Domain, subdomain or subdirectory: which is better for your website?
The first step to creating a blog or website is choosing the page name. Naming a site increases the awareness of a brand, product, or business.
Besides, this step is essential for a long-term SEO strategy. At this point, it is common to search for a domain, subdomain, and subdirectories.
Understanding each of these options is essential to implement a successful digital strategy with scalable growth potential.
Then, if you have questions about what is better for your blog’s SEO — the use of a domain, subdomain, or subdirectory —, read on to find out:
- What is a domain?
- What is a subdomain?
- What is a subdirectory?
- What are the differences between domain, subdomain, and subdirectory?
What is a domain?
The website or blog is a virtual property, just like a store, and it needs an address to be found. A domain is where this address is located, so it contains the website’s registration, name, and location, which are represented by the webpage address.
It’s composed of “www” (World Wide Web), followed by the website name (short format, without spaces) and an extension, which can indicate the business area and country of location.
We call these extensions Top Level Domains (TLDs), which are classified in three different categories:
- Generic TLDs (gTLD), or international domains: .com, .net, .org, .int, .arpa, .biz, .info, .name and .pro. They operate without a sponsoring organization, that is, they have few domain restrictions;
- Sponsored TLDs (sTLD): .edu, .gov, .mil, .aero, .coop, .museum, .jobs, .mobi, .travel, .tel, .cat and .asia. They are used when the domain represents the website’s area or community;
- Country-code TLDs (ccTLD) or Two-letter TLDs: they encode for more than 250 countries and official territories (the United States has .us, Canada has .ca, for example).
There are several extensions with different functions, but they usually indicate the website’s segment.
After choosing the domain, you can register it with the provider — a company that works as a representative of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) — the organization that manages the domain naming system. Usually, you have to pay to obtain that address.
The domain will always direct to your website. However, there are stationary domains to ensure that visitors can find your website, even after entering the wrong URL. These domains are duplicated with different extensions and direct the user to the right address.
For example, if the main domain is www.domainname.com, the stationary could be www.domainname.com.us. This link directs the user to the main domain. This way, the same experience is provided to the user, that is, they do not even notice they have been redirected.
This strategy allows your page to have a unique name and be found by search engines in different circumstances: through main and stationary domains.
What is a subdomain?
Subdomains are easier to understand. Expanding on what we learn at school, the sub is actually a prefix that means below. In fact, it means that the subdomain is a set of the domain.
That is: the domain is divided into smaller parts, called subdomains. They target the website in more specific areas, such as contact page, support area, blog, etc.
If you have a website www.domainname.com, this is your domain. The subdomain could be www.blog.domainname.com or even www.support.domainname.com.
This way, you clearly classify sections of your page for your visitors and don’t have to pay anything extra for it — you just need to purchase a domain.
The main advantage of the subdomain is its independence from the main website. This gives you the autonomy to edit web design elements and develop specific approaches in order to achieve multiple rankings.
What is a subdirectory?
Finally, we have subdirectories, which are folders within the main domain, that is, categories within the website.
In the URL address, the category is positioned after the domain and extensions and is preceded by a slash symbol, as in the examples below:
Like subdomain, the subdirectory allows for separation according to different sections.
The big difference is about how Google identifies these pages. For search engines:
- subdomains are separate identities from the website;
- subdirectories are seen as the same main domain.
Therefore, if the website already has a robust structure, the subdirectory will also have backlinks, traffic, and authority.
What are the differences between domain, subdomain, and subdirectory?
As we’ve seen, there are some differences between domain and subdomain. The most basic is the one involving search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo! etc.).
Typically, users do a Google search and receive several options to choose from. Domains or subdomains, when different, may appear or not, since they aren’t linked to the same infrastructure.
On the one hand, subdomains — even if they have an internal link to the main website name — are seen as different websites. Google interprets the subdomain as a separate site from the main website to avoid keyword competition between them.
On the other hand, subdirectories belong to the main domain. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to keyword repetition on the website’s pages in order to avoid competition within the website itself.
Another difference is related to costs. While you have to pay to register and maintain a domain in most cases, subdomains and subdirectories do not require these costs, as they are part of the same website.
Choose the best for your blog’s SEO
At first, choosing a subdomain may seem to be simple, but it isn’t such an easy task. In fact, subdomains require a robust content strategy to appear on SERPs and boost brand authority with search engines, as they are not considered part of the same site.
Consequently, if your company’s goal with a Content Marketing Strategy is to attract more visitors to the main domain, the best investment might be in subdirectories. However, if you want a long-term strategy with scalable growth, subdomains are also worth considering.
This happens because, when investing in different subdomains (with great SEO tactics), you are able to double or triple the chances of being found by search engines.
Why this? The reason is simple: by producing content using links to social networks and applying other techniques on different subdomains, you offer more sites to present results based on search terms.
It is essential to plan and outline the objectives of your Content Marketing investment and, from there, carefully direct your efforts to achieve the strategy’s goals.
Domains, subdomains, and subdirectories have clear advantages, disadvantages, and differences, serving several purposes and allowing different pathways. If you have doubts about how to proceed, we suggest doing some tests.
Yes, it will be a lot of work to put all of this into practice. But be sure that this knowledge will help you a lot to improve your Internet visibility, no matter you deal with a subdirectory, domain, or subdomain.