Subdomains and subdirectories

Towards the tail end of PubCon, I noticed a spate of articles talking about subdomains and subdirectories in Google, and I wanted to talk more about this subject in case I was unclear.

Historically, it’s been kind of a wash about when to use subdomains vs. subdirectories. Just as a reminder, in a URL such as subdomain.example.com/subdirectory/ , the subdomain is “subdomain” and the subdirectory is “subdirectory” (also sometimes called a folder). If you’re still unclear, you may want to read my tutorial on the parts of a URL.

If you throw your content into a subdirectory, usually the code is all in the same file storage space. That can make it much easier to find/edit/change code. It can also be easier to move code from one place to another. A subdomain, however, is often a domain name system (DNS) alias. Subdomains can be a little more difficult for a novice webmaster to set up, especially if words like “CNAME” don’t mean anything to you. Subdomains can be managed separately, which can be a joy (you can use DNS to decouple a subdomain if you want to migrate that part of your site) or a pain (it may be more of a hassle to juggle DNS setting instead of just using file commands to make or move directories). When I started my blog, I decided to use a subdirectory (mattcutts.com/blog/) just to keep things simple, for example.

For several years Google has used something called “host crowding,” which means that Google will show up to two results from each hostname/subdomain of a domain name. That approach works very well to show 1-2 results from a subdomain, but we did hear complaints that for some types of searches (e.g. esoteric or long-tail searches), Google could return a search page with lots of results all from one domain. In the last few weeks we changed our algorithms to make that less likely to happen in the future.

This change doesn’t apply across the board; if a particular domain is really relevant, we may still return several results from that domain. For example, with a search query like [ibm] the user probably likes/wants to see several results from ibm.com. Note that this is a pretty subtle change, and it doesn’t affect a majority of our queries. In fact, this change has been live for a couple weeks or so now and no one noticed. :) The only reason I talked about the subject at PubCon at all was because someone asked for my advice on subdomains vs. subdirectories.

My personal preference on subdomains vs. subdirectories is that I usually prefer the convenience of subdirectories for most of my content. A subdomain can be useful to separate out content that is completely different. Google uses subdomains for distinct products such news.google.com or maps.google.com, for example. If you’re a newer webmaster or SEO, I’d recommend using subdirectories until you start to feel pretty confident with the architecture of your site. At that point, you’ll be better equipped to make the right decision for your own site.

Update: Made it more clear that this change has already been live for a while.

213 Responses to Subdomains and subdirectories (Leave a comment)

  1. Harith

    Matt,

    Welcome back. And thanks for a very informative post.

    Speaking theoretically. Suppose we have just created a subdomain (blog.mattcutts.com ) and subdirectory (mattcutts.com/blog) of 100% identical content (forgetting the duplicates issue for a moment).

    Which one is to be expected to be indexed and show on Google first; subdomain or subdirectory?

    Which one Googlebot most love to crawl; subdomain or subdirectory?

    Thanks.

  2. Thank you for explaining the change. I really did not notice it so far. What I did not get is how you are going to define if the user wants “to see more results from one domain” and if he prefers to see only a couple of them…

  3. Thanks for the clarification and for mentioning how long it has already been in place. Looks like the SEO community ‘missed something’. LOL

    OneCall recently launched to portions of content that I chose a subdomain for because (like you mentioned) it was wildly different content. There was no need to ‘SEO’ one of the subdomains (http://synergist.onecall.com) as it was only for our signed up affiliates anyway. The other one (http://affiliates.onecall.com), yeah I should probably do some SEO work on but with the affiliate market so saturated . . . not sure it is worth the effort. We’re still getting plenty of traffic to the subdomain anyway (branding and people looking for a lucrative affiliate program).

    Glad to hear that people with a zillion subdomains won’t get as much love anymore . . . music lyric sites come to mine, as do price comparison engines.

    Good move . . .

    Brent David Payne

  4. Ken

    Any idea if Google will support blogging with a subdirectory of your own domain? As for now Blogger only has support for subdomains.

    That way it would get indexed by search engines together with my
    ordinary homepage. As for now I have the blog on a custom
    blog.domain.com but unfortunately the search engines now ranks that
    much higher than http://www.domain.com and most visitors miss the main page.

    It doesn’t make any difference if you use javascript, iframe or RSS-
    feeds like http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/publishers/buzzboost to publish it
    on your own http://www.domain.com. The search engines still sees the indexed
    text as originating from my blog.domain.com and pagerank that much
    higher.

    With FTP you loose many of the good things with Blogger, and doesn’t
    work because my webpage is hosted by Google Page Creator (GPC). The
    hosting doesn’t allow FTP-service.

    The best thing would be if Google Page Creator could integrate
    Blogger, like republishing your own blogs with some standard Google-
    written PHP-code. Or could Blogger have some layouts and function of a
    ordinary web page?

    /Ken
    http://groups.google.com/group/blogger-help-howdoi/browse_thread/thread/3c990b37c9254a8c/122c609c27036003#122c609c27036003

  5. This finally made sense. Thanks!
    dk

  6. may be then a good idea to put everything as subdirectories and create the subdomains with a redirect pointing to the subdirectory?

    thanks.

  7. Hiya Matt. What about sites that target different regional markets? Does it still make sense for them to use sub-domains e.g. australia.site.com, uk.site.com and use the new Regional Association tool in Webmaster Tools to indicate which searcher region each sub-domain should be associated with?

  8. sem4u

    This is a good move. One of my competitors uses/abuses subdomains so this will make the results fairer IMO.

  9. Matt, this logic doesn’t fly when many sites, like some photo hosting sites as an example, use individual subdomains per customer account as each subdomain is a legitimate unique source and should be handled separately.

    What about old style ISP webhosting accounts that use someispdomain.com/accountname, does that mean you’ll limit the search to 2 entries of the ISP’s root domain?

    Sorry son, but this simply isn’t the reality of what exists on the internet to make such a sweeping change that doesn’t reflect the actual way all of these things are being used.

    I think you’re going to have to make a LOT of exceptions to that rule otherwise Google won’t be quite a useful as it has been in the past.

  10. Whell, after my own research, I have found subdomains to have less weight on the domain than directories. Depending on the structure, Googlebot sees the subdomain like a different website and separates all the raking algorithms from the main domain’s website.

    For example if we have a blog hosting website, and users start creating subdomain blogs. After Googlebot understands the structure of your blog host, it will not pass GoogleJuice from the main domain to the subdomins and vice-versa, and neither will penalities go from the subdomain to the main domain. This last remark is the one most relevant in my tests as I have encountered the situation many times.

    In my oppinion, for blue hat seo, subdomains is the better way to go, but if your website is clean, original, perly white hat SEO :), it makes no difference.

    My two cents.

    PS: thanks Matt for the interresting topic, looking forward to some Google secrets.

  11. Keonda

    Matt,

    What about a website in different languages? Would you create subdomains for each, folders or just use ccTLDs?

  12. You know my wish, Matt — when will host crowding finally be applied to all results found, rather than a on search results-by-search results page basis.

    If I do this:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=battlestar+galactica

    Then decide I don’t like any of the sites in the top ten listings and go to another page:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=battlestar+galactica&start=10

    Then you give me
    http://www.imdb.com

    Again even though I passed it over on the first page already. And sometimes, it’s several sites that keep coming up over and over again.

  13. Jogi

    Matt, thanks for adressing this issue. It is certainly welcome.

    How will this affect the link profile of a domain and its subdomains?

  14. Thanks for the update Matt !

    I would like to know if there is a possibility for a duplicate penalty for language sites, i.e. I have two sites but the content is in German and in English. The content/layout/folder structure is the same, except that I have http://www.mydomain.com/ for the english site and http://de.mydomain.com/ for my german site.

    Or would it be better to use http://en.mydomain.com/ and http://de.mydomain.com/ and have http://www.mydomain.com/ as a switch between these pages ?

    I would have http://de.mydomain.com/ hosted in Germany and http://en.mydomain.com/ hosted in the US.

  15. Peronally i like subdirectories for most of my content too.
    Is easy and fast, nice site structure etc.

  16. That’s my question too. What about different languages in a medium size site? and if the site is a small one?

  17. Andrew

    Hi Matt,
    How does Google see add-on domains whose directories are subdirectories of the main domain? Both have the same IP, but…does Google see them as two separate sites?

    A little off the topic….. my site has recently been hit for selling links (I used to be a bad boy). At least I think that was the reason for it to go down from pr7 to pr4. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t notify the site owner about specific infractions. I think I have corrected all the mishaps but can never be sure as to whether there are any other issues there. Would it be possible to get some honest review of the site from you so that we continue improving the service and never again cause any problem with SE? (Of course, you can disregard this part, but your help would be appreciated)

  18. I have got a website butt i have used my site with subdomains. What do u think, becuse 3 of them are different, the last 2 can be pages (contact and about)

  19. Hey Matt

    How will this affect major platforms for Blogs – things like Typepad and Blogspot? A site like widgets.blogspot.com is a subdomain presumably, so will it not get a ranking with this new change?

    Henry

  20. Hi. Thanks for this info.

    The system I created for podcast.com (a ‘generic’ domain) allows us to ‘map’ podcast directory folders curated by our users to a ‘generic’.podcast.com eg: video.podcast.com, music.podcast.com (or in some cases, brandx.subdomain system. eg: bbc.podcast.com, cnn.podcast.com)

    Also, all our members have a homepage which uses both subdomains and subdirectories eg: my.podcast.com/kosso where my directory exists.

    How will these changes affect our system?

    If possible, could we have a ‘deeper’ explanation of this?

    Many thanks,
    Kosso
    CTO: podcast.com

  21. Deb

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for your informative post, that’s why I like read your posts.
    Now question is that what will be the best – I saw most of create blog like – blog.mydomain.com but you said mattcutts.com/blog is good, so what is the best??

    Thanks
    Deb

  22. Hi Matt,

    Will this change affect sitelinks results in any way? The example with IBM shows that sitelinks are not affected, but I have to ask.

  23. Hi Matt,

    This sounds like a great update to me, Matt. And thank you for the clarification. I must admit that I was a little sceptical at first about the whole subdomain and subfolder issue when it was first raised at PubCon as one or two of my websites rely on subdomains more heavily than subdirectories but it’s good to hear that the tech-heads at Google have everything under control.

    I’ll probably still be sticking with regular subdomains for the foreseeable future now. :)

    Steve

  24. “What about a website in different languages? Would you create subdomains for each, folders or just use ccTLDs?”
    Well, different languages are not likely to appear under the same search term, are they?

  25. For several years Google has used something called “host crowding,” which means that Google will show up to two results from each hostname/subdomain of a domain name. That approach works very well to show 1-2 results from a subdomain, but we did hear complaints that for some types of searches (e.g. esoteric or long-tail searches), Google could return a search page with lots of results all from one domain. In the last few weeks we changed our algorithms to make that less likely to happen in the future.

    What is so interesting about how his dispute was settled is that – Google is compelled to return Technically less relevant SERPs because of a backlash from offended Webmasters.

    Relevant results are relevant results – REGARDLESS – of the politics!!

    On another issue: SEO benefits appear to make a subdirectory more immediately powerful than a SubDomain with the Search Engines.

    This sometimes can be the deciding factor when considering among the two. Does on make one’s Blog or Links Directory a subdomain or a subdirectory?

    ________________________

    Please do a future post analyzing Trust Rank; the algo specifics need to be discussed.

  26. Mark

    Subdomains are easier to move off to a separate server if traffic grows. This is how Google Apps is able to take control of the e-mail of outside domains for its customers. Trying to use mod-rewrite or the like to to this is more difficult, especially with sites that have their own mod-rewrite schemes, like a WordPress blog.

    I guess it depends on what you mean by “novice.” Most Webmasters can figure out how to at least ask their ISP to change a DNS records, but mod-rewrite is difficult and requires hiring someone or the opportunity cost of learning something you’ll rarely need to use when there are better uses of your time.

  27. Omar Yesid Mariño

    Thank you very much Matt… I had read a post from Aaron Wall about this topic but I had doubts… but this post from you is really clear.

  28. I use subdomains to see if new website ideas will fly, some do and some don’t, the ones that do can be migrated from subdomain to regular domain easy. That is what subdomains are for as Matt clearly states.

    Matt – I also find it interesting that you mention that these changes will not affect the big boys like IBM and Google. Large domains bury negative publicity sites with subdomains. Lucky them, don’t forget about us in your algorithm tweaks.

    Thanks

  29. “In fact, this change has been live for a couple weeks or so now and no one noticed.”

    Now I’m unsure what is really happening. Some of the stuff I read implied this would affect all domains sometime in the near future, this says it affected a small number of domains in the recent past. If that is all that is going to change this is not a big deal and there is significant misinterpretation.

    In regards to hostcrowding in the first two results, the number of times I see the 2nd result adding a URL that is included in the sitelinks above it, which to me adds zero value to the searcher. I really wish Google would abolish the practice as I’ve never seen myself click on a 2nd URL that is inthe sitelinks already.

    Speaking of sitelinks, can you explain a bit clearly what causes a site to get the multiple sitelinks? I see some sites of somewhat equal strength have them, while others don’t.

    Thanks Matt!

  30. Like Aaron above, when i first heard this, I expected a significant impact on large domains. :)

  31. Liam

    I have been working on optimising my blogspot blog. Will this have an effect because my blog uses a subdomain?

  32. Hi Matt,

    First of all – thanks for the article; its one of those topics that a lot of people have an opinion on, so its great to get your opinion.

    Looking at the comments already posted, I think a number of people are having the same thought – OK, I understand the technical differences between the two (and am comfortable with terms like CNAME) – so what are the criteria to use when selecting one approach over another?

    Perhaps a discussion of the different times when one or the other might be appropriate and the benefits etc would be useful?

    Thanks,

    Paul

  33. So while you are saying Google will no longer show subdomains as seperate pages (for non-authority domains). You still seem to be moving around the point whether Google gives more weighting to subdomains or subfolders in general.

    My views on this would be, if Google found a subdomain on a website that had a very different design and architecture to it then it will treat it as more of a separate identity, whereas if you simply have a clone of other subdomains, with separate content but the same template/layout then it is going to treat it as a single identity, and of course cross linking will have a major role in this treatment also!

  34. And to the people who are worried whether Google will now treat *.blogspot.com urls differently now, i believe they needn’t worry..

  35. Matt,

    It was nice to finally meet you at PubCon.

    About a year ago I spoke with Adam Lasnik and asked him about the subdomain issue in my industry (home rental classifieds) and asked him if it was OK to use a separate subdomain for each city such as Denver, San Jose, Fargo etc. If I remember correctly he told me that having only one page per subdomain is something Google might consider spam.

    I then spoke with Brian White a few days ago at the conference and told him that in my industry many sites use the practice of creating one subdomain page and one sub directory page for the same city and Brian told me avoid multiple doorway pages created just for Google.

    So when I got home from the conference I redirected all my city subdomain pages to the normal non-subdomain city pages. Yes, I admit I was doing this practice so I could keep up with my competitors.

    I am pretty sure I am going to take a hit in traffic because of this change I did.

    From what you wrote in your post that Google’s algo change does not happen across the board, so I am hoping you will look at my industry to help level the playing field.

  36. I searched “IBM” and only two results are shown, still. (Unless you count the sitelinks — I haven’t noticed a difference.)

  37. I am a fan of the new logic as long as Google can make exceptions for the large sites (Blogger, ISPs, etc.). There won’t be too many they have to make an exception for though (maybe a few hundred). I think Google is slowly moving people in the right direction. If you have a site with a number of different languages then perhaps purchasing the .uk, .de, .cn, etc. domains are the proper thing to do.

    I see MASSIVE abuses of subdomains in some rather significant areas on the web. Case in point is the online music lyrics industry. It is a spam haven and most of the sites get link juice from themselves by using oodles of subdomains. Considering music lyrics searches are historically the most searched for terms in January (and the tail is extremely long), I think this will help to change at least that industry.

    Again, good move by Google. Painful for some, but overall a good move for the masses.

    Brent David Payne

  38. Along with being very interesting and useful information in and of itself (thanks, Matt!), this is also going to feed into some ever-increasing debates. (Big surprise, yeah, I know.) Arguments over the type and magnitude of SEO implications involved in organizing content via subdomains, subdirectories, or a case-by-case mix can be rather heated within some companies, with direction on the subject switching changing back and forth over time with the personnel involved. As with everything else SEO, insight on just how Google considers content on sibling third-level domains (vs. subdirectories within a domain) is always greatly appreciated, if only to ground what often seem like clashes of zealous faith with a bit of fact.

  39. “Which one is to be expected to be indexed and show on Google first; subdomain or subdirectory?”

    Harith, to the best of my knowledge neither one has an advantage for crawling/indexing first.

  40. TheRabbi

    Matt,

    I’m really glad you added some clarification to this subject. I’m all for consistency and structure. In a perfect world I personally want to sub-domain a site to break apart relevant sections. Such as blog.company.com, careers.company.com, etc.

    So with this implementation by Google, if I would like to eventually rank in the top 10 for all these sections (say, searching for “company”), would I have a better chance going with something like, companyblog.com, companycareers.com, etc? I’d appreciate any insight you could give. Thanks!

  41. Kalena, using subdomains for stuff like fr.example.com or de.example.com is still a great approach, because those sites may be similar in idea, but the language is usually completely different.

  42. “Sorry son, but this simply isn’t the reality of what exists on the internet to make such a sweeping change that doesn’t reflect the actual way all of these things are being used.”

    IncrediBILL, as I said before this is actually a pretty subtle change. It had been live for a couple weeks without anyone noticing, for example. So in concrete terms, the impact (even for sites that use a lot of subdomains) is going to be quite small. What the change does let us do is return more diverse results when it’s appropriate to do so.

  43. Keonda, great question. If you have sites with say French and German versions for a business, my preferences would be:

    1. ccTLDS such as example.fr or example.de
    2. After than, subdomains such as fr.example.com or de.example.com.
    3. If that’s not possible, I’d use subdirectories such as example.com/fr/ or example.com/de/ .

  44. Deb, it really is a pretty personal choice. For something small like a blog, it probably won’t matter terribly much. I used a subdirectory because it’s easier to manage everything in one file storage space for me. However, if you think that someday you might want to use a hosted blog service to power your blog, then you might want to go with blog.example.com just because you could set up a CNAME or DNS alias so that blog.example.com pointed to your hosted blog service.

  45. Aaron Pratt, I was talking about the query for IBM, not IBM’s site or how big it is.

  46. Dave Dugdale, the change is algorithmic and across the board, so it can affect multiple niches (as well as large sites).

    Thanks, Brent David Payne. :)

  47. Matt, how would I notice if I didn’t go looking for your changes?

    I do have other things to do than examine Google’s results all day long, gee ;)

    “So in concrete terms, the impact (even for sites that use a lot of subdomains) is going to be quite small. What the change does let us do is return more diverse results when it’s appropriate to do so.”

    OK, so if the site is using subdomains like a unique domain, where each site is a completely different website, then they get lumped together, correct?

    I guess all this does is spell an end to communal web services that don’t use unique domains per customers if people actually want to be found in the event that more than one subdomain contains related information.

    I suppose I can live with the fact that a $9 domain name is all someone needs to get found in Google assuming the service can support using a 3rd party domain name.

    If you can’t afford $9/year I guess you aren’t that relevant, eh? :)

  48. In sorting out these kinds of issues I have been looking at examples of successful sites in certain verticals. For example in terms of local search and classifieds, Yelp, and Kijiji.

    Kijiji uses subdomains for cities, as in hartford.kijiji.com, whereas Yelp uses subdirectories, as in http://www.yelp.com/hartford.

    I can’t for the life of me figure out what the exact difference might be in terms of impact, but my sense is that subdirectories make the most sense for these geographic markers.

  49. Andrew Goodman,

    I think Google is OK with subdomains for each city when each subdomain has a ton of pages, for me it is a more of a question if you only have one page on the subdomain for each city.

  50. “OK, so if the site is using subdomains like a unique domain, where each site is a completely different website, then they get lumped together, correct?”

    No, that is not correct, that is exactly what subdomains can be used for right Matt? If the content is different use a subdomain to separate it from the main domain as to not dilute the main. Strange, I thought this was just regular “known” webmastering stuff. Proves how lost the SEO community has become!

    This is a great post, I am about ready to break off another subdomain to celebrate. :)

  51. When I originally heard about this, the misinformation I was reading suggested that subdomains were being merged back into their TLD as subfolders. This of course is not the case. However, I do have one clarifying question. Are subdomains and TLDs still considered separate entities (unique virtual properties). For example, subdomain.domain.com and domain.com are still considered as individual and unique entities by Google. I bring this up, because assuming the old rules are still in effect, a webmaster could dilute the value (or authority) of their website by spreading their content across multiple subdomains.

  52. @Aaron: “No, that is not correct, that is exactly what subdomains can be used for right Matt?”

    I didn’t say you shouldn’t break off content into different subdomains, what I’m saying is, if I understand Matt correctly, that some services that use subdomains as different accounts will be very restricted now in the number of actual results that show up in Google if I’m following what changed.

    It’s possible I’m just thick as a brick on this fine Monday morning as I don’t function well until past noon, but it would appear to me, unless I’m so far off in left field that Babe Ruth couldn’t even send a ball in my direction, that only a couple of results will be displayed no matter what from all the subdomains within a domain even if they are different customers/accounts and not just some spammer cranking out tons of domains to flood the SERPs.

    Matt, If I’m wrong, please shoot me and put me out of my misery before I embarrass myself further.

  53. Oops, I meant “some spammer cranking out tons of subdomains…”

  54. Second

    I have to second the idea that this is hurting sites where different users and different content is stored at the sub domain level. Take wordpress or lyro for example. Both sites have different users at subdomain. I’ve been playing around with these changes in your algo by running a site:site.com. Many sites have lost 50% or greater breadth in the number of subdomains indexed because of the change. If you want proof Matt, I’ll be happy to privately show you the results. What this is telling me is that google’s competitive advantage (digging deeper into the the web and making relevant more diverse content) has just taken one giant step backwards.

  55. Second

    I’ll just put the blame on Marissa. I think she’s still mad at me for something I did back in highschool.

  56. I’m really curious as to how this will play out in the SERPs. Here’s a real-life scenario:

    One of my employer’s major competitors is using a different subdomains for each category of products … red-widgets.url.com, blue-widgets.url.com, etc. The theory is that since subdomains are treated as separate domains, their internal links were being treated as external links, thus giving them an extra boost in the SERPs.

    Is it true that links between subdomains were (are?) being treated as external links? More importantly, did (does?) that give you any “extra credit” in the SERPs?

  57. Adrienne, you just read my mind.
    In my opinion, YES SERPs took subdomains links as external links.

  58. Matt,

    Would it be safe to assume its ok to serve an editor based directory of relevant links via subdomain such as http://resources.domain.com? I ask because we have hundreds of users setup on this intergration. Few have problems with it but some clarification is always appreciated. thanks.

  59. Jon Henshaw, our policies for how subdomain.example.com vs. example.com relate to each other haven’t changed.

    “what I’m saying is, if I understand Matt correctly, that some services that use subdomains as different accounts will be very restricted now in the number of actual results that show up in Google if I’m following what changed.”

    IncrediBILL, Google will be less likely to show (say) 7-8 subdomains from one domain for some queries, but the point I’m trying to make is that the vast majority of sites won’t notice much difference at all in their referrals.

  60. Matt,

    Thanks for the update.

    I understand that the keywords in the domain name help in it’s relevance for search results. Is that still the case with subdomains?

    So for instance as a random example: If I’m a retailer like barnes and noble, and I have my products broken up by major category in subdomains like books.bn.com, music.bn.com, movies.bn.com, etc.. and I don’t duplicate the content on the main site, would I get extra relevance if I searched for “music harry potter”, because that product page for the sound track was found on music.bn.com?

  61. “IncrediBILL, Google will be less likely to show (say) 7-8 subdomains from one domain for some queries, but the point I’m trying to make is that the vast majority of sites won’t notice much difference at all in their referrals.”

    Matt let’s take WordPress MU (Multi User) for example which is the platform I am building a hopefully large user contributed website. I have the option of going the route of sub domains or sub folders. I like the idea of sub domains simply because I WANT them to be considered separate.

    I can and will ad no follow, captha’s and even a public method of policing the network when it grows to a point where it isn’t easily managed but should the event occur where a user intentionally or unintentionally does something on their small space.. I’d rather my whole network not be penalized or banned based on one yahoo’s actions.

    If my network was 10,000 Ford truck enthusiasts then what I have is a bunch of people that may write about the same topic or closely to it. With this new system my concern is that my users will be limitted in the SERPs simply based on my decision to protect my network and go the sub domain route.

    How will issues like this be addressed by Google no matter how rare they may occur?

    Thoughts and comments highly appreciated on this conveniently timed conversation.

    John Jones III

  62. TimDineen

    Thanks for updating the in the future part.

    Question: At the “SEO and Big Search” session, Maile Ohye implied that something like Canada.Example.Com would be a good use of a sub-domain as opposed to Example.com/Canada.

    When the ccTLD for a domain is not available, would you recommend the above?

    (The Google engineers in the back row claimed “no consensus” when Maile asked them to confirm what she was saying.)

  63. Karl

    Hi Matt,

    Good to see Google making some changes in this area…for too long the SERPS have had crazy results on long tail terms. It’s all about returning relevant results to the user in my mind.

    That being the case, if it makes sense to the user of your site to have subdomains for certain areas (I.E. losangeles.domain.com, newyork.domain.com, sanfran.domain.com) is there any reason at all why we should not use them?

    We could just as as easily have a URL structure of domain.com/newyork but in my mind a user it ‘feels’ more relevant to the user if we have newyork.domain.com, especially as the content of that area of the site is purely about New York. Would this be a reasonable way to summarise?

  64. Dave (original)

    In the last few weeks we changed our algorithms to make that less likely to happen

    Great! I was tired of seeing M$ endless Subdomains when searching for technical answers.

    I always prefer to use folders on one-site IF the content is of the same flavor. One-site is much easier to maintain and promote than umpteen sub domains.

  65. g1smd

    Hmm. So this stuff that has been live for a few weeks, did you test it for 2 or 3 months over at GFE-RO first?

    I had been wondering what had been going on over there, but couldn’t work out what was actually different.

  66. Harith

    IncredBILL

    “Matt, If I’m wrong, please shoot me and put me out of my misery before I embarrass myself further.”

    I have enjoyed your posts on different places for years and look forward for more of the same. Usually your posts are both informative and entertaining. Therefor I’m not gonna allow Matt to shoot ya :)

  67. Harith

    g1smd

    In the good old days, they use to test on the following two DCs. But the data pushes are happening so fast nowadays that its rather difficult to follow anymore what those youngsters engineers at the plex are testing :)

    http://72.14.207.99
    http://72.14.207.104

  68. Deb

    Matt thanks for your reply, just a query (if you don’t mind) if I add content in mattcutts.com/blog – it effect in seo because I add directly content in the domain mattcutts.com but if I add content in blog.mattcutts.com is the effect is same? I don’t think so – because this is a subdomain not directly related with the domain?
    If I disturb you please don’t mind

    Thanks
    Deb

  69. “Subdomains can be a little more difficult for a novice webmaster to set up, especially if words like “CNAME” don’t mean anything to you”

    Just to point out that most common webmaster control panels – ie, CPanel – allow for 1 click creation of subdomains with no need to touch DNS records directly.

    This makes it a very accessible point of abuse for SERP spamming – been tempted to do it myself, but then I’ve figured it’s been a vulnerability for so long that it would be a matter of time before Google devalued this.

    Here’s hoping the current changes are working well – potentially a very powerful anti-spam change.

    2c.

  70. Matt,

    but there are some side effects that are not increasing value for searchers.

    Historically (and still necessary) we spread different content types across several sub domains, for example: news, downloads, price comparison, blogs and everything could easily be found with searching for “zdnet.de”. The Google results never had been as good as our internal search engine, but were a good starting point in a lot of cases.

    But now you list the typical keyword junkies like http://www.mister-wong.de/tags/zdnet.de/ and http://www.rss-nachrichten.de/rss-verzeichnis/computer-technik/computer-software/rss-anzeigen-22441.html AND NOT our original Blogs, not our Downloads etc.

    In fact: this is misleading our readers when they use Google about our content offering.

    Nice one too: we get the WAP.zdnet.de domain … which is only usefull if you surf with a WML Browser, not doing a standard web search.

    Looks like this “refinement” still needs some iterations of QA.

    thomas

  71. Marjory Meechan

    Hi Matt,

    I think it’s great that Google is trying to keep the results as varied as possible. With that in mind, is there any possibility that you will further reduce the number of sites displayed per page by giving the user the option to restrict the display of more than one page from the same site as they are now doing in the new MSN Live search results. Since you already have the Return more Results link, we could still get more results if we wanted them.

  72. Working with hospitality clients it is essential to win as much first page real estate. Now is the best way to do that creating subdomain, maybe. I much rather take over the first page by showing up on topic on other peoples sites as well. As long as my client makes a reservation in the end I am happy. I’ll chalk this update as another one that will only cause a short term panic but a decent long term result.

  73. I only use subdomains for very specific reasons, as for instance if there is a major difference in content or possibly multi language pages. I am afraid to use the perminant language pages as they may be so close to my main content they may bee seen as spam though.

  74. Carly

    “It had been live for a couple weeks without anyone noticing, for example.”

    I certainly noticed, my domain name is TownNameInternet.com (example) and a search for my site name using TownName Internet or TownNameInternet used to be valuable to visitors because i use a couple of subdomains and these showed and now they do not.

    Referals to my theme viewer dropped dramatically for searches of my domain name, and upon checking i noticed my 2 subdomains were gone and over on pages 2 or 3 of the SERP’s and i’m just left with my Main Domain and a rather poor/useless subpage in #1 and #2

    My domain is PR5 and about a dozen of my major subpages are also PR5 yet a rather meaningless PR3 subpage several clicks from home is at #2. My PR5 About Page, Portfolio Page, FAQ, Support Forum etc are all well linked yet i get a garbage page in #2 not related to the query.

    Are more domains now going to receive sitelinks because of this change Matt?

    My domain is pretty unique, small town name and really nobody else offering internet services here so a search for “mytown internet” or “mytowninternet” there is a 99% chance the user is looking for URL’s from my site yet i now have a shocking listing after these changes.

    From what i can see these changes have yielded very poor results.

  75. Kung Futzu

    I think that it is as Matt has said – very little change being seen in reality.

    For example, I have a few search phrases that I monitor for the density of coverage by a well known auction site. As an example, they now occupy 25 of the top 50 places on Google of which 8 results sets are paired and 9 are singles – total results about 250,000. It was 23 places with 8 pairs and 7 single about 2 weeks ago! So not much change in reality.

    Looks like some sites can have ‘spam’ style structures to their sites and Google just loves them.

  76. Hi,

    Subdomains have been considered as a separate site right? is that going to change any time soon?

  77. Matt, a lot of big sites set up subdomain names for other people who want to get their own site on it without registering a domain name. How is that going to be differently than setting up a website for someone on a folder on your own domain name?

    Mike

  78. lots0

    Matt said:”It had been live for a couple weeks without anyone noticing…”

    You mean no one in the SEO blogs or forums noticed.
    Considering the current level of SEO knowledge in the ‘so called’ SEO Blogs and SEO Forums, this does not surprise me at all.

    I been trying for 12 days to figure out what happened to subdomains in google (thats why I’m here… Now I know).

    BTW – Matt, for the first time in years, I have not been able to find what I wanted using google, I had to go and use other search engines to find what I wanted… and I know I am not the only one.

    You guys are starting to forget ‘Search Quality’ is really just people being able to find what they want…

  79. I use a typepad account and have so since 04 – the site has always done well in the Top 10 for me – never top dog but it’s there.

    I’d really like to have a threaded blog built with Word Press and containing all the nifty plug ins (complete with a TLD) anyone know of a good host and coder please approach me….

    I’m looking at expanding into my native England and will only start up with a blog….

    Cheers

    David
    Charlotte. NC

  80. By the way the dom name is needagoodrank.com – ;)

  81. Matt, please define: “really relevant,” as your company can’t. I.e. what criteria is that determination based on?

    On a related note, will all SERPs showing sitelinks show these subdomains too, like with IBM? Where’s the demarcation line, if there is one?

    On a related note, I’m trying to figure out Sitelinks. Care to give some specifics?

  82. Thanks for describing about subdomains and subdirectories in Google. It’s rally so helpful to me as earlier i was so confused about to add a blog or forum through adding a subdomain or subdirectory to my site but now it is clear to me.

    thanks again.

  83. Hiya Matt :)

    I have a mildly off topic one rooted in the right topic sir…

    I am a designer and developer and i just got an international domain, I got it because it was my first name. I was thinking it would be fun the do alot with the subdomains and folders like this: web.designs.by.mich.in/web

    Now that I know is pushing it a bit but it is a growing trend and kinda fun to do. Like Del.Icio.Us kinda gets the fresh new feel to it :)

    So what is going to happen if I do this? Will there be a problem doing it or negative results? I really would like to know.

    I mean come you know its fun…..

    1800.Meet.MattCutts.Com/NotReally

    yes silly but… fun

    thanks Matt

    Peace
    Mich in the Web

  84. Greetings! These allegations relate to all subdomains in the same domain?

  85. Great info. Does the sub domain get read as a separate site?

  86. Hey Matt, thanks for this. Any chance you could tie this in with google webmaster tools and show two pages per SITE as registered with webmaster tools.

    (I know unprotected this would open you up to spam, but I’m sure you can think of a few ways to detect spammers – I can but won’t mention them here)

  87. David Saunders : WordPress is ridiculously easy to set up. Just find a host that will support it (ring them up if in doubt) and upload the files. That should be it, all the rest is web based.

    If you are looking for a coder for anything specific then I can help you out – either myself , the company I work at or I know several freelancers around here who do everything from graphic design and flash to custom kernels for clusters and search engine algorithms (me).
    (Based in Bristol, UK)

    Mich:
    I can’t see anything that would be a problem with this as far as I know (I’ll let Matt answer for certain if he sees it).

  88. Hi Matt,
    So you’re saying that sites like ask.com who base their success upon subs don’t get hurt but if I set up similar site I don’t get same growth chance?
    I can see it is a good measure to momentarily combat splogs and such, but have you any tips for successfully ranking the subs?

    Thanks,
    CurlyGirly

  89. Great info. Does the sub domain get read as a separate site?

  90. David Saunders: I’d highly recommend you for WP to use either a host with cpanel and fantastico for a very easy wordpress install – my host is most reliable and great support – Fast!

    Next:
    If you want to save yourself the many weeks you could spend on seeking and sifting through all the plugins, fighting time and nerves to find the ones that’ll live happily together without destructive conflicts and avoiding the pain of constantly upgrading the WP and all your chosen plugins, hacks and fixes- I use this superb WP CMS: around 100 plugins which all work perfectly, highly SEO, support etc

  91. michelle

    Matt, I’ve asked this question a couple of times when you mentioned COOKIE CUTTER sites, but did not get an answer. I’m asking again on a post relating to the other half of my original question.

    If google webmaster guidelines states webmasters should

    a. Avoid using cookie cutter designs.
    b. subdomains are treated like new domains(except now with regard to how many urls may be returned)

    does a site run the risk of being labelled a cookie cutter site for running

    new-york.sitename.com
    miama.sitename.com
    chicago.sitename.com

    as they are seen as different sites, with substantially the same structure, design…. just different content laid out in the same format.

    Or does google realise these are simply subdomains, seperated by location, and not cookie cutter sites?

    is it safer to go with

    sitename.com/new-york/
    sitename.com/miami/

    etc

  92. Oza

    Hey Matt

    Thanks for the info.

  93. Matt:
    I really enjoyed your article. The topic is very timely for us, as we are in the middle of an engagement with one of the top SEO Firms. They originally recommended subdomains over subfolders because of the opportunity for multiple rankings. When I sent them your article, they still insisted that there is value in having your keyword at the beginning of the URL rather than the end.

    Is there real value having keywords in the beginning of the url rather than the end?

  94. Hello!
    Does it mean, what I should put various languages of my website to various domains or various subdomains or various directories??? Still not clear.
    Matt, could you please order domains, subdomains, and directories by relevance? What is more important, for example:
    - mywebsite.ru, mywebsite.com
    - ru.mywebsite.com
    - mywebsite.com/ru/, mywebsite.com/en/
    - mywebsite.com?lang=ru, mywebsite.com?lang=en

    Answer please and thanks for your post!
    Regards,
    Sergey Koksharov

  95. Interesting stuff, great timing for me as well. In the process of optimizing subpages and have noticed what you are talking about in the results pages.

  96. We inherit a lot of sites – some in good, some bad. I’m very cautious of re-doing anything that’s already place (occasionally we do). We basically tell people if the new sub-domain content they’re thinking about is separate and significant (i.e. not a couple pages) and supports a unique nav set, it might be OK. We’ve also had more success with page names (more than folder names). The bottom line is that while this is important (and I, glad it got addressed), it’s a little out of context. Websites rank for a multitude of reasons and one ploy or move doesn’t necessarily improve or hurt things. We tell clients that if they’re weak in one area, they need to be strong elsewhere to succeed. In other words, if you lack history with the engines, woo them with activity (updates) and extra content over time. If you have a good keyword in the domain name, keep that in mind with the website development/theming. It’s all about headway. One large prospect told me yesterday that their competition has 400,000 inbound links compared to their 40,000. So what? They don’t need 400,001 to win. It’s all about what else is in play.

  97. If you are questioning whether to structure a site into sub-domains or sub-directories, it may be worth considering the bandwidth and efficiency of each approach. If there is a commonality of content in terms of Javascript, CSS, robots.txt etc.. it probably indicates that they are in fact not individual sites, and ‘folders’ are the more efficient option for end users. I believe browsers cache content ‘per domain’ and personally I’d consider it bad form for site xyz.somesite.com to be referencing a CSS file from abc.somesite.com.

  98. Thank you Matt for this very informative post. I would still prefer a subdomain over a subdirectory because Google itself is using subdomains. Besides, subdomains are more visible for web surfers.

  99. Seo

    Hey according to my knowledge subdirectory are good. Remember we are not targetting google search engine only. Yahoo also give how to make directory in its webmaster guidelines. For sub directory are best, I suggest to make silomatice website. and for that you need subdirectories only.

  100. This is indeed an interest post. Cluster drives me crazy. I’ve seen some improvements, but a lot still needs to be done in my view.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=nightclubs&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

    That search represents the core of the problem. Michelle, the results from that search would seem to imply that they are seen as different sites, thus answering your question. Essentially, all of the subdomains dominate the first several pages, leaving very little variety.

  101. Kim

    This recent change in algorithm is a good thing…to a degree. What I would like to see is Google giving the surfers the option to view the unfiltered results either for a domain or all domains. It’s good for Google to filter results as a default but do give the surfers more flexibility in deciding what they want to see.

  102. I believe that the sub directories as well sub domain structure seems to be a good options because with subdirectories you can name them according to the keywords for which you are optimizing.

    i.e for example
    http://www.subdomain.com/keyword/keyword_1.htm

    Such a type of extension can really help the site to be ranked for a particular keyword when the site url does not contain that keyword so this can be a good way to do that and with sub domains also you may create a url like

    http://keyword.domain.com which will also be useful in optimizing the site since the keyword is there in the URL.

    Please correct me if I am wrong

  103. Jeff Martin I think you are true. I did some keywords and subdomains for clear understanding and direct results. One of my 1 year old site is http://www.fiyatlari.net (fiyatlari means ‘prices’ in Turkish language).
    I put a name for ex: adslmodem.fiyatlari.net , surgery.fiyatları.net .. and such 20 subdomains. Why? I think it’s more scientific, it’s a price catalog. Because, if any person search adsl modem prices, he/she must go firstly adslmodem.fiyatlari.net. If did not use subdomain firstly clich fiyatlari.net and then click the link of http://www.fiyatlari.net/adsl-modem/ .
    In my opinion web users must go to direct result at the subdomain without two click.
    Now, fiyatlari.net banned from google at December 17. (I think google spider see the subdomains are spam). I did a reinclussion, I deleted subdomains, re-write the spesific analytics prices and I’m waiting suggestion result.
    By the way in my opinion, any site which no content, much subdomains ok it’s spam. Automaticly created subdomains too.
    I think Pagerank and search results must be different. But subdomains are very clear for searching and finding.

  104. Dear Matt,

    I work for a company located in Belgium. We have currently a website located on a .be address: Website.be. This website is translated into 4 languages (Dutch, French, English and German) the different languages are located on directories website.be/nl, website.be/fr, website.be/en and website.be/de. We have also domains website.nl, website.co.uk, website.de which we use only as homepage. These domains allow us to have a local face; they are also communicated on google adwords, TV and radio commercials.

    Because of strategic changes, we plan to move our website from a .be to a .com. We would like to keep using the different homepages for the different countries.

    Maybe you know that Belgium has 3 official languages (Dutch, French and German). Because we have a limited manpower and because we want to avoid duplicate content; I thought linking the different homepages to a subdomain language on the .com. (for example website.de (homepage) to de.website.com (content of the website) or for a dutch speaking Belgian from website.be (homepage) to nl.website.com (content of the website) like for an inhabitant from the Netherlands from website.nl (homepage) to nl.website.com (content of the website)).

    Do you think that it’s the right solution?
    Do you think it will have a negative influence on our SEO ranking?

    Thanks in advance for your answer,

    Best regards

    Sebastien

  105. what i know so far, one of the differences between subdomain and subdirectory is that subdiomain should be used for completely different topic from the main topic of the web while subdirectory should be used for category/sub category which in the same topic of the web.

    please tell me if i’m wrong..

  106. Matt,

    Thanks for blogging and clearing up numerous issues regarding SEO for us.

    I’m glad You understand that outside are many webmasters whos jobs and “lives” depend on G’s mood.
    I know there are many trying to find answer to #1 SERP, and that G’s is evolving all the time, but things are getting a bit complicated.
    One SEO mistake and you’re out.

    Is there any way that webmaster SEO vs.search-engines war will end?

    Don’t You think that humans could bring some balance in judging web sites value beside pure algorhytm?

  107. Rachel Blake

    Hi Matt,

    I was just wondering if and when Google is going to sort out the problem of the same domain appearing a number of times in the search results for popular terms.

    This is where a combination of subdomains and directories are used to present what is essentially the same information (often jsut re-oredered), by the same company, under different ‘skins’ in order to maximise the number of top place listings.

    I see this quite often. For example here in the UK if we seartch on the term ‘businesses for sale’ we get businessesforsale dot com at number one position with Goggle listing 8 subcategories. This ought to be enough for the average viewer you would think. But then at No. 2 position is businessesforsale dot com/ft followed at No.3 position, uk.businessesforsale dot com

    So in total this business has, in effect, 11 of the top links on the first page of results. Do you not consider this to be a case of presenting redundant information?

    Is there a good reason why Google should continue to produce multiple listings for the same domain under one keyword search, especially when these are grouped at the top of all results?

  108. The main points of note is that the change is all ready in place and I think it went into place on or around the beginning of December. Also there is no algorithmic preference to sub-domains vs. domains.

    What is interesting is that our internal SEO reporting data shows that around this time there was a HUGE spike for us and some of our competitors in the number of pages indexed. (anyone else notice such a spike?)

    Its hard to say if this was a result of our efforts to increase our web presence or if this is perhaps because Google is now counting the pages in our sub-domains as pages for our main domain?

    If I could have one wish for the day, it would be to know whether or not it was the change in the google ‘algo’ that caused this spike in the number of pages google reports in their index. or if the spike in the reported number of pages indexed was due to other factors that were in our control?

  109. Jason Roth

    Matt, thanks for your helpful post.

    I notice that you do not automatically redirect the index page of your domain (www.mattcutts.com) to your blog subdirectory, but rather require users to click on the link to the blog. Is the reason you do not use a redirect because it causes a SEO problem?

    I am adding a separately hosted blog to my site and plan to use a CNAME so that the blog appears at blog.mydomain.com. Does it cause problems to redirect mydomain.com/index.htm to blog.mydomain.com?

    The reason for all this, by the way, is because I want to keep my old pages as is on my site, but add all new content to the blog. I plan to link to my site’s old pages from the new blog homepage.

  110. Hi Matt
    An interesting discussion to land on first up. I’m about to buy a domain which I think lends itself to sub-domains, so a timely discussion for me.

    Would you, or someone, be good enough to confirm – or otherwsie – that the difference could be summed up as follows:

    if the various topics are related in terms of the major keyword content, they should be in sub-directories, eg http://www.boats.com/sailing,
    …/designing …/painting …/racing, etc, (all related to boats)

    whereas if the various topics are related because of the ‘grammar’ (or whatever the right term is…) of the search term, then they should be in sub-domains, eg http://www.swimming.hints.com, painting.hints.com, skiing.hints.com, etc. (all different but all having ‘hints’ as an integral part of the search term, ie the searcher’s thought.

    I did wonder whether the search term ‘swimming hints’ would get better results for http://www.swimming.com/hints or for swimming.tips.com. The latter seems intuitively more obvious to me because it is grammatically more correct, and also seems to be what Google will reward more.

    What do the experts think?

    Thanks for any responses

  111. ~E~

    Could lots (e.g. 5, 50, or 500) of interlinked sub-domains, could be constituted as a link farm, since each are basically a unique site in the eyes and ears of Google?

    Maybe you will consider adding a “voting” tool for users to vote on each others comments, so we can filter through 100 responses faster (like Digg does).

    Thanks to Google’s mouth for this great post!

  112. Hi Matt,

    Many sites in travel and real estate organise information geographically – eg: by city. Often each city is marketed differently. Content is different but layout, and the content structure share the same templates.

    You say it’s good to differentiate between products (eg. Google Mail) but how about location given geography is becoming more and more important? Is the best approach london.site.com or http://www.site.com/london?

    Thanks,

    Lawrence

  113. i think that sub-directories have always better ranking if has inbound links from other pages cause subdomains can be seen as external domains at search engines

  114. I find that with a subdomain it can take longer to get rankings but a subdirectory will index and rank fast.

  115. Ben

    Hi Matt
    I’d be interested in hearing what you say about geographic coverage, as Lawrence said about

    If there are lots of cities, with the same sort of content (eg events, housing, etc) that uses the same template but obviously different info for each city,

    would you use:

    london.site.com/housing/
    birmingham.site.com/housing/

    or site.com/london/housing site.com/birmingham/housing?

    considering there might be 100+ subdomains, could this be detected as duplicate content in any way? could it water down the pagerank of each site (ie would it be seen as 100+ smaller sites rather than one huge site?)

    Ben

  116. I have a large website for the Jackson Hole, Wyoming area, and I have set up subdomains, for each major section of the website.

    My question is, if I have a section of my website (i.e.) webcams.jacksonholewyoming.com and I also own the domain http://www.jacksonholecams.com is it better to link internally to the custom domain or to the subdomain?

  117. Hi Matt

    Thank you for this information.

    We are currently planning a web campaign software were each website will sit on a sub domain as oppose to the headache of registering 100′s of domains.

    Would I be right in saying that each sub domains ranking will not effect each others.

    Wishing everyone an exseollent 2008.

  118. Mark Maynereid

    Hi Matt,

    Is it wise to create per user subdomains for a community based web site? Could you please comment on the SEO pros and cons of doing such a thing?

    Example: example.com/john vs john.example.com

    I think “john.example.com” is disctinctly preferable from John’s point of view. He can promote it by word of mouth more easily. It is also more personalised and simpler to read too.

    Note that most members in my example.com web site may only have one page. Many will link to their friends pages. Besides possible DNS performance issues of implementing this for potentially thousands of members, I also fear Google and/or other search engines might not rate example.com with such a structure. Would example.com’s main index page suffer, or worse, might such a design risk being misidentified as a link farm and suffer penalties/exclusion?

    Mark

  119. Dick Palmé, Sweden

    Hi Matt!! (and others!)

    I just don´t see the logics. You, other guys and even myself think that good SEO is really about good content and that we should not even worry about SEO, we should think about good content first and that we make pages for readers not for search engines and so on.
    So what’s my point here? If I think that subdomains can increase the readability of the content, then why should I not use it? Here, in your article, you kind of turn that “should be for users not for search engines” upside down.
    What you actually say, is that ..” well hmm .. some things should actually be done for Google the search engine, and not for readers and content readability in mind, no matter if you can show your point!!
    I´ll give you a simple example. I have motorskills.info and since that subject includes the two sub-terms fine motor skills and gross motor skilss, I thought I make some subdomains. fine.motorskills.info and gross.motorskills.info . For each of those pages, I will make the title tag the same. How can it be more obvious for someone who searched for it? If Google because of its complex algorithms would prefer motorskills.info/finemotorskills (yes I have found that it seems that no hyphens in the sub- or filenames matter). That is a longer url.

    There are plenty of other examples to think of so I hope Google ( run by left brain side-nerds? :-) ) will adjust the algorithm logics, to include some analogics! I think I will do my subdomains for better readability because people also have algorithms in their O.S. ie brains that prefer readability.

  120. I can submit the directories using internal pages of site.?

  121. Roy

    Hi
    I think subdomain are considered as a separate and new domain.
    So it takes time to index and also the ranks rather than a sub-directory.

    sub-directories may get indexed because of inbound links.

  122. Thanks for the information Matt.
    Now i know the difference…… :P

  123. Sorry to comment on an old post, but I’ve got a question regarding subdomains and subdirectories and I think a lot of people would like to read your answer.

    Suppose that you have an existing website, and you want to add a blog both for ease of publishing and potential traffic generation/seo benefit. Suppose also that from a technical standpoint it’s not more challenging to maintain the blog installation at a subdomain: it’s equally convenient to use a subdomain or subdirectory. In your opinion (here comes the question,) would a site get more SEO benefit from setting the blog up at blog.domain.com or domain.com/blog/ ?

    Thanks!

  124. “In your opinion (here comes the question,) would a site get more SEO benefit from setting the blog up at blog.domain.com or domain.com/blog/ ?”

    Scott, as I understand it works this way:

    If you set up a blog as: domain.com/blog/, your blog is part of your domain, which means it will be taken as the same site, and will get link strength from your domain, it’s easier to handle this way, is good to use when you are going to write about the same subject.

    At the other hand if you set up your blog this other way: blog.domain.com, it would be treated as a separate domain, it’s like a total new site, will not get link strength from the main site, is good if you want to organize your content when you want to start something different, I mean like when you have a site in English and want to translate to other languges, then you might want to have: http://fr.domain.com, http://de.domain.com, etc.

    So it really depends on what your purpose is.

  125. Drew

    Matt, great post! I work for an older ISP, and we have 10k+ user sites (some outdated, some dead, some of ecletic content). How does having those sites as a sub domain affect our main website? We are looking to redo our website, and ramp up traffic. Will as an example a user page that has spam content on it affect our main page?

  126. Matt, I really enjoy the information you provide. It helps demystify the internet to laymen like me.

  127. Kosso wrote,

    “Also, all our members have a homepage which uses both subdomains and subdirectories eg: my.podcast.com/kosso where my directory exists.

    “How will these changes affect our system?”

    Although I can’t speak to these particular changes (as I have no clue what they were), I can comment generally on having content accessible at both subdomains and subdirectories (or any two URLs, for that matter).

    First, you need to decide which is the canonical URL — this is the one place which will be indexed by Google and other search engines. Users can still access the content at other locations but you have to decide one location that you want to make the canonical URL for this content.

    In your case, it seems that the subdomains are canonical and subdirectories are not. For example, I searched for ‘cnn podcast’ and found cnn.podcast.com as the third result. For ‘cnn podcast.com’ it’s the first result with sitelinks.

    So, this tells me that the subdomain is already canonical. The only thing remaining is to ensure that you are sending a 301 redirect for all Google bots and other search bots from the subdirectory to the subdomain. So, when a normal user goes to my.podcast.com/cnn they can access the page just fine, but when a Google bot goes there, they get permanently redirected to cnn.podcast.com … Make sense?

    To implement something like this, you’ll need to have an SEO savvy tech person who can get a library of all known search engine user agents and can write code to conditionally redirect if it’s a robot.

    Also, don’t just do the easier (but worse) solution to this problem, which is to de-list the duplicate pages or block them using robots.txt. This is a poor solution because all the links which point to the alternate URLs will no longer provide benefit for the site. Really, the only good way to have the same content accessible at multiple URLs is to have a 301 permanent redirect set up for bots that points to the canonical URL.

  128. Hi Matt
    In relation to this answer you gave December 10, 2007 @ 10:52 am

    Keonda, great question. If you have sites with say French and German versions for a business, my preferences would be:

    1. ccTLDS such as example.fr or example.de
    2. After than, subdomains such as fr.example.com or de.example.com.
    3. If that’s not possible, I’d use subdirectories such as example.com/fr/ or example.com/de/ .

    We have a discussion going on here among some high profile SEO people. They claim that a web servers physical location has a strong impact on the search result. If a danish guy searches google.dk he is likely to miss results coming from an all danish web site, but placed on a server in a neighboring country, i.g germany or sweden. Would that be the case? How important is content to server location to country tld?

    Thanks for a great blog

    Jesper

  129. I’ve managed farms of apache servers and have had to deal with the directory / subdomain issue on many fronts including server admin and seo. I think in either case the subdirectory wins out of course unless for branding issues like mentioned above.

  130. Hi Matt,

    This has been a really interesting topic. having just had to change our domain due to a company name change we have had many discussions in regard to the subdomain/subdirectory, hosting etc. questions.

    Our site is hosted in Denmark, is a .com domain and contains content that is in Danish and targeted our Danish customers as well as content that is in English and targeted our costumers in the rest of Europe (e.g. England, Germany, France, Spain etc.).

    Most of the Danish content (95%) though not all (for technical reasons) is located in a exampledomain.com/da/ subdirectory and all the English content is located in the root of the domain exampledomain.com/ – my question is therefore, how can we achieve the best results with regards to local search targeted our English content form e.g. google.co.uk or google.de or google.fr?

    Would you recommend buying ccTLDs for all the relevant European countries and have these domains hosted in their corresponding country and use a 301 from that domain to our .com domain to show up in a local search.

    This might not be much of an issue in the US, but here in Europe I think that this topic really need some attention.

  131. Hi Matt

    I am a real novice here and have searched hard for a plain answer to this question. Hopefully you can give it to me.

    I have a new website and it is at the top of Google and Yahoo searches for my targeted keywords – thats good and I am so scared of loosing this.

    My problem is: I want to have two sub directories or sub domains in this site (one for each relevant city – but sharing the main homepage. Each would have its own database, about.htm, contact.php and in the case of subdomain index.htm. So if I went subdomain, the sub sites would only be tiny (excluding the DB). Would this be seen as cookie cutting or something like that?

    I am so confused and also scared of losing my google rankin?

    Please help.

    Akbaby

    Which way should I go as they would share the same basic templates (design) and the databases would be the same also (design).

  132. Hi Matt,

    I was searching for discussions on whether the full domain names have better page rank values than the subdomains when I got to this topic. From the discussions I found so far, it seems to me that Google considers the subdomain site an independent website which should have the same page rank value as the full domain website. However I still doubt it, because we have both clients using full domain and subdomain names and they all have links to our website. It appears that the clients with full domains appear more in the list when I use some back link tools. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thanks
    Lee

  133. Neat. Thank you for clearing that up Matt.

    An interesting case study for directories vs sub-domains is the Sydney Morning Herald website. If you search for [SMH] on google.com.au it comes up with the Sydney Morning Herald result with a list of site-links underneath which are both sub-domains and directories. Then there supplementary results which are (again) both sub-domains and directories beneath the main result – in some cases they are even the same as the site-links.

    So in this case there doesn’t seem to be any specific advantage or disadvantage to either method :)

  134. I’ve summarized several articles of Google on geo- and language targeting, including this discussion, in one (relatively) simple schema: SEO tutorial on geo targeting and language targeting. What do you think, Matt?

  135. Lee

    What about sites that use a sub-domain as their ONLY domain Matt, such as del.icio.us

    It seems that our decision to use bl.ogology.com (as our main site) might have been the wrong one, in that it has been the hardest site EVER, in our experience, to get to show up in Google results. Does Google have the ability to recognize the difference between sites who use multiple sub-domains and sites who choose to operate on a sub-domain only?

  136. bc

    well it is the sub folders for me, beacuse it is easy to organize them in the google webmaster tools, moreover sub-domains are difficult to get indexed in goole.

  137. Hi Matt:
    First time reader/commenter here. I do understand the difference between a subdomain and a subdirectory. I have a blog at http://holeinthedonut.com and a photo library at http://easywebsite.net. I know Google sees both of them because my stats show I get traffic from photos that are indexed by Google, however easywebsite is an add-on domain (both my sites are on the same hosting account, the holeinthedonut is in the root, easywebsite is in a subdirectory but redirected somehow to show up as easywesite.net, rather than holeinthedonut.com/easywebsite/.

    Some time ago I tried to install the Google analytics tracking code on easywebsite and it could not find it. Does this change in any way impact this situation, or do I need to move easywebsite to a separate hosting account to have the ability to track? I really would appreciate any help you could offer on this issue.
    Barbara

  138. Matt and Readers,

    I have an issue that I am trying to find some advise regarding best practices on… Basically, I work for a company that has multiple “main” websites and many verticals within those websites that are powered by third parties. It has always been my recommendation that when we can, we should create subdomains off our sites versus utilizing a subdomain at our 3rd-party vendor’s domains.

    In other words – if our main site is http://www.mainsite.com, and we launch, say a new automotive vertical with “vendor,” my recommendation is to create a cname – autos.mainsite.com, vs. leaving it as say mainsite.vendor.com. I have indicated (not sure if true ;-) that using our subdomains builds up our weight for SEO aside from the fact that for branding purposes it makes more sense. Is there any truth to this from an SEO standpoint? Would love any feedback. Thank you all in advance.

  139. Hi Matt,

    After went through all the above discussion, my doubts regarding subdomains and subdirectories get much clear… Thanks.

    My questions are:
    is it better to host subdomains on different IPs other then TLD?
    How search engines treat the same IP sub-domains?
    Is it possible to get the ranking for subdomains (e.g. fr.example.com, it.example.com) in different country specific SE like: google.fr, google.it etc. with same keyword (covered in all the subdomains).?

    Any suggestion on this… will be appreciated.

    Thanks.

  140. Matthew Anderson

    I am in the proccess of setting up subdomains to cover different country versions of my website accross the world and quite simply I would say the advantages are that you have a similar level of control as you have over your main site that directories do not offer.

  141. One thing that I really like about subdomains is that they make it possible to pack a long complicated path into a nicely readable line that the visitor can understand. The standard CPanel interface for assigning subdirectories to subdomains is pretty straight forward. Some hosting companies are including that in the CPanel now. I know host monster does. I am sure there are many others.

    On the other hand, sometimes I prefer subdirectories to be accessed through the website. Having long paths would make deep linking a bit less likely in those cases.

    Mat, please tell the Chrome guys to include the toolbar or otherwise make it installable. :)

  142. Bob

    What would be the best for creating a online store for a non ecomerce site that has existed for some time. Would a subdomain or subdirectory be the better choice? For example http://www.site.com/online store/ or http://www.onlinestore.site.com.

    Thanks,
    - Bob

  143. Leon

    Hi Matt,
    We knew the difference between subdomain and top domain from your blog.
    and how’s about “http://name.subdomain.a.com” vs “http://subdomain.a.com/name/”?

  144. By using a keyword rich subdomain you force everyone to link to you with your keywords in the url. This improves your anchor text dramatically getting you to the top of the rankings.

  145. Hi Matt,
    I read your post and I understand that using subdirectory is more simple. But what about the PR Affect for the main domain?
    Thanks

  146. since 3 years i have been playing with subdirectories so i think i m grown up and should swap it with subdomains…thanx matts!

  147. Are there any restrictions on using sub-directories for different content?

  148. Hey, I have several subdomains setup with subdirectories, and each is a different city. I am trying to build the php script to make them call variables so that all i have to do on each city is enter the $city=”dallas” or something like that, so the variablekicks out the custom city name instead of the dallas address always showing, or having to build a custom page for each city.

    Thanks,

  149. We have a subdirectory [www.exhibitsnw.com/design-search/]
    This is a list of our displays.

    We also provide this to our sub distributors but as a subdomain like designsearch.lindsayexhibits.com/gallery/default/portable-perfect]

    If we look for a specific display number like VK-1657, our distributors come up and NOT our site, which started this display search project.

    Can someone tell me why we don’t come up, but our distributors do, with our products?

    Thanks,
    Scott

  150. For a corporate website we have to develop a multilingual website.

    My idea is to make 1 web site within the CMS:

    http://www.domain.com/en/ (english content)
    http://www.domain.com/nl/ (dutch content)
    http://www.domain.com/de/ (german content)

    Is it a safe way to use the following 2 domains and redirects:
    http://www.domain.nl (server redirect to http://www.domain.com/nl/)
    http://www.domain.de (server redirect to http://www.domain.com/de/)

    Doesn’t Google index the same content on 3 domains? A page like http://www.domain.com/nl/page-1.html will be spidered from both the main .com website and the .nl website.

    What is the best approach t use multiple domains in 1 web application with multilingual content and how can settings in Webmaster Tools best be applied to a website with 1 xml sitemap?

    many thanks in advance!

    Dennis

  151. Matt, I am impressed with your answers to a wide variety of questions asked by many people.
    We have launched a new website that will linked various other websites together, each with their own unique domain. Each site will allow shopfront (pop ups) that link directly from any of the sites.
    We would like to link these shopfronts in Google as sub domains, an example is, we have a site http://www.brunswickstreet.com.au and would like to promote a business in Google that we link as http://www.brunswickstreet.com.au/shop/grotto (example), if we list the exact same keywords for this shopfront and other shopfronts on this street, will Google have any problems reading these keywords from your directories? Will there be any confusion with identifying keywords with a PPC or Adwords campaign?

    Regards
    Troy

  152. Wow 18 months of discussion here and still many questions about subdomains vs directories, for what it’s worth I think the main brand leads first ie http://www.mysite.com/books as a opposed to http://www.books.mysite.com which is seen as a completely different site, if I’m not mistaken

  153. Jan Scharloo

    As far as I understand from best-seo-optimization-tips.co.uk/ it is NOT google webmaster tools, but the location of the web host servers that determines the ip address of a website. Is there anyone out there who is able to give me more information on this subject?

  154. I think the most important is the content and the more relevant pages. If I am from the Philippines and my server is in the US, then I post my contents from the Philippines, then the results will be topped on google.com.ph rather. I have hundreds of experiments about this and surely dynamic or static, subdirectories or subdomain does not matter. The contents matters and the geolocation of the webmaster.

  155. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for your post..I was in a state of confusion whether to go for sub domains or sub folders. Now I am cleared.

    I have one small doubt.. I want to build my website http://www.supergoodmovies.com into different languages. For example, there would be content present in both the languages like in English and also in Tamil Language. So how does search engine crawls the page written in Tamil Language and If I google search tamil movies then how does my tamil language page shows up in Google.. Please clarify this doubt.

  156. Why isn’t the good old working for multiple languages on one Domain to rank on google in different lands. Would be great.

  157. On a related topic but maybe slightly unrelated…

    if i have a blog hosted at mydomain.com/blog , of which the content is completely related to the business hosted at mydomain.com, what are the SEO implications of

    1) having betterblogname.com forwarded and masked to point to mydomain.com/blog and

    2) any links to the blog from mydomain.com actually sent to betterblogname.com

    The idea is that we don’t want to hide the fact that the blog and the business are related…. it will be obvious, it’s just that we want the blog to have an edgy name for promotional purposes, and for that domain to be in the browser address bar.

    What are the SEO implications of this. We care most about the SEO credit for mydomain.com.

    I guess the main thing i can think of is that the blog post URL’s will behidden… which can’t be a good thing.

    Thanks so much in advance for any insight.

    katrina

  158. Hi Matt, We’re redesigning a site that sells tickets to events. The site currently has no PR to speak of. Will it be easier for people looking for the event to find it in Google results if we use
    venue.domain.com/event or domain.com/venue/event? I want to link to each event from the domain.com and each event will link back too. Will that be considered cross linking if the events are subdomains?

  159. Gary

    Hi Matt. I’ve read various things on this so maybe you can give me a short accurate answer… please.

    Are backlinks from subdomains counted when you are figuring out whose site has the most backlinks to it?
    Example: subdomain.domain.com

    Does it make any difference if those subdomains are addon domains?
    Example: domain2.domain1.com

    Thanks,
    Gary

  160. Hi Matt & Hello World :)

    I just found this posting question is, from an SEO point of view what is best. http://blog.netzensolutions.com or http://www.netzensolutions.com/blog

    When my blog gets popular (I hope!) will http://www.netzensolutions.com increase in PR if i used blog.netzensolutions.com? Or would I be better off using /blog ?

    I am asking this question purely based on SEO.

    Many Thanks!

  161. Hello All!
    In my honest opinion, what Matt said originally is always the best answer. In your heart of hearts, build your site for your customer, not for the SERPS. I have many sub-domains (geo-targeted) for my classified ad site. I have different subs for countries and for U.S. states.
    I.E. http://UK.LundList.com http://Nevada.LundList.com , ect.
    I am on cloud servers, but sub-domains would be best used if on seperate ip addresses/machines (in my opinion).
    If you have every intention of keeping the sub-domains seperate for legitimate reasons like:
    1. You are going to eventually move some or all of them to their own machines
    2. You need to keep the content totally seperate from other content
    3. You have every intention of “selling off” a portion of your site in the future

    These are just my opinion of course, but the absolute best practice when it comes to the decision to use sub-domains or sub-directories is this: Do what is easiest for your customer, and is in the best interest of the customer. In the end, all SERPS don’t mean a thing if your customer cannot navigate and purchase. If one does that, surely they will not be penalized in the end.

    -Chris

  162. Hi Matt,

    My question relates using a 301 to move content from old, acquired product sites to a new sub-domain of our parent domain. Example, we acquired product.com some time ago and now want to 301 it to product.parent.com. I want to do this with as many as 8 acquired product different sites. All of the products are similar; they offer different functionality for different industries, but in many cases, the content is similar.

    I’m told that there could be as much as a 2-4 month setback regarding my current product site rankings. True? If so, why? Is it due to domain or in this case sub-domain age?

    Marty

  163. I’m in the process of trying to work out what’s best to launch an affiliate side to my business.

    Should, I go for http://partners.think-telecom.com

    or
    http://www.think-telecom.com/partners/ ?

    I am keen to get it ranked well with some SEO works, therefore would like anyones advice.

    Cheers,

    Chris

  164. Jo

    So if I get this straight, notes.domain.com is not the same as domain.com/notes? subdomains and subdirectories separate different websites, but are linked to the main domain name… so I could have test.domain.com far far away from domain.com/test?

  165. Thanks for the Great article and discussion, got a quick Q…any help is appreciated…
    I have a homepage or landing page, for design purposes, contains a complex product search, flash, and next to zero content (very google unfriendly).

    BUT the subdirectories from this main domain will contain well structured, relevant, unique content (google friendly).

    To get around this problem of design vs SEO I plan to:
    1. Separate all content from existing subdirectory and make it into a subdomain with a google friendly hompage.
    2. Interlink the SubDomain (quite alot of links) with the nice looking Main Domain now left with just a product search.and links (note: will contain minimal duplicate content such as product names).

    Is this a good Idea? Is it more difficult to get a good PR for a Subdomain or a google unfriendly homepage? My Aim is to get webtraffic to a great subdomain and back link to Main Domain for commerce.

    Thanks in advance for any advice!

  166. I’m new to this but I think I am getting the gist of it now.
    Sub-domains can be regarded as separate websites and you don’t have to buy domain names for them. You can also create a name for it that might be taken as a domain name.
    Sub-directories are more suited to other pages on your site that have similar content relevant to the domain name. Have I got that bit right.
    What I’m not sure about is how does Google treat a sub-domain as regards page rank and domain age. Does it gain the rank and age of the domain or does it get an age and rank of it’s own.

    Regards

    David Hall.

  167. Hi Matt
    Just landed here from searchengineland.com was searching about the subdomains.

    I got a quick question though,

    1. Is it a good idea to create subdomains from adsense perspective if you can’t afford to buy and register lot of domain names. And make them SEO friendly. Does google still rank them or rank the main domain leaving the subdomains.

    Thanks

  168. As per usual with this kind of debate, it’s down to preference but …..with the end user (ie the searcher) in mind! Lets forget about what google wants and focus on what the searcher wants and (in my opinion) if we serve up good stuff for the latter we WILL serve up what google wants! Focusing on what google wants limits our creativity and the quality of content we deliver.

  169. We keep going around and around. Should our location pages (we’re a franchise network that utilize one domain) structure our location pages as sub domains or folders. Does traffic to a sub domain count for the primary domain? thanx

  170. I just did this last night and went with a subdirectory instead of the subdomain. Took me a while to figure out what would be better for me.

  171. Patrick Seah

    For my case, I chosen subdomains over sub directories and below is my case study.

    I am currently running a property portal in my country. This is how I structured my website.

    http://www.domain.com(as my main entity) and all individual new projects are as follows: project1.domain.com, project2.domain and project3.domain.com…etc

    My purpose is to treat the main domain as a property developer company and having all those subdomain as the subsidiaries( for eg: If my company build many different projects, each projects will be another business entity yet under the umbrella of the main company)

    In this case study, what I wanted to display to all my customers, is to let them have a much better focus point on a specific property and from the google perspective, I wanted google to take it that I am a big developer with many property projects.

    P.S. Both my main domain and subdomains are ranking very in the serps and I do crosslink them just to provide my customers other property choices.

  172. My business is website translation, and some time ago one of my customers asked me whether he should use subdirectories or subdomains. I noticed in the Google Webmaster Blog that both are acceptable solutions for localized websites.
    However, IMHO it is better for localized versions of a site to use subdirectories so that everything is kept together and can be more easily updated. The only exception is if one of the localized versions is expected to grow so much that it might require its own server(s), where a subdomain is more manageable as it could be moved more easily…

  173. Ron

    The subdomain vs subdirectory question is one of many you have to ask when optimising or building a site. As with most things SEO, there are differing opinions on how search engines differentiate between subdomains and subdirectories (or subfolders). A sub directory is like a label to help describe the meaning of a page or group of pages on a website while subdomains are actually separate sites in themselves

  174. After reading this article, I am assuming that the architecture of a site using sub domains or directories does not make a huge difference. Sub-domains being the more commonly and easily used. I personally recommend the subdirectories. Being a webmaster for over a decade and developing websites which used subdomains and subdirectories, take my word for it when I say that youll be better off in the log run by using sub directories. Although, as Matt had mentioned – if your doing something completely different and un-related to your website then you might consider the task of setting up subdomains and creating a new (different and seperate) platform on your website. Old Read – But its still a Good One!!

  175. Good thinking 99, I had always thought that it was just too complicated for Google to controlled. So say if Yahoo or Bing came up with an indexing system for subdomains, what could this lead too? Yahoo and Bing Crosby are already way ahead when it comes to just the normal run of the mill indexing. Human nature like to have value placed on their work. If yahoo or Bing can provide anything like that, Any thoughts on the subject?

  176. I still don’t quite understand whether it will effect SEO rankings if you have your keyword in a subdomain rather than a folder. And if google are now classing the subdomain and site as the same then this should mean that it is all classed as the same name ie the keyword density in the domain name will be taken from all of the characters including the TLD.

    Alex

  177. I have a question regarding sub domains – better late than never even if it is now 2011!

    i have domains, subdomains and sub directories associated with both domains and sub domains. i have noticed that whilst the main domain Google PR does not automatically pass to the sub domain or sub directories, what does pass to it is ALEXA rank!

    So Alexa at least regards the sub domains as beiong part of the main site and not a separate site/domain. Anyone any idea why this is the case please?

  178. Sorry i should have added at the end of my earlier comment – that i am questioning why Alexa regards the sub domain as the same site if Google etc regards them as separate sites. i am keen to get some clarification here because i have a couple of upcoming projects that need me to make a decision regarding the approach i should take. Thanks

  179. I don’t assume you are going to read and reply to this questions but I am going to give it a shot. I have a dilemma Matt. I work for a consulting company that puts up stores for existing websites. So if the website is http://www.mattcutts.com, we make an ecommerce site called store.mattcutts.com. On this store of course we sell items mattcutts.com want to sell.

    As an SEO manager, I am supposed to measure success of my SEO work for the sudomain but I have a feeling much of my SEO work gets attributed to the parent site and as the result my SEO work is under estimated as most traffic gets marked as “parent traffic” not SEO.

    Do you have any tips for me? I be more than happy to clarify my question if needed. Thanks

  180. Tod

    Matt,

    Try doing any business for sale search, such as “air conditioning businesses for sale”, “freight businesses for sale”, “repair businesses for sale”. One company is occupying the top 4 spots for these and many other searches due to their use of sub-domains. I’m not so convinced that it’s a wash between sub-domains and sub-directories. – Tod

  181. Hi Matt, starting from the following answer you gave Keonda on December 10, 2007 at 10:52 am

    1. ccTLDS such as example.fr or example.de
    2. After than, subdomains such as fr.example.com or de.example.com.
    3. If that’s not possible, I’d use subdirectories such as example.com/fr/ or example.com/de/ .
    I have the following question (challenge? :-)).

    We are a Belgian based tourist facility that targets the following audiences:
    - Dutch speaking people in Belgium
    - Dutch speaking people in The Netherlands
    - French speaking people in Belgium
    - French speaking people in France
    - English speaking people in the UK and the rest of Europe

    Except for the translations we can’t differentiate the web content for these 5 audiences.

    What would be the best solution to score as high as possible on the SERP’s of
    - google.be (in Dutch and French)
    - google.nl (in Dutch)
    - google.fr (in French)
    - google.co.uk (in English)

    Thanks!

  182. Thanks for the insight Matt…It will help us in deciding whether we should go for blog.domain.com or domain.com/blog.

    Khurram

  183. This question I have about domains and subdomains has been haunting me for quite some time already.

    What about this case scenario:
    I want to brand myself and I want to keep the website entities completely separated without having to use several domains and I also want to have english and spanish sites for each entity.

    So if I want to create sites for guitar playing, affiliate marketing, php programming I would have something like this:

    guitarplaying.mydomainname.com/blog
    affiliatemarketing.mydomainname.com/blog
    phpprogramming.mydomainname.com/blog

    These are completely non related entities and having to build page rank from zero it’s not a concern since the main domain would be new anyway.

    If anyone can confirm this, I would deeply appreciate it!

    Thanks,
    ~Sergio

  184. Thank you for your clarification on the difference between sub domains and sub directories. I was trying to set up a sub domain for a website that has been long neglected, and haven’t been able to figure it out. But using a sub directory is no problem for me to implement. Thanks again for the advice.

  185. Hi Matt,

    I chanced upon your article while trying to explain to one of my friends as to why sub directories are better for new sites vis-a-vis sub domains. I have redirected my friend to your site. You explained it pretty well. Thanks.

  186. What about internationalization?

    If we have a web site in English and want to write a few pages in Chinese or Korean or [etc] and then give people searching in those languages the best ability to find us: Would it be better to use a subdirectory “.com/chinese/[etc]” or a subdomain “chinese/[...].com/[etc]” ?

    Google tells us that we are getting hits from more than 50 countries/territories, but they have to go through the Google language filter for EVERY page on our site to see these pages in their own language. We have almost exhaustively added Google language filters but still we would like to add at least one or two targeted pages written with internationalization. Where to put these pages? We like Google, but it would help to know which Google would more likely send our internationalized customers to.

    Thank you for this blog. I found your blog in a Google search for “most professional blogs” as #3 from the top.

  187. Hi Matt,

    I’m Louie from Philippines. I’ve been really thinking about this and what to choose between subdomains and subdirectories. I’m a new blogger, now I have an idea of what to use.
    Thanks again,
    Louie Sison

  188. Matt,

    So if I have an existing site that is doing well in seo and I want to add a blog to it is there a benefit on pagecount or google juice to the blog or existing site by putting it in a subdirectory of the existing site instead of a subdomain of the existing site.
    We were wanting to put blogs of client sites into a WordPress MultiSite for easy administration and updating. The only way this works is to have the blogs located at blog.clientsite.com. We are afraid we will suffer in pagecount and lose google love built by the existing site if we don;t put in a subfolder. I guess my question boils down to, does the google juice flow only through interlinking of pages or does the domain (pagecount, strength of pages in the domain) have any bearing on pagerank?

    JR

  189. Matt,

    We are building totally different sites under subdomains for The Texan networks. Main site is thetexanonline.com. Network sites are austin.thetexanonline.com, sanantonio.thetexanonline.com and so on…

    going on my gut and the principle that subdomains are independent of each, we decided to use subdomains. also, the content is content based and runs on wordpress with the same template for each subdomain.

    thanks for the insight!

  190. Gert

    Hello Matt and all the readers

    I need some advise please.

    I have a wikipedia-like website covering a lot of topics (1000+) with pictures, info,videos,..
    What is the best way to structure my site ?
    A)
    flower.mydomain.compictures
    car.mydomain.comvideos
    mountain.mydomain.cominformation

    or
    B)
    mydomain.comflowerpictures
    mydomain.comcarvideos
    mydomain.commountaininformation

    Visualy I like A more. it is somehow shorter and more readable.

    What is best way to structure my site ?

  191. Hi Matt,

    My website is http://www.abipo.com. Sometimes I create “sandbox” websites in subdomain.abipo.com. These would then be deleted eventually when they are moved out into their own space. So I guess I am wonder from an SEO perspective would it make more sense to use subdomains or subdirectorys for this sort of activity.

    Brian

  192. Thanks for posting on the subject of sub-directories. Clearly, it is a running debate and I’m pleased to see that the comment string is current on what would otherwise be an outdated entry… particularly with respect to how quickly things change online.

    Nevertheless, the more I read, the more I began to realize how Google itself uses sub-domains, mail.google, docs., video., adwords., on and on it goes. Are they legitimate? I have my answer and light bulb moment. Peace

  193. You have explained whether to use subdomains or subdirectories from your own personal website point of view. But, you have not mentioned on the stand point of SEO which still makes me confused whether to use suubdomains or subdirectories.

    Anyway, thanks!

  194. From my experience, I believe sub domains are much more powerful than subdirectories only from SEO point of view.
    I’ve noticed that the subdomains take more execution/load time as compared to the subdirectories. Sub domains take more time when we access them especially in case of our URLs growing in length. So for WordPress, the difference in loading the webpage with subdirectory structure VS a subdomain becomes as high as 50%.

  195. For a lot of sites, ecommerce for example it is not possible to setup a blog in a subdirectory due to the architecture of their sites, hence some people find it easier to have a blog on a subdomain. This blog has been useful to me, much appreciated!

  196. Thank you for the explanation, Matt. I don’t speak for HubPages, but they’ve just rolled out a massive change in the architecture, to 301 redirect each of the pages (hubs) and profiles to subdomains per author. Also available to the authors are trackers, to allow for referrals and such.

    For example, an old URL with a tracker, would have been:
    <a href="http://hubpages.com/_yourtrackercode/profile/someauthorname&quot; title="http://hubpages.com/_yourtrackercode/profile/someauthorname&quot;

    Now the new URL, to accomplish the same thing will be:
    <a href="http://someauthorname.hubpages.com/_yourtrackercode/&quot; title="http://procw.hubpages.com/_yourtrackercode/&quot;

    So, I guess that I have a couple of questions…

    First, will each of the old 301 redirects quickly get unlisted with google and transfer pagerank over to the new address?

    And also, do you think it's best for HubPages to do this as a site-wide roll-out, or do it little by little?

    Thanks, Matt!

  197. Hi Matt, I know this is an old post but it seems to have been revived post Panda.

    It will be interesting to see if moving to subdomains will help hubpages.com get some of their traffic back. But from what I can gather, if the main domain links to the subdomain (with low quality content) then the association would be made and could drag down the whole main domain, right?

  198. Thanks a lot.. this was really helpful in making the decision of staying on with the subdirectories for my blog :)

    Thanks again!!

  199. Hi Matt, your post of 2007 is still relevant in 2011. Even today, people like me come to read it for more clarity on the subject :)

  200. Hi Matt,

    I know this is an old post, but I have a question about Panda update.

    Lets say http://www.example.com is negatively affected by Panda, will that also carry over to http://subdomain.example.com.

    Please help me here.

  201. I have the same exact question as BEN PATE before me.

    You constantly stress branding and not stupid-keyword-laden-domain-name.info so what if you have a high quality site for example. MYBRANDNAME.com which is an extensive, high quality website about cars but TRUCKS.MYBRANDNAME.com is a low quality content farm written by another author. Would linking be PANDALYSING both sites?

    Please answer this for us.

  202. Hi Matt,

    I accidently came accross this article of yours and find it very refreshing for my SEO knowledge.
    I thing that subdomains shouldn’t be used as separate parts of website for every language or other similar content, but only for bigger part of website that is more or less a part for itself, yet connected to the main content.
    Blog in subdomain or subdirectory. It depends on website type. If the blog is the main content of the website than it should be in subdirectory, but if there is a webshop on the same website wchich is primary, than blog could be in a subdomain.

    But one thing that you said is definitely true. We should keep it simple.

  203. Hi Matt,

    We have been toying with this idea for several months. It’s a huge decision for a small businesses like myself to decide which is the best option. I think we have decided to go down the subdirectory route as we are building multi language parts to the site and need to target specfic countries (plus there is a little SEO benefit i think)

    i think it really import to weigh up all the pros and cons.

    Choose wisely…..

  204. I am also anxious to find out what -from a seo stand of view- would be best to do, use subdomain or subdirectory? Or would there be no difference in seo valuation?

  205. kai

    Guys, please help. I have a big problem on my website now. I had a domain which is hugyourpillow.tk/ which was pretty good ranging to 50-100 hits per day. Until one time dot.tk deleted my domain because of traffic issues. Now to resolved, I bought a domain with 1&1 hosting for $.99 cents which is hugyourpillow.com/. Then, another problem comes in, my page rank has been decreased and traffic as well. I already have verified the new domain on Google and remove the old URL and still it does not indexed every time I published post which was different from the old URL. Can you help me with this?

  206. Kyle Hart

    I see this post is seeing more action so I’ll throw a little fuel to the fire.

    Notice how site links are changing the landscape of SERPs as they relate to sub-domains, I’ll explain…

    Once upon a time each sub-domain stood by itself in the results when you searched a brand. So, if you searched “Company Name” you were likely to retrieve results with that company name in the URL (because most companies buy domain names with this in mind it works to their advantage) like: http://www.companyname.com, hopefully at the #1 position. Elsewhere in the results you’d see results like forum.companyname.com, blog.companyname.com, etc.

    Site links (the links directly below a result usually organized in 2 columns) now include sub-domains. So, instead of them standing alone as #2, or #3, they act more like 1a, 1b, and so on.

    Word of caution to anyone using sub-domain strategy to ‘push down’ negative reviews like pissedconsumer.com that clearly use underhanded tactics to rank, sub-domain strategy doesn’t work like it used to.

    @Matt –
    Do you have any plans to revisit the strategies being employed by these flame-board style review sites? PissedConsumer.com seems to have disproportionate advantage in ranking for a brand name and are ‘in my opinion’ a bit shady in practice. Even a positive review on their site is made to look negative, something isn’t ethical about that if you ask me.

  207. Here’s what seems like a consensus opinion on this subject from a large number of forums, blogs, sites:

    If you have a very large, powerful site (HP is a common example) relative to many of your search terms, subdomains (or even different domains) rise in value.

    If you have different language/geography sites, subdomains rise in value.

    If you have a small site without massive power over relevant search terms, and a single important nationality/geography, stick with folders.

  208. Anyone who reaches this post by searching the terms can easily figure out in next 2/3 minutes on how to make sub domains on any hosting environment. So it is not about complexity of making the sub domain or managing. It is about, does your business model need a sub-domain.

    Well it is still the same after 5 years of this post. If you are dealing in supplies of {dogs, cats} and you have all supplies under separate folders I will say that it is not that good implementation of your business. You will be better off if you have sub domains in this case.

    Another advantage of having sub-domain in above example would be that due to unforeseen circumstances if you screw one of your sub domains the other will still keep bringing you business.

  209. With the newest updates since Panda, I’ve noticed one subdomain in our industry, real estate, that has moved up substantially in authority. Also, off the subject a bit but Mike Behnken’s question brought to mind “stupid-keyword-laden-domain-name” and it still seems that Google prefers these keyword laden domain names over others, especially if they have been around a while. I’d love to hear you speak about keyword laden domains in the future.

  210. Hi Matt,

    Wow, you wrote this article back in 2007 but the conversation is still going strong. Do you still have the same views today that you did about subdomains 5 years ago?

  211. Hey there Matt,

    So I have my own domain name registered and I would love to throw in there a blog.

    I’ve never even thought about using a folder for a different language because it’s not what I’m used to see on the web.

    I was planning to use (i.e.) es.myname.com but since I already own the same ccTLD domain, I think that the crazyness about subdomains vs directories (folders) is finally over for me.

    I can just use myname.com for English and my corresponding ccTLD domain name for my native language. The End.

    It was fun reading the article and the comments though. Learnt a few things although I highly doubt that Google hasn’t changed anything since Dec 2007.

    Sergio

    PS. Did you finally started running full marathons now?

  212. I think it is good approach from Google. Now Subdomains have been considered as a separate site right? is that going to change any time soon.

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