SEO Q&A: Subdomain vs. subfolder?

I often get asked if Google* prefers a subdomain or a subfolder. The issue often arises when someone is hosting their main site on a hosted solution like Shopify (or similar) versus WordPress.

They love the ease of use of the hosted service, but it’s hard to beat WordPress at blogging. They want the best of both worlds: which means WordPress running on domain.com/blog/, but this is one of your “can’t have your cake and eat it too” moments. Since domain.com is pointed at the 3rd party service… all subfolders on that domain have to be hosted by that service (it’s a DNS thing).

The obvious solution is to use blog.domain.com as subdomains can be pointed at a different server than the primary domain.

This is where the “old SEO tale” comes into play… as there’s a stigma associated with subdomains: people believe they won’t rank as well (or help the main site rank as well) as a subfolder.

There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence out there advocating both viewpoints, but the official word is:

You should choose whatever is easiest for you to organize and manage. From an indexing and ranking perspective, Google doesn’t have a preference. (Source)

Of course what Google says and does doesn’t always match up… so you get lively debates like The Great Subdomain vs. Subfolder Debate, what is the best answer?. I doubt we’ll ever settle that one.

In the end, subfolders are probably better, but most people should be fine using a subdomain. Practical often trumps perfect, right?

But wait, can you have the best of both worlds? It depends.

WordPress is very powerful and flexible — and plugins allow it to do all kinds of different things, so you can flip things around: point domain.com at your WordPress site, and pull in the 3rd party content using the power of plugins!

The right answer probably has a lot more to do with your business goals and preferences than Google’s algorithms.

Good luck!

* No one ever seems to ask about other search engines…

Nick Ciske

Nick Ciske – CTO

Nick has a degree in Multimedia Design and over 18 years of experience working in web development and digital media. In his career he’s built or rebuilt just about every kind of website, including many content management systems (before WordPress), several custom e-commerce systems, and hundreds of websites.

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