One of the worst ways to shoot your organic growth in the foot and make your marketing team’s job twice as hard (Literally), is by adding your blog, faq or help section on a sub domain.
On average, if your blog or other content rich section on your site is currently on a subdomain, you are losing an additional 30% of business on average.
At least in my experience.
What is a Subdomain?
A site address (URL) like the following is referred to as the main domain: mysite.com
If you have a site that has the following URL: whatever.mysite.com
That is referred to as a subdomain.
- help.yoursite.com and so on . . .
If you have any sections that you plan to grow on a regular basis (By adding content), do not create a subdomain for them.
To make matters worst, I have recently come across sites that actually have their main site on a subdomain like:
This is one of the worst of all SEO crimes.
Although there are some rare situations where having a subdomain can actually work for you, 99.9% of startups or websites in the entire universe don’t need them at all.
As far as SEO is concerned, sub domains should be avoided like the plague.
Why Subdomains Are A Horrible Idea
Let’s see what Moz’s founder (Considered one of the highest authority on SEO) said about subdomains after they moved their own subdomain (guides.moz.com) to a sub-folder(moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo).
PLEASE NOTE: This specific MOZ’s page ranks on the first page on Google.com (US) for the keyword “SEO” by the way.
That says something doesn’t it?
Anyways, let’s get to it . . .
A blog hosted on a subfolder will take your entire site’s organic traffic to the next level.
- Pinshape.com: 500% growth in just 7 months.
- Private Client (SAAS): After moving the blog from a subdomain to a subfolder,bwe surpassed 4 million in sales in just 4 months.
As you can see, a simple change can drastically improve your organic traffic situation. I’m not saying moving your blog to a subdomain will solve all your traffic woes (You do have to run a site audit and fix any other immediate issues) but this move will finally set your site up for real organic growth.
Now the question is, why having subdomains is a horrible idea?
Well there are three ways in which subdomains kill your traffic and especially your future organic growth.
- Subdomains don’t pass link juice to your main domain.
- Doubles your marketing while diminishing your results.
- Lots of popular resources and blogs refuse to link to subdomains.
1. No Link Juice = No Rankings
To understand this, first we need to look at how Google ranks a site.
Google likes sites that have awesome content and links from other sites.
Of course SEO is a process that is much more complicated but in a nutshell, that’s exactly what it is.
When someone links to your site, it passes off something called ‘link juice’ on to your site.
Few years ago, Subdomains did pass on link juice to the main domain but then something happened . . .
When people figured out that subdomains would pass on link juice, they started creating hundreds and thousands of subdomains and starting linking to their main site.
All in an attempt to the ‘game’ Google and create their own ‘Link Popularity’ or ‘Link Juice’.
Did it work?
Boy howdy it worked like gang busters!
However, like all newly discovered SEO strategy that works, many people started abusing this technique and when Google’s search results started getting thrown off, Google finally decided to put it’s foot down. Eventually, this fund ride was over and Google labelled this technique as ‘subdomain spamming’.
This is also when Google stopped passing link juice from subdomains to main domains hence making them completely separate from each other.
So even if you get a link from Forbes that is pointing to your subdomain, and you decide to link to your main domain from that exact subdomain, it won’t effect your rankings one bit.
That specific subdomain (Your blog) might get a boost but guess what?
Nothing changes on your main domain.
So now you have to worry about marketing two sites instead of one.
This leads into my second point:
2. Subdomains Double Your Marketing Budget / Work.
Since Google sees subdomains as completely separate and they don’t pass off any link juice, you would now have to promote your blog (blog.yoursite.com) and your main domain as well.
You would literally have to do double the work.
Which means you not only have to add content and get backlinks for your main site but also your blog as well.
Not a very smart way to do SEO if you ask me.
Getting quality links is already hard enough but when you have to do it for two sites, it gets annoying real fast.
3. Most Sites DON’T Link To Subdomains
Now a lot of people don’t know this but just by having your blog on a subdomain, you are drastically cutting down a lot of possible future link building opportunities.
If you do any kind of link building yourself, you know that most sites don’t link to subdomains.
That’s why you hardly see any blogger.com or Tumblr.com links in quality directories or even in guest post opportunities.
Here is an example of such a directory’s terms and conditions:
Having multiple links from one specific domain (Even subdomains) looks spammy and it’s just a bad user experience, so I understand why these directory owners don’t like that.
So now you are not only wasting extra time finding someone to link to your subdomains, but most sites won’t even link back to you in the first place.
What a horrible waste of effort and time eh?
Anyways, enough of the bad stuff.
Now let’s focus on how moving your blog, faq or help section to a subfolder will dramatically increase your traffic.
Subdomain vs Subdirectory – Why Hosting Your Blog On A SubFolder Works?
When you place your blog on a subfolder, it naturally becomes part of your site.
Just a simple extension.
Nothing too complicated for Google to crawl or rank.
Which looks more organic to you anyways?
blog.mysite.com or mysite.com/blog
Plus now when anyone links to your blog, the ‘link juice’ is spread throughout the entire site (Including your main domain) and vice versa.
Once this move is made, it’s time to take over your niche.
All you have to do is keep adding quality content and backlinks.
As you may have gathered, subfolders always outperform subdomains.
I would like to take this to the next level and share with you exactly why this happens.
Google considers sub-domains completely separate from the main domain.
Especially from a technical SEO point of view.
They might call it “Sub” domain but there is nothing “sub” about it.
If you have a link coming in from one of your sub-domains (blog.yoursite.com) pointing to yoursite.com, it’s equivalent of having a link from a third party.
The worst part is at least from a third party, you can still get the link juice but not from your own domain.
There is a historical reason for this which I discuss later.
The proper way is to have everything under one domain.
Two things happen when you put everything under one domain:
- Link juice is spread throughout the site.
- It makes it really easy and therefore efficient for Google to crawl your site.
Many years ago, subdomains actually did pass off decent amount of link juice.
When webmasters found out about it, they naturally started abusing this technique to manipulate the search engines.
Soon thousands of webmasters were creating thousands of subdomains and pointing them to their main site. It worked like gangbusters and actually became a very successful way of manipulating the search engines and get top 10 rankings.
Eventually, when Google users started seeing crappy results showing up for their search terms and started complaining, the Google team eventually figured it all out and put a stop to it.
They soon adjusted their algorithm and this was the end of what became known as “subdomain spamming”.
One of the first things that I always recommend is moving everything to a subfolder (At least as much as possible).
In fact, we won’t be working together if you don’t because frankly, you won’t get any real results.
Why waste each other’s time right?
So whether it’s your blog (blog.yoursite.com), your shopping cart (shop.yoursite.com), your help section (faq.yoursite.com) or anything that plays a role in helping the user ‘convert’, it must be hosted on a subdirectory (Subfolder).
It’s just the right way of doing things.
Also think about it for a second . . . doesn’t having everything under one umbrella makes more sense?
Wouldn’t it create a more aligned and therefore overall better user experience?
When everything is under one roof, the user will naturally feel more confident and most importantly, less “confused” as they hang out on your site, clicking away from one page to another.
Imagine someone lands on yoursite.com. They select a product that you are selling and then click the ‘add to cart’ button. Next thing you know, they are on an entirely different domain like shop.yoursite.com.
Wouldn’t that be a confusing experience?
For the less technically inclined, they could easily take this as a possible redflag and most likely, immediately abandon your shopping cart.
It’s probably happening to you right now and that’s why your sales aren’t what they could be.
Don’t Expect To Rank High With Subdomains
Unless you are Microsoft, Apple or a massive household worldwide brand (You won’t need SEO at this point anyways), don’t expect to dominate or let alone rank for high volume or niche leading keywords in your market.
When you separate your own sites, your link juice doesn’t get distributed properly either. A link from Forbes or Huffington post to your shopping cart at shop.mysite.com isn’t going to benefit your main site at all.
It’s just a sad waste of a high quality link. I’ve seen this specific scenario way too many times.
No link juice = no results.
Get Real Results
When I started working with Pinshape (World’s leading 3D printing marketplace), their traffic was pretty much plateaued. After running it through my various checks and analyzing the site, one of the first initial moves I made was getting rid of their blog.pinshape.com subdomain and redirecting it to pinshape.com/blog (We used 301 redirects on all previous links).
As soon as Google re-indexed this entire move, all our traffic went up (Currently ranking on the first page for the keyword 3D Scanner on Google.com and .ca). Best part is you see the results fairly quickly too.
All in a matter of just a few weeks.
I did the same thing for another client right after that and in less that 90 days, they started ranking for ‘3D printer’. A massive keyword and their overall traffic went up.
In fact check out the entire case study here.
Of course other factors were at play here as well and it truly depends on your site’s current situation but getting rid of the subdomains played a key role.
No doubt about it.
So at the end of the day, if your are getting traffic but your sales are less than satisfactory, your site architecture might be holding your progress back.
Even if you have incredible content, tons of regular PR and quality backlinks, you site must be easy to navigate for Googlebot (Google’s algorithm) as well.
Or you are literally wasting all your time and effort.
As I always say, “If Google can’t crawl you, it just won’t rank you”.
Removing subdomains and consolidating your link juice is a great way of setting up your site for long term organic success.
Once such moves are completed, than you can fully concentrate on the growth of the site with content, link building and by utilizing any other opportunities that may pop up.
It is truly as simple as that.
What about sites like Hubspot, Kissmetrics and other established digital marketing sites? Why is their blog on a subdomain?
These are companies that started years ago. They are more like household brands so whether they host their blog on a subdomain or not, it won’t effect their bottom line.
However, if they ever do make the switch, they will definitely notice a dramatic increase in their online traffic.
What about all these helpdesk services like Zendesk, etc? Should I abandon them?
Only use these services for what they are built for and that is to submit support related tickets. That’s it.
Do not add any additional content here.
Add all the FAQ related section on a subfolder (mainsite.com/faq).
If you can avoid using helpdesk software that is hosted on subdomains, that would be the ideal situation.
In addition, add a nofollow tag on your menu bar or anywhere where it links out to your subdomains. This will keep the link juice intact on your main domain.
Should I use subdomains for international sections? I currently provide service to foreign markets like germany.mysite.com and france.mysite.com. Is this a good idea?
No. To add international sections, you can move them to a subfolder. For Germany, it should be mysite.com/de and for France it’s suppose to mysite.com/FR
Basically, use the same country code as Google does as a subfolder.
Also keep all that content even if it’s in a foreign language on one main domain. Google can decipher what language a certain kind of text is in. Avoid using HREFLANG tags too.
If you don’t use them properly, like most people who try to implement them, you will confuse the living daylights out of Google and you won’t rank for anything in your niche (Maybe just for branded keywords).
When should I use subdomains?
The ideal situation would be never but if you must, only use subdomains to host members only content.
There is literally no other use for using subdomains. I hope Google gets rid of them soon. My prediction is they will.