Tarun Gupta

Subdomains vs Subfolders: Which One to Use and Why?

Tarun Gupta February 28th, 2018 Search Engine Optimization no comments.

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Your website’s structure impacts its search ranking considerably. Though, Google officially denies considering the superiority of one over the other while indexing and ranking the websites, webmasters show incremental evidence that one is superior in terms of SEO.


The article is a quick walk-through to examine both the entities separately and find out which one of them to prefer and why.


Subdomains vs Subfolders: What's the Difference?

Both of the entities give you a way out to organize and structure your website. They can be distinguished just by looking at the URL of the website.


For ex: - An URL like blog.brainpulse.com represents a subdomain. It shows that the website runs its blog on a different domain with all its nuts, bolts and fixes placed separately. A subdomain generally hosts all the content of the site on separate servers and with separate content management systems.


On the contrary, ‘blog.brainpulse.com / blog’ shows a subfolder named blog that’s hosted on the same server and CMS.

Subfolders and SEO:

Google considers a subfolder as a part of your main website. Therefore, all your SEO efforts and results equally apply to your subfolders within the website, regardless of the section of the website your efforts are aimed at.


Subfolders are indeed a great way to go with if you want to keep things coherent and organized. Unlike subdomains, you needn’t to bother about aligning your marketing and SEO differently for different sub-domains. Moreover, subfolders are get benefitted by all your right efforts done on the website since the whole content is indexed being a single website.

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Since Google crawls and indexes your website each time you update website content, subfolder content gets a refresh as well.


Even though Googler John Mueller and ex-Googler Matt Cutts time and again iterated that there’s no difference in how Google ranks sites organized in subfolders versus those organized in subdirectories, SEOs experts seem reluctant to buy the argument. They firmly believe that Google has two different yardsticks to point subdomains and subfolders.


SEOs argue that when website is structured in a subfolder setup, all the links that point to the main site may give the new page a boost too.

Subdomains and SEO:

As I have already stated, a subdomain is represented by a unique term or key phrase in the URL that clearly signal what the site is about very early in the URL. For instance, ‘blog. brainpulse.com’ clearly indicates that it’s a portal to a blog being run by the main domain.


Marketers use Subdomains to separate website into their own subdomains to serve different purposes. Since they are considered as discreet and unique domains in their own capacity, they are unlikely to get benefits from SEO efforts that target your main domain.


The major benefit of the subdomains is that they help you better organize your website structure. A website abc.com might have its landing pages, a store, and a blog. Subdomains let the website use a different content management system for each type of page such as blog.abc.com or store.abc.com.


In Google search results as well, these subdomains appear as an individual result. It’s therefore evident that if multiple of your subdomains appear in Google results and link to your main domain, it can increase website traffic and clicks.

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In most cases, marketers use subdomains to separate areas of a site for localization purposes. Haven’t you seen versions of a site with a different language often appear on subdomains?

Subdomain can lead to traffic drop (sometime):

Moz’s Rand Fishkin once shared his own experience with subfolders. He recalled that his different keywords ranked much higher when they switched a page on their site from a subdomain to a subdirectory. Rand tried it three times in two years.


Rand admits that a subdomain setup always almost loses out to a subfolder setup in terms of traffic. That’s why one should consider adopting subdomains when it’s necessary for business purposes.

Here is the big deal, finally:

Google’s crawlers know its business well. They recognize subdomains as a part of the main domain. However, much of the time, they index subdomains as a different site. If that happens, you’ll eventually lose any ranking benefits picked up from your main site.

Here is what to do?

Unless absolutely necessary, avoid using subdomains on the website. It’s recommended to go for subdirectories. However, the core elements that affect your SEO like fresh and well-targeted content are equally important for your website no matter which architecture you use.


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