Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Subdomains vs. Subfolders – which is better?

A client recently asked us whether it’s better to set up their website using subdomains or subfolders? We get this question a lot, so I thought it would be helpful to provide the answer here, for all of our blog readers.

If you’re not already familiar with these terms, a subdomain is a way of structuring your site so that URLs look like this: The same destination using the subfolders setup would look like this:

Our team likes to look at this from the following angles:

SEO Perspective:

  • Search engines used to treat subdomains as distinct domains, and used to give two additional listings in the search engine results. In essence, it was possible to get 2 rankings for the main domain, plus 2 more rankings for each subdomain. However, Google changed its policy about a year ago and now treats both subdomains and subfolders the same. So where we used to give subdomains an edge because of additional visibility potential, both are basically on level playing ground now.
    • It gets a bit murky here though. If Google decides that the subdomains are entirely different from each other, then it may treat them as different sites and rank them accordingly. For example, subdomains of like and are treated as different sites though they are subdomains of In most cases, however, Google will tend to show results from different domains to give searchers a more diverse and robust list.

Technical Perspective:

  • Subdomains can be a little more difficult for a novice webmaster to set up. They can be managed separately, which can be great for organization purposes, but will consume more time.

  • Subdomains also make visitor tracking more difficult, requiring some extra configuration in your analytics software to aggregrate results.

  • For subfolders, usually the code is all in the same file storage space. That can make it much easier to find/edit/change code. It can also be easier to move code from one place to another.

For these reasons, unless you have distinct products or services, we suggest going with subfolders instead of subdomains.

If you do offer multiple distinct products or services, there are some marketing benefits to using the subdomain setup. Subdomains help to tie your different offerings together by pairing specific products or service lines to your main domain name (i.e.;;, while creating each as its own unique brand. This is a good approach if you’re trying to build a “separate, but together” theme.

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