Written by Maria S.
Table of contents
- 1 What is a subdomain, and what is a subdirectory or subfolder?
- 2 The advantages of hosting a blog in a subdirectory
- 3 Is migrating a blog from a subdomain to a subfolder worth it?
- 4 Exceptions: when is it better to host your blog in a subdomain?
- 5 Why hosting a blog in a subdomain used to be recommended
We have often spoken about the advantages of having a blog on our website to show our company’s human side. However, once we’ve finally decided to take this step and create a blog on our site, already aware of the great advantages this strategy has, we are faced with the dilemma: “Should I host my blog in a subdomain or a subdirectory?“. This debate has been going on forever on the Internet, and a lot of ink –or kilobytes, more like– have been used up to provide arguments for and against each option. On this occasion, Human Level would like to put in our two cents on why we think that, in terms of SEO, a subfolder is a better choice for hosting a blog.
What is a subdomain, and what is a subdirectory or subfolder?
Before stating the pros and cons, let’s clear up some concepts to know exactly what we are talking about:
- Domain: a root domain is the name you use to register a TLD extension, for example, humanlevel.com
- Subdomain: subdomains are created for free and are based on the root of a domain, for example blog.humanlevel.com.
- Subdirectory: subdirectories are created as nested subfolders on the domain’s main URL address, for example humanlevel.com/blog/
For Google, subdomains function as independent domains in terms of rankings, so the SEO strategy should be carried out separately. The root domain neither benefits from nor is hurt by the subdomain’s SEO strategy.
In fact, a subdomain could be hosted on a different server from that of the main domain. We’ll later see how this is the main advantage of hosting a blog in a subdomain, because it allows for a better security control.
The advantages of hosting a blog in a subdirectory
If we strictly conform to SEO criteria, we can find many advantages to hosting a blog in a subfolder or subdomain. We are going to enumerate each and explain the advantages of going this way.
Increase the number of pages on your site:
For small or medium-sized websites, hosting a blog in a subfolder helps to have more pages than it normally would have if we kept this content on a subdomain.
Let’s look at it in the scenario of a website belonging to a freelance professional, like a lawyer or a psychologist. Their websites usually aren’t very big, rarely surpassing a hundred pages (home, contact us, about us, and a bunch of services). If you regularly publish content in a blog, for instance, once a week, in a year you will have approximately 48 new URLs, plus category and/or tag pages, all of which will belong to your main website and will give it more weight.
Pages with quality content:
On websites with many lists, namely, a directory, we find tons of thin content. Or, as explained by Matt Cutts himself, content with little or no added value. In most instances, we will have pages composed of lists of links. In these cases, a blog can turn out to be very good way to improve the overall quality of a website with pages with original and valuable content.
A blog hosted within a subfolder has the support of the authority gained by a domain over time, and a blog’s new URLs benefit from the strength of a domain they belong to. In most cases, we will be faced with the scenario of the main website being stronger, given its long record, and so it will be more beneficial to create a blog in a subfolder that will be able to take advantage of such positive metrics, than in a subdomain starting from scratch.
When using subfolders belonging to a website, the authority is transmitted automatically.
You will find posts defending the idea that subdomains also benefit from the root domain’s authority. Sometimes, it is indeed true, but it doesn’t always happen this way, as Rand Fishkin points out in his Moz blog entry.
On the other hand, we can create content focussed on working our long tail terms, which will not only rank on their own merit, but will also contribute by boosting relevance of corporate pages thematically linked to our posts. In this sense, it will be important to correctly interlink this content:
- We can list the latest posts published in our blog at the bottom of our corporate pages. These blog posts should be thematically related to the pages they are going to be linked from. This is something that will help to maintain content that is “fresh” on pages that would otherwise be more likely static.
- Within our blog posts, we will include links with relevant anchor texts that will direct to corporate pages of the website.
All of this will contribute to a varied content cluster, and will connect our blog to our various products or services.
We’ll be telling Google that a corporate page is relevant because it is linked from other URLs with anchor texts matching our keywords.
We should also keep in mind that it is much more likely that we will get links to our blog pages, than to a service page or a product sheet. For that reason, blogs are such a great content marketing tool, as they can be a wonderful source of natural backlinks. When we publish content-rich articles, with useful and high-quality information for our users, we will obtain external links and mentions on social media.
Blog articles receive natural links more easily than commercial pages.
Is migrating a blog from a subdomain to a subfolder worth it?
To answer this question, first we need to ask ourselves: what are we writing in a blog for? and what is its purpose?
Most corporate blogs are used as an inbound marketing tool. In very simple terms, we could explain this strategy as follows:
- A blog is great at attracting traffic to the website.
- It also works as an online reputation tool, as quality posts can put us forth as an authority in our field.
- A portion of visitors landing on our blog could eventually end up converting, whether it’s a contact request, a purchase, or any other type of conversion.
In these cases, the blog’s purpose is subject to the website’s main function. This means that the blog doesn’t serve a purpose in and of itself, being there just to support the main site. Thus, it doesn’t make much sense to host it in a subdomain, as it doesn’t require this separation. In a subfolder, however, as we’ve mentioned before, it could benefit the main website’s SEO.
If we want our website to benefit from our blog’s SEO efforts, it should be hosted in a subfolder, and if it’s currently in a subdomain, it will be worth to migrate it.
Exceptions: when is it better to host your blog in a subdomain?
As with everything in online marketing, we will always encounter exceptions, and so it’s always best to evaluate each case in detail. For that reason, we would like to explore in this post a few circumstances in which we might choose to create and maintain a blog in a subdomain:
- The blog is already in a subdomain and it attracts a lot of traffic: any migration, even if carried out correctly, can lead to a temporary loss of SEO rankings, and subsequent loss of organic traffic. Thus, if the blog is already working, and it’s doing well (it attracts traffic and drives users to our main website), it might be best to keep things as they are.
- The blog’s subject is quite different from our website’s: we occasionally encounter content strategies that differ greatly from the company website’s main topic. Without delving too deeply into this issue, sometimes including this sort of posts under the main domain can disperse our website’s content. Earlier we observed how the content of our blog can strengthen our site’s relevance, but if we talk about very different topics, this relevance might suffer, because Google would no longer see us as an authority regarding a specific subject, but a website about X, Y and Z.
A subdomain can be a good option if the content we want to host in it is entirely different from our website’s main subject matter.
Why hosting a blog in a subdomain used to be recommended
Many of you will say “Alright, but I’ve heard that it is better to have your blog in a subdomain”. Well, then, let’s see. There are a couple of reasons why hosting a blog in a subdomain used to be recommended (and notice the ‘used to‘, because this is now mostly in the past). One of the reasons is obsolete, and the other one retains its validity and can still be considered.
- Blog as a source of links: some years ago, the blog used to be hosted in a subdomain as a way of “plugging in” a bunch of links to the main website, for link building. This technique is no longer effective, because, even though Google still thinks links are valuable, it doesn’t take into account the quantity of links from one domain as much, focussing instead on the links’ various origins. The value of many links from the same domain is decreasing: Google may consider important the first link, but from there on it won’t matter whether it’s just one link or a thousand.
- The blog is hosted on another server for additional security purposes: this is the main advantage of hosting a blog in a subdomain. It allows you to store it on a different server, so if the blog’s security is tampered with, the website, hosted on another server, won’t be affected by this issue.
As you can see, one of these reasons doesn’t impact whatsoever whether a blog should be hosted in a subdomain, and the other one, albeit correct, doesn’t justify the subdomain option on its own. Although security is an important factor when deciding where our blog should be hosted, we must evaluate all pros and cons together, and determine what suits us best based on our priorities.
In general, we usually recommend hosting the blog in a subdirectory because it positively influences SEO, although it’s always best to study the given circumstances of each particular case.