Subdomains, subfolders, or microsites: which is best for organizing the content of your website?
In this episode of our Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Stone Temple’s Mark Traphagen asks Eric Enge to cover the pros and cons of each, especially from an SEO perspective.
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Mark: Eric, when webmasters are thinking about where to put the content of their sites, what are their basic choices?
Eric: Comes down to three basic buckets: in a root domain, as a subdomain, or in subfolders.
Mark: Explain each of those briefly, if you would.
Eric: Sure. Your root domain, or more properly, the second level domain, is your main domain, what people tend to think of as your web address. For example, for our site, our root domain is stonetemple.com.
A subdomain, or third level domain, is added to the beginning or your main domain. So for example, a site might put its blog under the subdomain “blog.sitename.com”. In fact, that’s where many sites put their blogs. But, I’ll share later why that may not be the best choice for SEO.
Finally, subfolders are the file folders on your site that hold your webpages, and they can exist either under your root domain or in subdomains. These are typically seen by users as the navigational sections of your site. For example, you might have the About Us pages of your site under the subfolder “www.ourdomain.com/about”.
Mark: What are the advantages and disadvantages of subdomains versus subfolders for where you place your site content?
Pros and Cons: Subfolders
Eric: Let’s start with subfolders. In my opinion, they’re typically the best choice for organizing your pages. Subfolders usually reveal the basic organizational structure of the information on your site. For example, on our site, all of the About Us pages are in the “/about” subfolders. Subfolders on your root domain normally reflect your site hierarchy and therefore the main crawl path for search engines and help understand and rank your site for the right things. And if well designed, they also help create a better user experience.
Pros and Cons: Subdomains
Mark: Why would you ever use a subdomain?
Eric: Well, there are cases where use of a subdomain might make a lot of sense. For example, let’s say your company has a division that does training, but training isn’t a part of your core business. It might be useful to market that division using training.yourcompany.com.
Site owners should keep in mind, however, that subdomains may not fully benefit from the link equity or positive metrics of the ranking authority for the overall domain. For example, Google doesn’t give every individual blog on blogspot.com the authority of blogspot.com for obvious reasons.
Pros and Cons: Microsites
Mark: What about microsites?
Eric: A microsite is actually a separate root domain, and I almost always advise clients to never put important content on a separate domain or microsite, though there are some limited scenarios where businesses might choose to do this.
If a business does host some of its content on a separate domain, it typically takes the form of a microsite, which is hyperfocused on one particular topic or marketing initiative. For example, if your company has a podcast, there may be a marketing advantage to hosting it on a domain with the name of the podcast. Just realize that you’re going to have to invest separate SEO and marketing initiatives for every microsite that you create.
Mark: Thanks, Eric. You provided a lot more information about the pros and cons, as well as the use cases for each of these site structure options in your complete guide to subfolders, subdomains, and microsites for SEO.