Site navigation and URLs are important for search engine optimization. However, these are not the only things that are needed in order to boost a website’s rankings on search results.
Take sub directories and sub domains, for instance. These two elements form the structure of websites, which mean just as much to search engines as other aspects. Even though in general, the difference between these two is not really important, there are instances that it does, especially when it comes to SEO.
Sub Domain vs. Sub Directory: What’s the Difference?
It is important that we clarify first the difference between sub domains and sub directories before we discuss their advantages and disadvantages.
Sub domains are usually used by business websites where blogs are kept separate from the rest of the website. Aside from business websites, websites which contain forums and blogging platforms also use sub domains.
The syntax of a sub domains looks like this: “subdomain.webdomain.com”. The “subdomain” part distinguishes the contents of that address from the contents of the rest of the website.
On the other hand, sub directories have a different syntax, which goes like this: “webdomain.com/subdirectory”. The difference that this has with the sub domain lies in the content that it provides. The contents of sub directories are much more related and reliant on the content of the rest of the website, unlike the content of sub domains which can almost stand on its own as a separate website.
Sub Domains: The Benefits and Drawbacks
The benefits that sub domains provide for a website can be somewhat vague, mainly because the benefits rely heavily on many varying factors. However, one of the benefits that remain constant is when you use one keyword on many web pages.
Big search engines usually put a limit on the number of search results for every domain name, except in cases when they are very relevant to the keyword being searched. However, sub domains are not bound by this rule. This means that if you have sub directories in your domain and you have ten results, chances are the search engine will only show a maximum of three of those. On the other hand, for every five sub domains, search engines will show a maximum of three instances of the keyword being used per domain, bringing it to a total of fifteen altogether.
Another sub domain advantage that can help boost your website’s performance is the fact that you can put the keywords in the name of the sub domains. For instance, if you run a website for teachers called “teachers.com” and you have lots of content there related to PTA meetings, it only makes sense that you should create a sub domain with the keyword in it, such as “ptameetings.teachers.com”.
Although sub domains have very real advantages, it also comes with its own disadvantages. First, sub domains are more difficult to manage and maintain. In addition, sub domains typically do not inherit the main domain’s metrics. Simply put, even if the main website is optimized, it does not necessarily mean that the sub domains are. You will need to optimize them yourself.
Sub Directories: Benefits and Drawbacks
Sub directories do not have as much advantages as sub domains do. They actually only have two key advantages.
First, just like sub domains, you can also put keywords in the sub directory URL. Second and more importantly, unlike sub domains, sub directories inherit the metrics of the root domain. This eliminates the need for individual optimization which usually takes place in sub domains, and it also means that when the root domain starts to perform well in search engine results, the sub directories will be carried with it.
With the use of sub directories, the visibility of your website becomes limited. This is because, as was mentioned earlier, search engines limit the amount of search results for each domain name to a maximum of three. Therefore, if you have more than three relevant pages, chances are they will not be displayed.
Sub Domains or Sub Directories? When to Use Which?
With pros and cons of both sub domains and sub directories discussed, it is good to know when to use sub domains or sub directories depending on the scenario.