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What Are Subdomains and How do They Affect Search Engine Optimization? The Facts.


By Ivana (Ivy) Gutierrez, June 23, 2012

Subdomains are a smaller part of a larger domain. The Domain Name System (DNS) is all about hierarchy. Everything starts with a Top Level Domain (TLD) like .com, .org, .net, or, in our case, .me. After that, we have the next step in domain names, like google.com, facebook.com, or for us, domain.me. After that, we start with subdomains, like calendar.google.com, plus.google.com, or blog.yourwebsite.me. So now you know…

People occasionally refer to subdomains as third-level domains. The logic behind this is that .me is first-level domain, yourwebsite.me is second level-domain and blog.yourwebsite.me becomes third-level domain.

How to Use Subdomains

Server Cluster

One can use subdomains as hostnames, or a service provided by a number of machines in a cluster. You will find some websites that use different subdomains to point to different server clusters. For example, www.yourwebsite.com can point to one server cluster (or data canter), but you might also have www2.yourdomain.me that points to a second server cluster or a second datacenter.

Machine Names

Website Forbegginers.info explains another potential use of subdomains:

“Subdomains are sometimes used to identify individual computers, each having an IP address of its own. In that case, the term “machine name” is sometimes used instead of “subdomain”.

A company could have two servers called “marketing.somefirm.com” and “accounting.somefirm.com”, for example. The two computers would serve different departments, and contain different information.”

Subfolders

Instead of organizing your website with subdomains, you might opt to use subfolders. What’s the difference? Your links will be blog.yourwebsite.me if you are using subdomains or www.youwebsite.me/blog if you are using subfolders.

If you opt to use subdomains, your visitors will still be able to reach the subdomain by typing www.yourwebsite.me/blog, but they will automatically be redirected to the subdomain.

So, Which One Should You Use?

This is a difficult question and there is no definite answer. It all depends on your website and the content you use. You can find a great explanation of the advantages and disadvantages of both uses at  Whitefireseo.com. They talked to Alan Bleiweiss and he explaned the main differences between subdomains and subfolder with SEO (Search Engine Optimization):

“[I]f you have limited resources for ongoing SEO, it’s usually better to stick with subfolders.  The ability to consistently provide new content and drive links across a generalized self-contained domain usually requires less effort. This is because every quality page in every subfolder adds to the reater good.  Where this becomes less true is when you try to go too wide with high level related topics, or intent.

(…)

Subdomains, when properly optimized, and provided with ongoing efforts, can, by nature, receive more ranking value simply because they have a much tighter topical focus than a site that spreads itself out over many topics. This is counter-weighed by the fact that a self-contained domain gets its highest topical focus value boosted by adding more highly related content within the site, especially as those additional areas/sections of the site themselves get a boost.”

Have you used subdomains before?


Author:

Ivana (Ivy) Gutierrez

Our Executive Editor Ivy is a graduate student at University of Zagreb where she is studying Communicology and Journalism. She is interested in PR and all things digital. More information is available on her website Ivy's ink drops.

More posts by this author

9 responses to “What Are Subdomains and How do They Affect Search Engine Optimization? The Facts.”

  1. i think for big size sub website, you should opt for subdomain and for low size a subfolder is ok.

  2. Since Google released Panda and Penguin there seems to be a confirmed benefit to using a subdomain as it allows you to get a primary keyword at the beginning of your URL. The downside is that it requires more effort to link to and promote a sub domain which is akin to a separate site in Googles eyes. A case of horses for courses, thats very dependent on the time and resources you are prepared to throw at your project.

  3. avatar viorel says:

    Checkout this great website. Great pictures from different places

  4. http://www.m.jecams.com.ph is my subdomain site.. what can i do to optimized it?

  5. avatar gracemary says:

    SEO experts advise that if you want to create another site with a different topic, better use a sub-domain than buying a new domain.

  6. avatar Oluseye says:

    Ok.. Now I getit. I have being mixing up subdomains to be “creating a fresh domain UNDER the primary one”… http://www.nawesabi.com is my domain (U might wanna check it out).. hello .nawesabi. com could be a subdomain then. Now I get

  7. avatar Zahid Naqvi says:

    Can we use TLDs as our websites sub-domains? Is there any restrictions in using .gov or .edu ect or any other such top level domain names extension as sub-domain of our site? Plz guide me if there is any restriction in ICANN or in any law or in google or panda algorithm ect. Plz guide me. Thanks

    • avatar Sanja Gardasevic says:

      Hi Zahid,

      It is certainly possible to use subdomains for your site, but there may be some restrictions depending on a TLD. When it comes to .ME, there are few. You can get a co.me, net.me, org.me, its.me or priv.me only if you are a citizen or a legal entity based in Montenegro and you can register them only with ME-net (local domain registrar). So there may be some limitations, but it’s certainly possible. But you may also register a second level .ME domain (e.g. zahid1.me) and create your own subdomains (e.g. thisis.zahid1.me). I hope this answers your question!

      Best,
      Sanja

  8. avatar Valeria says:

    Great Summary Ivana,

    Most webmasters will have to face this topic when they consider how to structuring multilingual content or geo targeting. For example, whether to use a a subdomain or a subfolder for a specific language like French or locations like Houston.

    The general consensus is that using a sub domain is useful from a use perspective as they can identify the Geo Targeting of the website. However, from an SEO perspective, using subdomains can be disadvantageous as link juice is spread across different sub domains. This is especially true if you have duplicate content in your Houston sub-domain as you do with your Atlanta sub-domain.

    When it comes to structuring Multilingual content, we have covered the pros and cons (as well as country TLDs) in our blog:

    https://scrybs.com/blog/tld-subdomain-subfolder-multilingual-content/

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