Which One Should You Use?


When it’s time to launch a new site, undergo a site migration or change your CMS, launch a new product, or make another major change, which comprehensive site structure to use is one of the most common questions.

Should we use or change subdirectories, subdomains, or use country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) if we have international content?

And is one better than the other?

Google says there is no difference.

This is definitely a topic that quickly falls into the “it all depends” box.

After all, when it comes to SEO, there are a lot of factors to consider.

Let’s break down the pros and cons of each option and help you decide which one is best for your website.

First, let’s define subdomains, subdirectories, and a ccTLD.

subdomains, subdirectories and ccTLD defined

A subdomain is a unique domain that is part of a larger domain.

For example, you can create a subdomain for your blog or any other section of your site that sells products or if you need to differentiate the content.

This will give you a URL that looks like this: blog.example.com or productname.subdomain.com.

Subdomains are often used to create separate website sections with different content.

A subdirectory is a folder on your website that contains individual pages or pieces of content.

For example, if you were managing GAP, I’d suggest a simple and SEO-friendly product subdirectory instead of the URL they have now, i.e., https://www.gap.com/browse/category. do?cid=6998&nav =expmore%3Amen%3Acategories%3Ajeans#pageId=0&department=75.

Subdirectories are often used to create separate website sections with different content.

A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is a domain specific to a specific country.

For example, if you have a website for your business in Canada, you will need a ccTLD for the site, ie bestbuy.ca.

Pros and Cons of Using a Subdomain

There are some benefits and drawbacks to using a subdomain when the bulk of the content will be largely unique from the root domain.

It comes down to what the publisher is trying to achieve with that new content.

Will they try to establish the necessary link equity?

Is the new content really that much unique from the original domain’s primary content?

professionals

  • Subdomains can help with organization.
  • By placing your content on your own subdomain, it’s easy to keep track of the content and make sure it stands out from the rest of your website.
  • Especially helpful if you have a large website with lots of specific types of content.
  • Search engines treat subdomains as separate websites, so a well-optimized subdomain has the potential to rank in search results.

Shortcoming

  • More expensive than other options.
  • Additionally, some users find the subdomain confusing. For example, if someone is looking for your business website and types example.com, they might not know that your blog is at blog.example.com. This can lead to confusion and loss of traffic.

Furthermore, since Google treats subdomains as separate sites If you create new content on a subdomain, it doesn’t benefit from the passing of authorization as it is considered a completely new separate website.

Pros and Cons of Using a Subdirectory

There are many benefits and drawbacks to using subdirectories for your site.

professionals

  • Generally more cost effective to maintain than other options.
  • Some users find subdirectories easier to understand than subdomains. For example, if someone is looking for your business website and types example.com, they will immediately see your blog at example.com/blog. This can help prevent confusion and lost traffic.
  • Authority is transferred from the root domain to subfolders, which can help with your search engine visibility.

Shortcoming

  • Can be more difficult to install than other options.
  • Subdirectories are not always seen by search engines as separate websites.

Advantages and disadvantages of using ccTLDs

There are some advantages and disadvantages to using ccTLDs.

professionals

  • Can help you set up your international website content.
  • Using ccTLD is a strong signal that tells search engines that your content is focused on a specific country.

Shortcoming

  • if you don’t have any international content Or serve users around the world, you don’t need to.
  • Usually more expensive than other options.
  • Each ccTLD appears as a separate website, so if you have multiple websites around the world with different ccTLDs, you’ll have to optimize them all because they are all viewed as separate entities.
  • Some countries require you to be a citizen or have some affiliation with the country in order to purchase a domain name with ccTLD.

What is preferred by most SEO experts?

SEO experts often favor subdirectories over subdomains because new URLs benefit from the already established online authority of the root domain and equity accumulated through external links.

By taking advantage of that right of the root domain, subdirectories accumulate meaningful rankings and organic performance faster than subdomains.

For this reason, many SEO professionals favor them, which are often translated as “better”.

While it is true that Google recognizes subdomains as properties of the larger domain entity and can see a relationship between the two when done well and correctly, publishers will limit the linking between the two properties.

Therefore, the new subdomain requires multiple external links to become the established authority. This often takes a lot of time and effort.

If you have content in different countries and need to send a strong signal about yourself to Google and other search engines, you may need a ccTLD international content strategy,

While this can be expensive depending on the number of countries you manage, it may be worth looking into sub-directories or sub-domains to direct users from different countries to the appropriate content.

Study the matter

One of our clients in the financial sector moved from .com to a subdomain that we advised against.

When they left, our client experienced a decrease in search engine visibility and traffic, but it wasn’t too drastic.

After a year on a subdomain, they moved back to the main domain.

Once we set up the redirect and content migration strategy, our clients experienced a 15% increase in traffic by going back to the main domain with authorization, links, etc.

wrapping up

So, which one is better for SEO: a subdomain, subdirectory, or ccTLD?

There is no easy answer.

It depends on your specific needs and goals. As we have seen, each option has pros and cons.

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Featured Image: Metamorphosis / Shutterstock





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