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Not my subdomain: when should your website use a subfolder instead?

We know what you’re probably thinking: “What’s the difference between a subdomain and a subfolder?” The two might have similar – even interchangeable-sounding – names, but can have different implications for how successfully you optimise your website for search engines.

Subdomains and subfolders both present convenient means of organising your site into distinct, individual segments easy for visitors to sort through. However, whether you ought to opt for subdomains or subfolders will likely depend on your site’s particular needs.

What exactly differentiates subdomains from subfolders?

You probably already instinctively know what subfolders are, since they are prominent across a wide range of URLs. It might be helpful for you think of a website’s main address – its domain – as a filing cabinet, where the folders contained within constitute the site’s subfolders.

Each subfolder corresponds to a separate webpage; so, if a plumbing company near you has something like www.randomplumbing.co.uk as a domain, it could also have subfolders – pages – each covering a different service it offers; think www.randomplumbing.co.uk/bathrooms.  

A subdomain, by contrast, actually appears before the main domain. Therefore, if the plumbing company just mentioned chose to use a subdomain instead of the example subfolder, the resulting address would be bathrooms.randomplumbing.co.uk

So, is it just a matter of preference which option you should use?

Not quite. It’s true that subdomains and subfolders are both content repositories that would allow you to easily divide content into suitable, separate categories on your website. However, your choice can ultimately affect how Google’s web crawlers scan your website and its keywords.

Of course, since web users are thoroughly accustomed to seeing subfolders, why shouldn’t you just use them? There’s nothing stopping you. Indeed, they would make it easier for your site’s visitors to navigate through its various pages and, therefore, reach a final decision as to what – or if – to buy.

Furthermore, adding new subfolders is a pretty straightforward process that would let you easily add more content and, in the process, attract more SEO authority to your site. However, there’s a flipside here: the more pages you add, the more that authority could become diluted between them.

Why a subdomain isn’t necessarily a substandard solution

Our Darlington-based web marketing team can source your website a memorable domain name in any of many extensions – including well-known choices like .com and co.uk as well as more obscure alternatives like .org.uk, .me.uk and .ltd.uk.

We can also help you to register several subdomains, which search engines would treat as unrelated to your main domain – rather than part of it, as would be the case with subfolders. Consequently, you can amass more search listings taking up places that could have otherwise went to your rivals.

However, as using subdomains can weaken your site’s link profile, you should probably stick to using subfolders unless you have a good incentive to use subdomains in their place – for example, because you want each section of your site to rank for different keywords. We can help you to make a final decision if you phone our team on 01325 582112. 

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