SEO for Subdomains: Pros, Cons & Strategies for Success

SEO for Subdomains: Benefits, Disadvantages & Strategies for Success

Subdomains are used to organize and navigate to different sections or services of a larger website without needing to register new domain names.

You can improve rankings and increase your website traffic when you understand how to use subdomains effectively.

In this article, we’ll explore the impact of subdomains on SEO and reveal the best strategies to boost your website’s search engine presence.

 

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Takeaways
  • Subdomains offer advantages like distinct SERP presence and targeted keyword strategies, which are key components of your content marketing efforts
  • Strategic linking enhances authority: building links between subdomains and the main domain can amplify the overall authority of your website
  • Proper technical management of subdomains is crucial for SEO. This includes individual robots.txt files, separate XML sitemaps, canonical tags, hreflang tags for international targeting, SSL certificates, and mobile responsiveness.
  • Choosing subdomain vs. subdirectory depends on goals: subdomains are ideal for unrelated content, while subdirectories work well for closely related content

How Subdomains Impact SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

A subdomain is a subset of a primary domain. It allows organizations to set up separate websites or sections under the same domain name.

For instance, if “example.com” is the main domain, “blog.example.com” will be a subdomain dedicated to a blog.

However, here’s the crucial point: Google treats a subdomain as if it’s an entirely different website. Anything you do on a subdomain doesn’t directly impact your main website’s ranking. It can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your goals.

If your subdomain is home to something radically different from your main site, and you want to shield your primary site’s reputation, this separation can be good.

On the flip side, if your subdomain is closely tied to your primary site and that’s where all your links and content reside, it might not be so favorable for your overall domain rating. So, understanding how subdomains impact SEO is crucial for making the right strategic choices.

What Are the Benefits of Subdomains in SEO?

Subdomains enhance on-site performance, making navigation easier, and enable you to gain in-depth insights into user behavior through tools like Google Analytics.

Let’s explore the benefits in more detail.

Better On-Site Performance

You can use a subdomain to create separate sections of your website, each with its unique content and focus.

This allows you to tailor your SEO strategies, target different audiences, or even use the same keywords for distinct sections, optimizing your website’s visibility and relevance.

Subdomains help you structure your site for better on-site performance and user experience. And this can help improve load times, too.

Targets International Markets

With subdomains, the ability to target international markets becomes effortless. Each subdomain can be dedicated to a particular geographic region, allowing you to offer content in the native language and address region-specific preferences.

This level of customization enhances user experience and builds trust with international audiences.

Moreover, by optimizing subdomains for local search keywords and implementing region-specific SEO strategies, you can increase your visibility in global search engines, making it easier for potential customers worldwide to discover your offerings.

Inserts Keywords Into the URL

Keywords and SEO are inseparable. Associating your website with keywords matching your products or services boosts discoverability. Take Nike, for instance – their business name doesn’t reflect their offerings.

A subdomain URL will allow you to tie in keywords relevant to your site, which is a great opportunity to improve SEO rankings based on those keywords.

You can seamlessly integrate relevant keywords with a subdomain URL, supercharging your SEO rankings and visibility for those key terms.

Helps to Grow Authority in Niche Markets

Subdomains are often tailored for niche markets that the main website might overlook. This can be a strategic SEO move for businesses seeking to establish authority and capture traffic from these niches.

Imagine a tech company with a main site dedicated to smartphones branching out into smartwatches. A subdomain allows them to explore this new territory without diverting attention from their core smartphone offerings.

It also simplifies the task of ranking for smartwatch-related keywords on their main site, which primarily targets smartphones. Subdomains open doors to target niche keywords effectively.

Boosts Main Site Domain Authority

Domain authority (DA), a metric created by Moz, is a valuable tool to measure your site against competitors. DA scores range from 1 to 100, with higher scores indicating greater trust and typically higher rankings.

Subdomains, while separate, can enhance the main domain’s authority. Linking strategically between subdomains and the main root domain can enhance overall authority.

Additionally, they may rank for keywords for which the primary root domain doesn’t rank as strongly, further bolstering overall SEO performance.

Can Be Mobile-Friendly

Ensuring mobile-friendliness is a vital aspect of subdomain SEO. Search engines index and rank websites based on their mobile version. To adapt, many desktop-oriented websites have embraced mobile-friendly subdomains.

Subdomains can be made mobile-friendly by adopting responsive web design practices and optimizing the content and layout for various devices.

Here’s how subdomains can achieve mobile-friendliness:

  • Responsive Design: Implement responsive design principles to ensure that subdomains adapt seamlessly to different screen sizes, including mobile devices. This approach helps maintain a consistent user experience across platforms.
  • Mobile-Optimized Content: Customize content on subdomains for mobile users by simplifying text, optimizing images for faster loading, and ensuring that buttons and links are touch-friendly for mobile interaction.
  • Mobile Apps: If applicable, create mobile apps for subdomains to provide users with a dedicated, mobile-optimized experience. These apps can offer enhanced functionality and convenience for mobile visitors.
  • Testing and Optimization: Regularly test subdomains on various mobile devices and use tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to identify and address any mobile usability issues.
  • Fast Load Times: Prioritize fast loading times for subdomains on mobile devices. Minimize heavy graphics, utilize browser caching, and employ content delivery networks (CDNs) to improve load speeds.
  • Mobile SEO: Implement mobile SEO best practices, including optimizing titles, meta descriptions, and header tags for mobile search. Focus on providing a smooth and user-friendly mobile experience to enhance SEO rankings.

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What Are the Disadvantages of Subdomains in SEO?

When deciding whether to use a subdomain or a subdirectory, it’s essential to consider the potential downsides:

  • Separate SEO efforts: Search engines treat subdomains as independent entities, which means the time and effort you invest in your main domain won’t automatically benefit your subdomains. Crafting and implementing distinct SEO strategies for each subdomain becomes a necessity.
  • Link Building challenges: Any backlinks you’ve acquired for your primary site won’t contribute to your subdomains. When you create new subdomains, you’ll start from scratch in the quest for high-quality backlinks tailored to each subdomain’s unique needs.

Does Google Penalize Subdomains?

Unless you intentionally exclude them, Google will index and rank subdomains.

Further, Google does not penalize subdomains for duplicate content on international websites. Instead, it identifies identical pages and may index both but displays only one in search results.

Do Subdomains Help or Hurt SEO?

Subdomains have a dual nature – they can either help or hinder your efforts, depending on how they’re managed.

Ultimately, subdomains aren’t inherently detrimental to SEO; their impact hinges on how effectively they’re utilized within a comprehensive SEO strategy. Properly executed, they can be valuable tools for expanding your online presence, but if mismanaged, they might dilute your SEO efforts.

Best SEO Strategies for Subdomains

Your subdomains and primary domain function as distinct websites. This understanding shapes your entire subdomain SEO strategy. Inadequate planning can lead to duplicate content problems, internal competition, and a drop in valuable search engine traffic.

Thankfully, we have a clear plan to help you navigate this terrain step by step.

  1. Content Strategy

A subdomain should house unique, distinct content that differentiates it from the main domain. To ensure content integrity, conduct content audit and closely review on-page SEO and issue reports.

To mitigate common content duplications, like presenting a product for various regions, employ “rel=canonical” tags to indicate the preferred page. Additionally, interlink your new subdomain content with the main domain for coherence.

Another crucial aspect of your subdomain content strategy is targeting keywords unexplored by the main domain. Effective keyword research is key. Using a keyword suggestion tool can enrich your keyword arsenal with a wealth of high-potential terms.

  1. Backlink Strategy

Backlinks, or inbound or external links, are the links on one website that direct users to another. They play a pivotal role in the world of SEO.

Google considers backlinks as votes of confidence. When you link to another website, you vouch for its credibility and relevance. This is why pages boasting a plethora of backlinks tend to secure higher rankings on Google, especially when those backlinks originate from trusted and authoritative sources.

And remember that subdomains exist as distinct entities separate from your main domain. This necessitates the construction of a unique backlink profile to enhance the subdomain’s visibility and authority.

Backlinks accumulated by your main domain won’t contribute to the subdomain’s profile. Furthermore, mirroring your main domain’s backlink strategy may not suffice for subdomains, as their objectives often diverge.

Subdomains are typically crafted for independent projects or specific product categories, demanding backlinks from sources aligned with their unique themes.

Backlinks are crucial in subdomain SEO, akin to votes of confidence. However, it’s not just about quantity; quality matters. Prioritize links from authoritative referring domains that align with your content, and ensure they are search engine-friendly “follow” links to maximize their impact.

  1. Main/Root Domain and Subdomain Linking

Establishing connections between your main domain and subdomain can significantly bolster your primary website’s authority. Despite their separate existence, subdomains are inherently linked to the root domain, and this connection carries substantial SEO weight.

As previously mentioned, backlinks from authoritative and trusted websites hold considerable value. Google recognizes this synergy, where a subdomain with good authority links back to the main domain and vice versa.

This linkage facilitates the transfer of PageRank and link juice between the two, elevating their authority, enhancing overall visibility, and driving improved rankings in SERPs.

Beyond SEO benefits, interlinking your main domain and subdomain can also enhance user engagement and traffic. Visitors who find value in your subdomain content are more likely to explore the main domain, resulting in increased traffic and heightened engagement rates.

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Tech Nuances to Keep in Mind with Subdomain SEO

SEO tools like Google Search Console allow you to monitor indexing status, track search performance, and identify potential issues affecting your subdomains’ visibility in search results.

Let’s review those nuanced aspects of subdomain SEO, and explore how technical SEO can shape your subdomain visibility and user experience.

  • Distinct Robots.txt Files: Each subdomain should have its own robots.txt file. This file instructs search engine crawlers on what parts of your site they can or cannot crawl.
  • Separate XML Sitemaps: Ensure you have separate XML sitemaps for each subdomain. These maps guide search engines to the content on each subdomain, making indexing more efficient.
  • Canonical Tags: Implement canonical tags when necessary. They indicate the preferred version of a page if you have similar content on both the main domain and subdomain.
  • Hreflang Tags: If targeting international audiences, use hreflang tags to specify language and regional targeting for your subdomains. This helps search engines deliver the right content to the right users.
  • SSL Certificates: Secure your subdomains with SSL certificates to boost user trust and gain ranking advantages.
  • Page Speed Optimization: Optimize the loading speed of your subdomain pages. Search engines favor faster-loading pages and provide a better user experience. Most marketers indicate that a good desktop page load time is under two seconds.
  • Mobile Responsiveness: A mobile-responsive website adapts its content to match the device it’s viewed on. Typically, website layouts and designs are initially crafted for desktop users. Ensure that subdomains are mobile-responsive, as Google places high importance on mobile usability.

What Is Better for SEO – Subdomain or Subdirectory?

It depends. Choosing between a subdomain and a subdirectory for SEO hinges on your specific goals.

  • Subdomain (e.g., blog.yourdomain.com): Ideal for creating entirely separate entities or when content drastically differs from the main site. Offers flexibility but may dilute the authority of your domain.
  • Subdirectory (e.g., yourdomain.com/blog/): Great for integrating content within the main site’s structure. Preserves the authority but requires careful content organization.

In summary, use subdomains for distinct, unrelated content and subdirectories for content closely related to your main domain to maximize SEO benefits.

Final Word: Mastering Google SEO with Subdomains

When it comes to SEO for subdomains, the right choice depends on your unique goals. Making informed decisions about subdomains and their impact on the root domain is crucial for successful strategies and the resulting SEO implications.

So, make an informed decision and unlock the full potential of subdomains for your SEO endeavors.

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Next Steps: What Now?

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you do SEO for subdomains?

Yes, you can perform SEO for subdomains. Creating subdomains is a smart strategy to organize diverse content effectively.

Whether it’s for different topics or product categories, subdomains can enhance the user experience and help your website rank better. Subdomains are a valuable tool for SEO.

Why are subdomains bad for SEO?

Subdomains can be detrimental for SEO when they dilute efforts across multiple sites. Managing an unnecessary subdomain may require double the resources, like links and content, to achieve comparable results as a single domain.

This issue worsens, particularly when a blog is hosted on a subdomain, potentially hampering overall SEO performance. It is a best practice to avoid developing a blog subdomain.

Are subdomains good for SEO?

Subdomains can boost SEO when utilized strategically for diverse or unrelated content. However, subdirectories are preferable when aiming to strengthen your main site’s SEO by integrating high-quality on-site content seamlessly.

The choice depends on your specific goals and content structure.

Can subdomains impact the domain authority of the main domain?

Subdomains are typically treated as separate entities, but their performance can indirectly impact the main domain’s overall authority. If subdomains accumulate high-quality backlinks and provide valuable content, it can positively contribute to the main domain’s reputation and improve its DA over time. However, subdomains and the main domain are distinct, each with its own DA score.

What is the difference between a subdomain and a second-level domain?

The second-level domain is the main part of a website’s address (e.g., example.com). It represents the primary domain name and is often associated with the website’s brand, organization, or purpose. Second-level domains are unique and serve as the foundation for the entire website.

What is a separate subdomain?

A separate subdomain is a distinct section or subset of a website, set apart from the main domain and other subdomains. It is used to organize content, services, or functionalities within a website, often with its own unique URL prefix.

Separate subdomains are valuable for categorizing and structuring content while maintaining a clear separation from other parts of the site.

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