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Written by Caroline Cox on Oct 22 , 2021

It’s an ongoing debate in the SEO world. Between subdomains and subdirectories, which is better?

Here, you’ll find:

  • The difference between subdomains and subdirectories
  • How each factors into your overall SEO
  • The difference in their URLs
  • Expert advice for deciding where to host your blog

When you’re creating a marketing plan, some aspects are clear.

You should leverage organic and paid avenues, you should probably be on social media, and you should keep tabs on how your business presents online, from meta descriptions to customer reviews.

But then there are more hotly debated topics. How long should proper SEO take? Is it worth it to try to go viral on social media? Should you host your blog on a subdomain or a subdirectory?

Your time is valuable, so let’s tackle that last question — with help from one of HawkSEM’s lead strategists, Yara Askar.

What’s the difference between a subdomain and a subdirectory?

As Yara explains, a subdomain is a “child domain” (or an extension) of the root or “parent” directory domain. A subdirectory works like a root directory subfolder.

(A subdirectory is the same as a subfolder. The names can be used interchangeably, according to HubSpot.)

While a subdomain is a child domain, it’s treated as a separate entity from the main parent domain. The subdomain is still associated with the root directory. However, it’ll have a separate content strategy, analytics and tracking tools, and a different backend site. 

Basically, any domain authority a root domain holds — such as backlinks — won’t carry over to the subdomain. A subdirectory, on the other hand, lives within the root domain. It benefits from the root domain SEO equity and can add to the overall website SEO value.

person wearing one blue shoe and one yellow shoe on grass

Google doesn’t technically favor one over the other when it comes to subdomains vs. subdirectories. (Image via Pexels)

Subdomain vs. subdirectory URLs

A subdomain’s URL will be styled as blog.mysite.com. Here, the blog is treated as a separate entity from the root domain, mysite.com. 

A subdirectory’s URL is styled mysite.com/blog. Here, the blog is treated as part of the root domain, mysite.com.

It’s worth noting that Google doesn’t technically favor one over the other when it comes to subdomains vs. subdirectories. As SEMrush points out, John Mueller stated back in 2017 that Google is fine with companies using either. At this point, this advice hasn’t changed.

How do subdomains and subdirectories affect blogs?

Subdomains make perfect sense in some instances. For example, when a company has a niche industry, audience, or keyword they want to target that’s different from their “root” or main targets. 

This also applies if the subdomain is intended to represent a completely different business or division from the root domain, such as a SaaS company that also runs an online vendor marketplace.  

In most cases, however, sites target the same audience with their blogs as they would with the root domain. Their content strategy is also likely intended to serve the same business. In that case, it’s best to host a blog as a subdirectory. 

Hosting your blog as a subdirectory can allow you to:

  • Increase organic traffic to the root domain
  • Organize content in a way that makes it easy for bots to manage and crawl
  • Optimize the content on the site without having pages compete with each other
  • Streamline analytics by housing all metrics on a single domain 
person hiking down an outdoor path with a hat and backpack

Subdomains can be useful for blogs if there’s a large content campaign that is slated to receive a lot of traffic and thus requires its own hierarchy path. (Image via Unsplash)

How can you determine whether a subdomain or a subdirectory is right for your brand’s blog?

According to Yara, if your business serves multiple locations or regions, or houses a lot of content that can be too difficult to manage under a single site, leveraging a subdomain is ideal.

Subdomains are a great option if you want to separate your content from your main website for whatever reason. For instance, if you’re targeting different geographic regions or big retail stores with an e-commerce store. 

Also, if you’re listing a site in another language like German and in French, it would make sense to list them as two separate subdomains.

Subdirectories are great for smaller websites that are targeting the same audience and have the same content campaign as the rest of the root domain.

Unless you have a large content campaign in mind that requires its own hierarchy path, hosting a blog on a subdirectory is often your best option. Subdirectories help keep content organized. They also improve SEO value to the overall site and simplify website management. 

Pro tip: Subdomains can also be useful for blogs if there’s a large content campaign that is slated to receive a lot of traffic and thus requires its own hierarchy path. 

The takeaway

Choosing between a subdomain and a subdirectory for a blog is a highly debated topic in the SEO world, explains Yara.

Ultimately, you want to pick what’s best and most efficient for your site and business goals.

Subdomains provide the ability to target a highly engaged niche audience. Subdirectories allow sites to improve their overall SEO traffic to the main domain. 

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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