One of the most important things for any website developer is SEO. For a web developer, if a website is not trending and its content is not being looked at, it’s not worth it. It’s not financially beneficial and not making any revenue. In this article, we will be discussing subfolders and subdomains. Both these techniques are used to extend sections of a website. But both have unique functionalities. 

You need to understand which technique you are going to use on the website. Both subfolders vs. subdomains have specific functions which can be used to achieve specific tasks. One should always clearly understand the reason for using any one of the techniques (subfolder or subdomain) as it directly affects the SEO of your website. One wrong move, and you will lose your Google ranking. 

Being an owner of a high-ranking SEO website, you need to understand the pros and cons of using subfolders and subdomains. You also need to clearly define your reasons for using any one of these technologies, as Google has its policies related to the SEO of any website. 

This article is written with only one target in mind. That is to bring clarity to you people by giving awareness about these technologies independently with examples. Then a comparison will be made for scenarios using real-life examples and impact on SEO. All these comparisons and examples will help you understand why to use any technology. Plus, this article will also help you to decide which technology you need to use.

SEO and website ranking

First of all, let’s get one thing out of the way: Google doesn’t affect the ranking and SEO of your website either you use subfolders and subdomains. Google works fine with both these techniques, which you use to extend or add new sections or components to your website. Similarly, the SEO and indexing of your website are not affected either you use subfolders or subdomains. This means being an organization owner, and you can use either subfolders or subdomains without affecting the Google ranking of your website. 

Now that one of the fears has been answered, we can dive into the literature of subfolders and subdomains. No matter how relieved you know that SEO is not affected, any of these techniques is used. So you still got to understand why to use which technique and what benefits you will get out of it. 

Subfolders or subdirectories

Let’s begin with subfolders. These are also known as subdirectories. Every page or section in the website is called a subfolder or a subdirectory. It makes you roam around the website from one section or page to another section or page while staying within one website. It is sequenced and structured. Every child section or page of the website has a specific link to the parent website. 

To make it further easy for you, here is an example. Subfolders or subdirectories are child directories of the main parent website. Subfolders can be compared to the folders stored in your PCs. It is similar to a C drive on your computer. Double Click your C drive to see multiple folders holding specific information. You can put specific things in each folder, and when you open it, certain stored information can be seen. Similarly, each section of a subsite is a subfolder. If you recall the earlier days of HTML language, you would remember developers making folders and folders and store information related to one section in that folder within a folder.

Hence subfolders or subdomains the subsection of the actual website which is connected to the website. These subfolders or subdomains consist of specific sections of the website containing only one specific thing. Every subfolder or subdomain of any website contains unique information, and usually, developers ensure that the information is interlinked but not overlapping. Overlapping information shows inconsistency and doesn’t leave a good impact on the viewer. 


And now, we will discuss subdomains. Subdomains are a completely different concept, and they have nothing in common with subfolders. The simplest definition of subdomains is an entirely new website. These are known as secondary domains to the parent domain of a website. A subdomain is entirely a different website hosted on a completely new domain that is not connected to a website. As it is independent of the main website, you can’t roam around from one section to another section of the website. However, you may roam in subfolders in this subdomain. 

To make it further easy for you to understand the concept of a subdomain, here is an example. You have your website for marketing. But it would be best if you also had some tweaks which you don’t want the customers to look at but should be available for you to view in a password-protected environment. In this case, the new website that is your testbed is a subdomain that exists but can’t be accessed by customers. Yet, it fulfills your purpose of testing and development without giving any damage to the actual website. 

Let’s assume that you want to have an independent survey section for your website. Being an independent section, you want this to be indexed and sourced separately. To accomplish this task of the independent section with SEO and Google ranking, you need to give this a new subdomain. This domain will be referring to your original website but will be using a different URL than your official website. Google will, without a problem, index it and rank it as an independent website. 

All this literature related to subdomains helps in understanding one thing. That is, if you need a separate domain to hold a section of your website, then it is okay to divide one website into two different domain links. These independent subdomains will operate separately and still be indexed, and your SEO remains unaffected. For technical reasons, web developers usually find it convenient to build a new database for each subdomain. They think it hassle-free and easy to treat each subfolder as a subdomain. It helps keep the database intact one section and other files in a separate section without affecting the rest of the main site.

Ask yourself

Do you have one product to sell, or are you extending your services? Why do you feel the need to have a subdomain functionality on your website? What is it that you have in your website which requires separate or unique representation? Why is that purpose not fulfilled with subfolders and subdirectories? These are some of the questions you need to answer before finalizing your decision to use one of these techniques. If not completely, then some SEO impact should be expected. Subfolders and keyword optimization have a greater effect than subdomains. Whereas if the new/ additional services you offer are entirely different and have nothing to do, then subdomain is your best shot. 

Bottom Line

Subfolders or subdirectories are part of the main website. At the same time, subdomains are independent web addresses and can be related to a specific branch of the website. Subdomains can have as many subfolders as required. Subdomains don’t usually affect your SEO, but still, people believe that SEO depends on your ends and requirements.

Google never made any preferences out of subdomains or subfolders. And Google has always treated both techniques in similar ways. Some people talk in favor of subdomains, whereas others prefer to use subfolder techniques to grow the website. Both kinds of people are right. It all depends on you and your needs of growing your website or branching out your websites.  

Last but not least, this selection will also affect your redirection put in place. It will make it very simple and easy for you to revert to subfolders from subdomains. But if the backlinks are not carefully added, then traffic will be lost. And you will be asking for help as your website traffic is dramatically decreasing. So you have to be very clear and conscious while using subfolders and subdomains for increased traffic, good to great SEO, and a good Google ranking. 


Nikita is an expert SEO Content Writer, with expertise in creating unique write-ups in DIGITAL MARKETING.