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Is It Bad for SEO to Use a Subdomain for Your Blog?

Michael Reynolds

Posted by Michael Reynolds on 11/18/16 2:30 PM

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If you're responsible for promoting your organization, you've likely thought about Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.

The topic of SEO seems to be top of mind for just about everyone we work with. There is a lot of good information available about SEO (like our SEO Cheat Sheet, for example!) but unfortunately, there are still some myths circulating. One of the more divisive myths is the "subdomain vs. subfolder" argument.

What Does That Even Mean?

There are some STRONG OPINIONS about this issue! Who knew? For those of you who aren't sure what subdomains or subfolders are, let's back up a bit and fill in the blanks.

Subfolders

There are a couple of ways to host a corporate blog on your website. One way is to place it under a subfolder (aka subdirectory) on your website.  For example, if SpinWeb went this route, our blog would live at the address "www.spinweb.net/blog". This works fine, and it's usually how things are set up if your blog platform is part of your website CMS. 

Subfolder Pros

  • One Site for Everything — This is appealing if you've got one main domain that feeds the inbound links from the domain itself. Additionally, you only have to pay hosting fees for one site. (So if you're particularly budget concious, this might appeal to you.)

  • Category Control — If you're particularly interested in arranging your categories in a certain way, a subfolder could be your best friend. The URL path is friendlier for searchers, too.

  • Build Credibility — In theory, keeping all of your content contained in one place will lend you an air of authority. Google treats subfolders as a part of the same site, while subdomains are treated as entirely different websites. 

Subfolder Cons

  • Time Suck — The more pages the URL contains, the rougher the subfolder setup.  Additionally, the maintenance time required is more intensive. 

  • Diluted Exposure — If search results are already jam-packed with other pages from your site, it might be tougher to get the exposure you're hoping for. 

Subdomains

If your blog is hosted on a different platform than your website (such as HubSpot, for example) then you might find it easier to set up a subdomain (called a CNAME) like "blog.spinweb.net" or "info.spinweb.net/blog" to host your blog. If you look up at your address bar right now, you'll see that our blog is indeed hosted at "blog.spinweb.net" because it is hosted on HubSpot.

Subdomain Pros

  • Keyword-Heavy URL — Sure, it doesn't make any sense to shoehorn certain keywords into your website's main URL, so a subdomain will give you the opportunity to pop them into your domain. Boom. 

  • Respect My (Niche) Authority — Subdomains are ideal for ranking and building authority  in a smaller, niche market—and this will only help you beef up your main domain's authority, too. 

  • Pump Up Search Results — The more subdomains, the more chances you have to appear in search engines. 

Subdomain Cons

  • No Gravy — When your subdomain is separate from your main domain, you won't benefit from any of the trickle-down from the main site. 

  • Fight Club — With separate domains, it's possible that they could be treated as competitors by search engines. 

  • Hosting Fees, Ahoy — You'll be responsible for more hosting fees as subdomains require separate hosting accounts. While some companies offer multiple hosting discounts, you can't count on that. 

Why Can't We Be Friends? 

Here's the issue: many people still think this makes a difference in your SEO strategy. They get all up in arms when they see blogs hosted on a subdomain and claim that the SEO Gods will punish your website for comitting such a tragic offense. They explain that the magical SEO juice will not "flow to your primary domain" and that this will hurt your search engine rankings.

Many years ago, way back when the Internet was ruled by the machines and Google was a mindless robot, making a choice between subdomain and subfolder may have been a life-or-death issue.

(And I'm being a bit dramatic. For fun.)

If you're now worried that you're doing it wrong, whether you're Team Subdomain or Team Subfolder, we've got good news for you: it really doesn't matter.

Google is smart enough to see both www.spinweb.net and blog.spinweb.net as tied to the same website.

But don't take my word for it. Let's hear it from Matt Cutts, head of Google's Webspam team.

As you can see, it just doesn't matter to Google. As we stated above, there are pros and cons to both options, so you should simply do whatever works best for you and your company.

So what does matter? Content.

Many people obsess over all the technical or old-school aspects of SEO, like keyword density, subdomain myths and other highly technical and outdated concerns.

You're better off simply making sure your website is built and coded correctly, and then creating great content.

Do you need some extra tips for generating consistently awesome, engaging content? We've got a ton of information that can help

Is it really that simple? Well, no, not exactly, but we don't want to see people getting lost in the weeds of SEO theory. Of course it's a good idea to pay attention to details (that's a big part of our job at SpinWeb), but the brunt  of your effort should be focused on your content strategy. Google's latest update, called Penguin, has refined the search engine's emphasis on content even more and helped weed out the "technical SEO" players in favor of those focusing on great content.

So the bottom line is, host your blog in whatever way is most convenient for you. Then you can forget about it and get on with the work of building a great digital marketing strategy fueled by great content. Stay out of the crossfire of the SEO wars, and concentrate on content instead.  

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Topics: seo

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