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Subdomain vs. Subdirectory: Which Is Better for SEO?

One of the biggest ‘arguments’ in SEO is the subdomain vs. subdirectory debate. 

Which is better for SEO? Does it actually make a difference? If a blog is hosted on a subdomain, should you migrate it into a subdirectory? What’s Google’s stance on this?

These are just a few of the many questions commonly asked in the SEO community on social media, often met with differing responses.

And in this guide, we want to clarify the confusion and help settle the debate about ‘subdomain vs. subdirectory.’ We’ll dive deep into the technical SEO considerations that you need to take and outline the instances when they make the most sense to use.
Specifically, we’ll look at:

Understanding Subdomains and Subdirectories

Before we look at which is best for SEO, let’s first take a quick look at the technical difference between subdomains and subdirectories.

Subdomain: blog.yourdomain.com
Subdirectory: yourdomain.com/blog/ 

Essentially, a subdomain is a child of the parent domain, and they are sometimes used for hosting:

  • Blogs
  • ecommerce stores (when these are part of a larger site)
  • Internationalization (different websites to target different markets)
  • Separate mobile sites
  • Quote forms 

Notice that in the subdirectory (also known as a subfolder) example, the /blog/ sits within the main domain. It’s part of the main yourdomain.com website in the same way that any other page would be. For all intents and purposes, this is just another page on this website.

But a subdomain sits outside of the main domain; it sits within its own partition of the domain. In this example, it’s being used to host a blog.

A subdomain will always sit before the root domain when looking at a URL, whereas a subdirectory will always sit after.

If you’re currently not sure how many subdomains your site is using, or if it’s using any at all, you can use the Semrush Site Audit Tool to view your site’s structure, including any subdomains:

Just make sure when setting up the tool that ‘including all subdomains’ is selected for the crawl scope.

Why is there such a significant debate in the SEO community between subdomains and subdirectories? And is one better than the other when it comes to ranking on the SERPS?

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Giving Context to the Debate

Let’s clear one thing up; your website’s structure significantly impacts your organic search performance. 

The choice between a subdomain or a subdirectory for certain areas of your site can help or hinder your ability to drive growth. But similarly, there are instances when it does make sense to host part of your site on a subdomain.

This is very much an ‘it depends’ scenario. It’s important that you understand the different use scenarios and how they can impact your site’s organic performance. 

So then, where does the confusion come from?

This debate is sparked by the fact that Google treats subdomains as separate entities to your main domain, largely because some websites place different content on subdomains that shouldn’t really be associated with the main site. Or in some instances, those subdomains of the main domain are controlled by different people. – Read more