niche websites perform better in search engines and convert more visitors than other websites.  For example, let’s say you sell most anything to do with kitchens.  You sell appliances, silverware, utensils, towels, cookware, etc.   If a website visitor is looking for dish towels, and they see kitchen appliances on your homepage, they are not convinced that you can provide a good selection of dish towels.  But, if you had a subdomain website called http://dishtowels.everythingkitchen.com, this site would tend to rank higher in the search engines, because the keyword “dishtowels” is in the domain, and therefore associated with every page of the website.  Also the website visitor now considers your website an “authority” in dishtowels.
    To convert visitors to clients, you 1st develop Trust, then build a relationship, then you can do business.  Having a subdomain site with a niche product line is a strong step in building trust with your visitors.

Pros and Cons of Subdirectory: http://www.dogwalking.com/denver

  1. Pros:
    1. Lower hosting fee, unless you use Multisite
    2. One Content Management System for all regions
  2. Cons:
    1. You are personally responsible to collect and maintain content for every region
    2. People running the regional business for each subdirectory would not be able to modify the website to optimize it for their region.
    3. Assuming the product for your business is targeted to multiple regions, there usually isn’t enough content on the site for any one specific region to let the Search Engines give any one region more importance than a site that was optimzed for only one region. For example, if you have a 50-page website and you only dedicate two pages per region, those two pages are deluted by all the other pages of the website.

Pros and Cons of Subdomain: http://denver.dogwalking.com

  1. Pros:
    1. Multiple Websites– Each subdomain is considred a separate website, with each website having it’s own Google PageRank.  PageRank is Google’s way of letting you know how important of each page of your website.
      Better-SEO
    2. Total Web Domination – By having multiple websites, you have more opportunity to show up multiple times in a search engine results page, therefore pushing other websites down the page and achieving “Total Web Domination”
    3. Local Control – The people running the local business can have control over thier own content.  For example, in the example of denver.dogwalking.com, they might have a weekly promotion for best pet photo of the week.  They would have control over their subdomain website to post a new photo each week.
    4. Local Optimization of each page – Because the subdomain has the word “Denver”, every page of this site is automatically associated with business in Denver.
    5. Promotion of Main Domain – because each subdomain has the main domain in it’s URL, it ties all subdomain sites back to the main domain, which would have more corporate information and promotion of each subdomain.
    6. Internal and External Linking – Google gives websites better PageRank if there are external websites linking to pages of your website, or links within your website, to other pages of your website.  In the case of multiple subdomain websites you would cross-link the sites to help each site get better Ranking in Google.  As of the summer of 2011, Google considers all linking between subdomain websites, to the main domain or other subdomains an internal link.
  2. Cons:
    1. Content Moderation – Because you are giving more control to the people managing the regional subdomain website, you have a responsibility to moderate content that is place on those sites, to make sure that content is consistent with your company
    2. Additional requirements for DNS – If you are unable to use wildcard (*) for your DNS amnagement, you will need to manually add each subdomain before the subdomain works.

Your Tips and Tricks

If you have your own Tips, Tricks or testimonials about subdomains, please leave a comment to this article.  I’m all about helping you and others be successful with your websites.

We personally use a subdirectory structure for most of our Multisite needs since it just limited the need for time spent doing DNS management. If you have any tips about how to use Multisite or need help managing Multisite, let us know.

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