Subdomain vs. subfolders, a debate that has been going on for a while. When structuring a website, you might get confused between the usage of Subdomains and subfolders and their potential impact on your website’s SEO ranking.

SEO experts still argue the advantage one has over the other when it comes to search engine optimization. However, even Google has weighed in on this argument and given many valuable insights.

Many of us still struggle to find any concrete difference between subdomains and subfolders. In this blog, you’ll walk through the basic definitions of subdomains and subfolders, and you’ll learn some key differences between subdomains and subfolders and how and when to use either of those. 

You’ll find answers to these Questions

  • What is a subdomain?
  • How and when to use a subdomain?
  • What is a subfolder?
  • How and when to use a subfolder?
  • Impact of a subdomain on SEO.
  • Impact of a subfolder on SEO.
  • Which one of these better suits your needs?

Domain Name

A domain name is an address to your website. Just like your physical address, when people want to visit your house, they enter your home address in their GPS to get directed to your house.

 When people want to visit your website, they type in your website address in the URL bar to get directed to your website.

A domain name is made up of two things

  1. Your website’s name.
  2. Your website’s domain name extension

For example, in Google.com

Google is the website name, and .com represents the extension.

Subdomain

A subdomain is used to separate a website into sections logically. It is the particular part of a domain that is shown before the domain name and domain extension. Subdomains aid in the organization of a website. They split portions of your website into their customized hierarchy.

As you can see in the image above. Subdomain comes before the domain name and extension. 

In the case shown in the picture, https://support.google.com/ is the domain; support is the subdomain, and google.com is the domain name and extension.

Subdomains are considered independent and distinct from the main website. Therefore, they are only associated with the domain and not the website.

Subfolder

A subfolder, also defined as a subdirectory, is a pathway within a website. It is a child of the parent domain. Therefore, it is linked directly to the website.

Imagine it as a separate folder inside a website, Just like separate folders on your desktop.

Take a look at the image above; the subtopic is the subfolder. It comes after the domain name example.com.

You can also see the clear difference between the placement of a subdomain and a subdirectory.

A subdomain comes before the domain name and a subfolder after it.

Using a Subdomain

You can use a subdomain for hosting a blog within your website, hosting an e-commerce section for your website, hosting a different mobile site for your main website, and even hosting FAQs and QnAs.

A subdomain is a different website that is linked to the same domain as the main website.

If you are hosting a website remotely, Subdomains can be very helpful. They can be stored on separate servers.

The main website and the subdomain are ranked independently for SEO because a subdomain is considered a separate entity.

Creating a subdomain

Follow the steps mentioned below to create a subdomain

cPanel dashboard

Log in to your Name.com account. Click on web hosting. Click the cPanel login button, and you’ll reach your cPanel homepage.

Click on the Domains section, and you’ll find a subdomains option  inside

 Press subdomains, and a subdomain menu will appear. Fill in the form by adding Your subdomain, domain, and document root.

After making sure that you have entered all the required information correctly, click on the create button at the bottom left corner of the form.

What is a Subdomain Name & How to Create One | HostGator Support

Your subdomain is created and should be available online within a couple of minutes.

Using a subfolder

Subfolders are an easy way to structure your website; imagine them as an additional folder in your website. A subfolder is linked directly to your website. The traffic a subfolder may generate will be added to the traffic on your website because there is no server partitioning in n subfolders.

You can add third-party services to your website by using a subfolder.

A subdirectory or a subfolder is added when the content it holds is somewhat similar or related to your main website.

Subdomains are relatively easier to maintain, navigate and organize.

The SEO ranking of your website and Subdirectory will be interlinked. Subfolder will bring all the link juice to your website.

Creating a subfolder

Setting up a subfolder is easy; you’ll learn step by step how to create a subfolder

cPanel dashboard

After logging into your Name.com account, press Webhosting and then click on cPanel.

On the cPanel homepage, scroll to the bottom and click on WordPress.

select install, Fill in all the required information.

Click on the install button 

And your new subfolder is ready.

Subdomain vs. subfolder

Which one should you use?

You have learned all about subdomains and subdirectories from their definitions to their creation.

Now you’ll get to know which one will work better for you

Let’s start with an example for subfolder/subdirectory

Your website is all about cooking and creating new recipes. You upload recipes that you create and your personal experiences in the kitchen while trying out something new. You also upload reviews on different kitchen-related items.

In this case, all your content is interlinked.

You should use subdirectories to keep all the traffic on one site.

Your subdirectories can be

Cookingmania.com/recipes

Cookingmania.com/blog

Cookingmania.com/products

Now let’s look at an example for a subdomain

You own a news website, and you upload any latest happenings worldwide on your website.

You also create food recipes and share them under the same domain.

In this case, both topics are unrelated, and it is better to create a subdomain for food recipes.

Creating a subdomain will save you the hassle of buying a new domain and creating a separate website for your food recipes.

Search engines will treat your recipes domain as a separate entity from your news website.

Your website will be TheNews.com

Your subdomain will be Recipes.TheNews.com

According to Neil Patel’s SEO test

 Roughly 90% of your link juice transfers through a subdomain

100% of your link juice transfers through a subdirectory.

Subdomain vs. Subfolder 

In terms of SEO

According to John Mueller, who’s senior webmaster trends analyst at Google.

Google search is fine with using either subdomain or subdirectories. However, he also stated, Learning to crawl subdomains separately is just a formality for few initial days.

What most people take away from these statements is, subdomains and subfolders can be used interchangeably.

But what this means is Google wouldn’t penalize you for using either of them but what you should use is up to your requirements.

Bottom Line

Both subdomain and subfolder have their pros and cons; choosing which one to use depends on your requirements.

For interlinked content, subfolders should be used, so anyone visiting a subfolder is linked to the content on the rest of the site as well. Visitors may also scroll the rest of your website, and this will increase your engagement time. As your engagement time increases, so will your SEO ranking.

For content that is on two very different topics or niches, A subdomain is preferred because you can use separate Keywords for your subdomain and your website, so Google or any other search engine can rank both these sites separately when a relevant keyword is searched.

For better SEO optimization, it is necessary to structure your website according to its contents.

 After reading this article, you’re probably ready to start implementing this knowledge about subdomains and subfolders on your website. Here are a few questions for you to answer.

Do you think search engines treat websites using subdomains differently to websites using subfolders? Which one of these Do you prefer to use?

Have you changed your mind about using either of them after reading this article?

Author

Nazish Mohsin is an expert SEO Content Writer working full-time for Convert Rank. She has expertise in creating unique write-ups in DIGITAL MARKETING. Moreover, she's a valuable contributor in handling on-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Convert Rank.