Written by María Santoja
- What is a subdomain and what is a subdirectory or folder?
- Advantages of hosting the blog in a subdirectory
- Increase the number of web pages:
- Pages with quality content:
- Authority and age of the domain:
- The blog integrated in a folder takes advantage of the authority earned by the domain over time, and new blog URLs benefit from the strength of the domain they depend on. In most cases we will find a scenario in which the main website will be stronger, given its track record, so in these cases it will be more interesting to create the blog in a folder that receives these positive metrics, than in a subdomain in which we start from scratch.
- Improved relevance:
- Improved popularity:
- Is it worth migrating the blog from a subdomain to a folder?
- Exceptions: when is it worth having the blog on a subdomain?
- Why was it previously recommended to have the blog on a subdomain?
On several occasions we have talked about the advantages of having a blog to achieve a more human communication on the part of the company. However, once we have decided to launch a blog on our website, knowing the great advantages of this strategy, a question arises: “Should I host the blog on a subdomain or a subdirectory? Rivers of ink, or rather Kbs, have flowed on the net with arguments for and against each of the options. On this occasion from Human Level we are going to explain the reasons why we consider that, in SEO terms, it is better to host the blog in a folder.
What is a subdomain and what is a subdirectory or folder?
Before presenting the arguments for and against each solution, let’s clarify some concepts to know exactly what we are talking about:
- Domain: a root domain is the name you register with a TLD extension, for example humanlevel.com.
- Subdomain: subdomains are created free of charge based on the root of a domain, for example blog.humanlevel.com.
- Subdirectory: subdirectories are created as nested folders in the main domain address, e.g. humanlevel.com/blog/.
For Google, subdomains work as if they were independent domains for positioning purposes, so the SEO strategy should be executed separately. The root domain neither benefits nor suffers from the SEO of the subdomain.
In fact, a subdomain could be hosted on a different server than the main domain. As we will see later, this is the main advantage of hosting the blog on the subdomain as it allows for greater security control.
Advantages of hosting the blog in a subdirectory
If we stick to SEO criteria, we find many advantages in hosting the blog in a folder or subdirectory. We will list each of these and explain the benefits of following this path.
Increase the number of web pages:
For small to medium sized websites hosting the blog in a folder allows the site to have many more pages than it would have if we separated this content into a subdomain.
Let’s take the case of a website of a liberal professional such as a psychologist or a lawyer. These sites are usually not very large, as they have a small number of pages, rarely more than a hundred (the home page, the contact page, an “about me” page and a handful of service pages). If the blog is being published on a regular basis, for example one post a week, in a year we will have 48 new URLs (plus category and/or tag pages) that will be part of the main website and will make it carry more weight.
Pages with quality content:
On websites with many listings, such as a directory, we find a lot of thin content or content that provides little or no value(in the words of Matt Cuts himself). Mostly we will have pages that are made up of link listings. In this type of websites the blog can be a very good way to improve the overall quality of the site with pages with a lot of original and valuable content.
Authority and age of the domain:
When using folders that are part of the site, the authority is transmitted automatically.
You will find articles defending the idea that subdomains also benefit from the authority of the root domain. This is sometimes the case, but not always, as Rand Fishkin notes on the Moz blog.
On the other hand, the blog can be used to create content focused on working long tail terms, which will not only serve to position themselves, but will also give greater relevance to corporate pages thematically related to these articles. In this sense, it will be important to make a correct interlinking between these contents:
- At the bottom of the corporate pages you can list the latest posts related to the topic (which, by the way, keeps the content of pages that would normally be static “fresh”).
- Within the content of the articles we will include links with relevant anchor text pointing to the corporate pages.
In this way we will be reinforcing the cluster of contents linked to the different thematic areas of the products or services.
We are telling Google that corporate page X is relevant because it is linked to from other URLs with keyword matching anchor text.
In addition, we should keep in mind that we are much more likely to receive external links to blog article pages than to product or service pages. For that reason the blog, if you follow a good content marketing strategy, can be a very good source of natural links. By publishing articles rich in content, of very good quality and useful for users, we will start to receive external links and mentions in social networks.
Blog articles receive natural links more easily than commercial pages.
Is it worth migrating the blog from a subdomain to a folder?
To answer this question, the first thing we should do is ask ourselves, why are we writing in a blog, what is its function?
Most corporate blogs are used as an inbound marketing tool. In very general terms, we could simplify this strategy as follows:
- The blog serves to attract traffic to the website.
- It works as a reputation tool, and through quality articles presents us as an authority in our sector.
- Some of the traffic that comes to the blog may end up making a conversion, be it a contact request, a sale or something else.
In these cases the function of the blog is subordinate to the main function of the website. In other words, the blog does not make sense on its own, but works to benefit the main site. Therefore, it would not make sense to host it in a subdomain because it does not need that separation, and on the other hand, as we have explained, it could favor the main website in terms of natural positioning.
If we want our website to benefit in SEO terms from the work of the blog, it should be in a subdirectory, and if it is in a subdomain, it might be worth migrating it.
Exceptions: when is it worth having the blog on a subdomain?
However, as with almost everything in online marketing, there are always exceptions, so it is best to analyze each case in detail. For this reason, we also want to explain some of the circumstances in which we could decide to create or maintain the blog on a subdomain:
- The blog already operates on a subdomain, and attracts a lot of traffic: any migration, even if done well, can lead to a temporary drop in natural positioning and therefore in organic traffic. Therefore, if the blog already works, and it works well (it attracts traffic and we manage to refer it to the main website), it may be worthwhile to leave it as it is.
- Thematically, the blog is far away from the content of the web: sometimes we find content strategies that are far away from the main theme of the corporate website. Without going into this type of strategies, the truth is that including this type of articles under the main domain can disperse the content of the web. If we mentioned earlier that blog content can reinforce the relevance of the main site, dealing with very different topics can dilute that relevance, since Google no longer sees us as an authority on X topic, but as a portal in which we talk about X, Z and Y.
A subdomain could be a good solution if we want to host content that is completely different from the main website.
Why was it previously recommended to have the blog on a subdomain?
Many of you will tell me “Yes, but I’ve heard that it’s better to have the blog on a subdomain”. Well, there are a couple of reasons why it used to be recommended to host your blog on a subdomain (and I say “used to”, because it was mostly recommended in the past). One of the reasons is outdated, and the other is still valid as one of the points to consider:
- The blog as a source of links: a few years ago the blog was hosted on a subdomain with the intention of “plugging” many links to the main site, and thus improve the popularity. This no longer works because, although Google values links, it does not take into account the number of links coming from a single domain, but rather the variety of link origins. The value of links from the same domain is decreasing: Google will give a certain value to the first link, but from then on it will not be so decisive whether it is a single link or 1,000.
- The blog hosted on another server, for security: as we have already pointed out, this is the main advantage of using a subdomain. Hosting the blog on a subdomain allows you to have it on another server, and therefore if it suffers a security breach, the web, hosted on a different server would not be affected.
As we can see, one of the reasons is not at all significant in determining to host the blog on a subdomain, and the other, although correct, may not carry weight on its own. Although security is an important criterion when evaluating where to host the blog, we must weigh all the points as a whole, including the SEO advantages that we have exposed, and determine that it compensates us more according to our priorities.
In general terms we usually recommend hosting the blog in a subdirectory given its positive impact on the SEO strategy, although it is always advisable to study the particular circumstances of each case.