Subdomains vs. Subdirectories: Best Practices for Website Structure - Peery Media

Subdomains vs. Subdirectories: Best Practices for Website Structure

In the vast landscape of website development, two commonly discussed structures are subdomains and subdirectories. Both have their distinct features, benefits and use cases. In this blog post, we’ll delve into their differences, their implications for SEO, and their overall impact on user experience.

Understanding the Basics

  • Subdomain: This is essentially a third-level domain of your main website. Consider the example: Here, blog is a subdomain of the main domain
  • Subdirectory: Also known as subfolders, subdirectories come after the domain name. For instance: where /blog/ is a subdirectory of

Subdomains and SEO:

  • Isolation of Authority: Subdomains are sometimes seen by search engines as separate entities. So, if your main goal is to boost the authority of your primary domain, using subdomains might not always be the best choice. Any backlinks to your subdomains may not provide the full benefit to your main domain.
  • Geographic Targeting: For businesses operating in multiple countries or languages, subdomains can be useful. For instance, can target US audiences while can focus on the UK.
  • Branding Opportunities: Subdomains can help when you have a distinct section of your business that you want to promote separately. For instance, if a university wants to separate its online courses platform, it might use:

Subdirectories and SEO:

  • Consolidated Authority: Since subdirectories are part of the main domain, all backlinks to your subdirectories directly contribute to the authority of your primary domain.
  • Simplicity in Tracking: Using tools like Google Analytics becomes simpler with subdirectories, as you don't have to set up multiple properties for tracking different sections of your website.
  • Easier Management: You don't have to worry about setting up different servers or content management systems. Everything is under one domain.

User Experience (UX) Implications:

  • Perceived Unity with Subdirectories: For users, a subdirectory often feels like a part of the main website, offering a unified experience. This is particularly beneficial if the content on your subdirectory is closely related to your main domain.
  • Distinct Identity with Subdomains: If you want a portion of your website to stand out or feel different, a subdomain can be a good choice. Users can sense this distinction, which can be useful for uniquely branded content.

Best Practices & Recommendations:

  1. Assess Your Needs: Decide whether you want to build the authority of a single domain or if there are strategic reasons to separate certain content.
  2. Consistency: Whatever you choose, ensure that you're consistent. Mixing subdomains and subdirectories without a clear reason can confuse search engines and users.
  3. Technical Implementation: Ensure that both subdomains and subdirectories are correctly set up. Errors like not setting up proper redirects or canonical tags can adversely impact SEO.
  4. Content Relevance: If you're using subdirectories, make sure the content is relevant to your main website. Irrelevant content can dilute your website's theme and potentially harm SEO.
  5. Branding: If branding is a concern, a subdomain might be the way to go. This especially holds for businesses or institutions with unique branches that deserve their own spotlight.

In conclusion, the choice between subdomains and subdirectories boils down to your strategic objectives and the user experience you aim to offer. There's no one-size-fits-all answer. Consider the nature of your content, your SEO goals, and your target audience's expectations before making a decision. By doing so, you’ll be better positioned to create a structured, user-friendly, and SEO-optimized website.

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