The other day I wanted to install WordPress on a client’s site. The people who built his site tried to inform me that the blog would be better off on a subdomain than in a subfolder. My heart sank and I was speechless as I digested the “advice”. While you can do this effectively, it was not an ideal solution for this site. This site was 12 years old and has some major authority. Starting a new blog on a subdomain would only take me a few minutes to configure but would defeat the entire purpose of my content marketing & SEO strategy.
Subdomain vs domain:
In this case, I am going to be creating content that people want to share and link to. I am not merely setting up blog posts as landing pages (although they will serve as that as well). Great content gets shared. When the content is shared, it builds links to that domain. When links are built to your domain, your website performs better. And here’s the icing on the cake: when you start to receive natural links to your site from other organizations in your area or niche, you start to become more topically relevant for your geographical location, and your niche.
Example: Let’s say you are an electronics recycler in Raleigh North Carolina. You put up a great post explaining how hard drives are shredded at your facility. It includes interesting pictures and videos detailing how the process works. Nearby electronics retailers start to link to it, as they certainly do not want anyone’s e-scrap. This makes your domain more relevant for electronics. Furthermore they are likely using anchor text such as “electronics recycling”. The next thing you know you have detailed recycling links pointing to your site. I once built out a resource similar to this and it included information on where to have electronics recycled and the site actually obtained links from municipality and .GOV sites such as www.townofcary.org and www.raleighnc.gov. #truestory To this day the site that I worked on many years ago just destroys their niche in search results. It is 2014 and this was a resource that I had built out back in 2006.
SEO advantages to using your blog in a subfolder:
- Backlinks. This is the entire thought behind the way I perform completely holistic SEO. Every time your content is socially shared, pinned on Pinterest, plussed on Google Plus, shared on a forum, linked to naturally from another business, organization, etc, it is a link to your domain. You would have to come up with a very, very, very, very good reason to convince me of why you would want to send links away from your main site. If this does not make sense, go back and read the last paragraph above about the electronics recycling example.
- Fast rankings. Sites that I work on that have content going up on a regular basis get indexed and crawled rapidly. Some of the very high authority sites that I work with can actually put out a post and have it ranked on the front page of Google in under 6 hours. I call these topical authority domains.
SEO disadvantages to using your blog on a subdomain
- Domain authority. If you configure your blog as blog.website.com it needs to establish its own reputation. Think of it as starting a whole new website, because that is essentially what you are doing.
- If you are configuring a brand new site for the first time, or you are a major retailer, and would like a blog about cheeseburgers, then one about yachts, sure, put them on different subdomains. If you want a multilingual site for a larger company, sure, put them in subdomains. For the average business owner, realtor, law firm, etc, you want all of your content on one single domain.
- Google analytics. Webmaster tools and analytics must be installed separately on a subdomain. Subdomains get their own link portfolio in Google Webmaster Tools. This is because inbound links are either going to: A. your domain, or B. your subdomain. Again, it is almost like having a second website.
Historical SEO and subdomains:
Google does treat subdomains differently these days. They do understand that a subdomain is tied in with a domain. Yes, they know blog.website.com is the website’s blog. But even so, this is irrelevant given the information I just provided above.
There was a time years ago when Google would treat subdomains 100% differently. Marketers abused this by configuring subdomains and ranking them in search with spammy tactics. In search engine results pages, you would sometimes see results from website.com, and blog.website.com. This resulted in a single business or website being able to get multiple results on the front page of Google. Of course, this is not what Google wants for their users- they want to display X amount of great results, not 1 company over and over that tricked them.
Google spokesperson Matt Cutts put out a video 2.5yrs ago which says it just doesn’t matter. Please note that Cutts works on the webspam team. The changes made to subdomains over the years at Google were the natural evolution of keeping spammy results out of search. He does not address what I point out above regarding natural backlinks and topical relevance and authority. Perhaps the video is outdated or Cutts is not aware of all of the implications involved in moving a blog off of your root domain. I am not sure; he is a really smart guy, so I am guessing the video is outdated. Anyways, some people will point to this video and say “see, it doesn’t matter”. In my experience, people that talk like that have likely never experienced the power of ranking well in search.
Moz releases astounding results. Cofounder of Moz, Rand Fishkin, states here that the results of moving a blog from a subdomain on their website to their main domain resulted in dramatic increase in rankings. In addition, he states that he has witnessed this not once, not twice, but dozens of times. I have personally witnessed this time and time again myself on my own sites.
Still not convinced? Too bad; this is not open for debate with me.
I am guessing the people who informed me that I should be using a subdomain create content for a different purpose than I do. They probably creating content that they think people will read, or content that converts, or content landing pages, etc. While my content accomplishes this, I also understand that many users spend 10 seconds or so on a site before picking up the phone, often after just seeing the site’s title and phone number. I understand the value of holistic SEO, organic rankings, natural links, etc that occur from having great, shareable content. I will post more on great shareable content ideas soon. If you are adding a blog to your site and can not convert your entire site to WordPress, install WordPress in a subfolder such as website.com/blog.