SEO: Which is better Subdomain? Subdirectory?

subdomainfolders1If you want to get the most from your search engine optimization, which should you use . . . Subdomains? or Subdirectories?

We’ve discussed subdomains (Sept.30) – and subdirectory is just another name for a ‘folder’ located within the main root directory of the domain. Subdirectories, i.e., folders are used to make a website’s content more organized allowing you to upload similar content to a common folder. Although subdirectory and folder can be used interchangeably – for our post, we will be using use the term ‘folder’ as it is more commonly recognized.

The following code shows the difference:

  • Folder:
  • Subdomain:

Now that we have established subdirectory vs. subdomain – let’s consider the differences between the two when it comes to the search engines.


Let’s assume you have a site that is ranking well for your keywords and you are using keyword rich folder names for the content. However you want to add new content on a new topic. Should you add this content into the existing website and simply create a new ‘folder’ or should you create a ‘subdomain’?   To make a good decision you need to know that:

  • Placing the new content in the original website will result in that content gaining rank and authority sooner as it will be indexed as a part of the already existing domain that is ranking well.
  • Placing the new content in a subdomain will result in the new pages being treated by the search engines as a new ‘website’. This may result in taking longer for the page(s) of the subdomain to get traffic and achieve ranking.

Content – You’ve heard that ‘content is king’ and when considering a subdomain this couldn’t be more true.

If the existing domain is ranking well, regardless of the amount of content you place in new folders – those pages will also rank well thanks to the ‘page rank’ that transfers down from the already ranking main domain.

However, with a subdomain that is not true. A subdomain must have a lot of unique content in order to qualify for ranking as an authority.

Another thing, you do not want to use the same content in a subdomain that is used in the existing main domain folders. This results in a duplicate content issue that can cause the subdomain to not rank well.


4 Reasons You Should use a Subdomain

1.  Create authority

Create top-level names within your primary domain using a keyword that describes your product or category without having to purchase a new domain for that key word. This also results in a more easily remembered URL.

For example, you have a well known law firm and you want to create subdomains for the different departments. You might create subdomains for International Law, Corporate Law, Family Law, etc. Any one of these would lend authority to that URL and be easy to remember . . . You can see how having ‘corporate law’ for the subdomain implies authority.

2.  Target geographical areas 

 Use subdomains to target specific states or regions for selling a product or service.

For example, you have a construction business that services both Kansas and Missouri with the main domain being You may want to have a subdomain targeting Kansas – and a subdomain for Missouri – This allows you to customize the pages for each state.

3.  Address different content

Launch different aspects of the same business by using different subdomain names.

For example, you have a clothing business that sells shoes, clothing, accessories – you could have subdomains for each category:;;

This would allow each one to target the subdomain ‘keyword’ name for the purpose of ranking well for that word.

4.  Maintain cost effectiveness

If you are on a limited budget and want to expand your business, having a subdomain is a cost effective way to expand without having the expense of purchasing a new .com and additional hosting space. (Don’t forget – Host Gator  allows you to stack domains so there are no additional charges for adding on new domains.)


Deciding which direction to go – subdomain vs. subdirectory (folder) will need to be made based on the individual website. When making that decision it would be helpful to remember that folders do not require any additional knowledge and if the site is already ranking well, the new pages will follow along.

Subdomains require unique content and configuration through the cPanel –  easily accomplished with Host Gator.  That being said  . . . most of the time the average website owner will choose to use folders.

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