Whether you’re a seasoned business owner or starting your first business, you’re guaranteed to run into the phrase “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO) at one point or another. Don’t let this phrase intimidate you.

It all comes down to one thing: targeted content. Everything you write should be written with purpose. In the blogging world (online business world, really), there’s no place for “fluff” in content. Keep your information concise, detailed, and directed towards your target audience. That includes the use of key words, titles, page write-ups, and metadata descriptions. (But don’t forget your audience there! You also need to be mindful of colors, graphics, and site design.)

SEO doesn’t end at the content in your site, though. It starts at your site. There has always been controversy on whether subdomains or subdirectories should be used for SEO.

First, let’s define the difference with some examples.

What is the Difference?

A subdomain is defined as the first part of a domain before the period or a domain that is part of a main domain. The bold portions of the domains below are subdomains:

Examples: happy.example.com, sad.example.com, sleepy.example.com

A subdirectory is defined as a folder attached to a domain. The bold portions of the domains below are subdirectories:

Examples: happy.example.com/books, sad.example.com/services, sleepy.example.com/tips 

When to Use a Subdomain

There are many reasons when you should use a subdomain. For example, you may want to use a subdomain if:

  1. You want your site to have multiple languages present. You can use a subdomain for each language featured (i.e. english.example.com, french.example.com, mandarin.example.com, and spanish.example.com).
  2. You sell a variety of different types of products that may not relate fully. You can use a subdomain to separate those products better and improve your marketing strategy (i.e. marketing.example.com, hosting.example.com, and it.example.com).
  3. You have multiple storefronts. You can use a subdomain for each city your business is present in (i.e. losangeles.example.com, nyc.example.com, and sanfrancisco.example.com).

This is by no means comprehensive, but it should give you an easy guideline to go by on whether a subdomain is a smart choice.

When to Use a Subdirectory

There are also many reasons to use a subdirectory vs. a subdomain. For instance, a subdirectory may come in handy if:

  1. Your branding is similar for all services, and you don’t need to do separate any drastically different types of services.
  2. Your business operates using one language and in one location.
  3. You want to keep all your pages easy to navigate without pointing to different sites.

Again, this is just a starting point for you, but it should help you do a quick check to see if a subdirectory is the best move.

Now, for the ultimate question!

Which is Better for SEO: Subdomains or Subdirectories?

Most people will say subdirectories are better for SEO because your site has a higher chance of getting hits because you are marketing the main domain instead of multiple subdomains. All of your content is also consolidated into one space, so performance tracking is much easier. It’s also significantly easier to toggle between pages instead of typing in multiple subdomains that don’t always connect.

Because all of your subdirectories are attached to the main domain instead of having multiple subdomains (which would indicate “multiple sites” to a point), a subdirectory is the best option if you’re looking to improve your SEO.

However, to be honest, deciding which one is better for SEO depends on your purpose.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and learned a thing or two about subdomains and subdirectories. Remember, anyone can do SEO, no matter where you are at in your business.

Here’s a quick-start SEO guide with some useful links we created awhile back for beginners.

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