Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published on January 5, 2017 and has been updated and republished to reflect current information. The article was cleaned up, recommendations were reassessed, and references refreshed.
One of the best things that companies can do to improve their SEO results is to maintain a blog where they can create valuable content for their visitors and customers. Even companies who may not think they can produce content on their products can benefit from a blog.
The trick is knowing how to incorporate it into your website for best results.
In SEO, how you set up your website matters, and from that perspective, there is a history of disagreement on the impact of subdomains and how they affect rankings.
There are times that a subdomain’s use on a website is recommended, but when adding a blog, it is better to use a subfolder, also called a subdirectory.
So, what is a subdomain and what is the difference?
A subdomain would have an address like: www.blog.yourdomain.com.
A subfolder would be set up like: www.yourdomain.com/blog.
It seems like a small distinction at first, but it makes a big difference.
A subfolder makes the blog a part of the main domain. It is acting like another page on a website, so any SEO you do on it can have an effect on the main domain.
Google has not weighed in on the debate much. Their most recent statement was in December of 2017 by John Mueller in this video and their official position hasn’t changed. He says that using subdomains versus subfolders are okay. He also says it may take a few days to learn how to crawl both separately.
The key here is that they are crawled separately.
A Blog on a Subdomain is Crawled as a Different Site
To break this down even more, it is important to understand that there are two main factors that impact SEO results: content and links.
A blog provides valuable content for site visitors, helping establish a domain’s authority. Inbound links come naturally to well written content which will contribute to results, too.
Since subdomains are crawled separately, having the content and links on a subdomain – separate from the main site – means their results and authority are also divided.
Google says that you won’t be punished for listing it separately, but it won’t help you either. Properly integrating your blog and website so they count toward the main domain will help improve traffic, rankings, and revenue by combining the results.
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Is There Ever a Time to Use Subdomains?
We don’t mean to imply that using a subdomain is all bad. There are instances where it is helpful or even better to use a subdomain. It can be easier to organize pages or site versions for different audiences and languages.
Using them appropriately as separate sites is the key.
An example of this may include companies who operate in multiple countries and have websites in different languages or have different prices for geographic locations. Separating them by subdomains can be very effective because they are treated as separate websites but still connected to the main domain. If you plan to produce a blog in multiple languages, subdomains may be beneficial.
Another great example is adding in a Shopify site, which forces the use of subdomains. With ecommerce, some companies prefer to use a subdomain because it keeps their blog separate from their ecommerce side of business.
Since subdomains and SEO results are treated separately by Google, you should, too. Your company’s marketing team needs to focus their goals and efforts on each subdomain as a separate website, which means having separate plans for local optimization and link building.
Integrating a blog into your company strategy with high-quality, relevant content is a great way to give your SEO results a boost. It is something we regularly suggest. Keep the good stuff together for the most benefit and focus on directing traffic to the main domain.
In most cases, our recommendation is to have everything on a main domain with subfolders and avoid subdomains. Some servers and older websites work better for a web designer to create subdomains instead of subfolders, which could be why a site is set up that way. If that’s the case, it may be time to get a new website.
It can be a pain switching from a subdomain to a subfolder set-up, but it is worth the effort.