post cover

Hosting your Blog on a Subdomain vs Subdirectory - What’s Better for SEO?

How does hosting your blog on a subdomain vs subdirectory impact SEO?

author profile

Shahrain K M

Nov 18 2021

8 mins read

You want your website to rank on Google. You've got a fantastic blog with high-quality content published every week. But someone told you that there’s a difference between hosting your blog on a subdomain and a subdirectory. Both types of hosting impact your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and how you rank on Google differently. This article tells you everything you need to know to make the right decision for your blog. 


What is the Difference Between Subdomain and Subdirectory? 

Subdomain: blog.acme.com

Subdirectory: acme.com/blog


What is a Subdomain?

A domain is the internet address that signifies the location of a website. For example, letterdrop.com is the domain name for Letterdrop’s website.

A subdomain is just a domain that's a child of another parent domain. api.letterdrop.com is a subdomain of letterdrop.com where we at Letterdrop host our API documents.

Subdomains are treated as separate entities from your main domain as far as Google is concerned. It can be viewed as a partition of your main website. We'll dig into the implications of this for SEO later.

Stripe


What is a Subdirectory?

A subdirectory, also known as a subfolder, is a path to a page on your main domain. letterdrop.com/blog is a subdirectory of letterdrop.com.

For historical reasons, the internet is organized as files. So when you go to letterdrop.com, your web browser displays the HTML file present there. You can think of a website as a folder, similar to what you have on your computer. When you open a folder, you might find other files or folders inside.

Let's apply this logic to a URL like letterdrop.com/blog/p/content-marketing-goals. When you enter that URL, your browser is for an HTML file "content-marketing-goals" within the folder called "p" that is in turn within a folder called "blog" within a folder for "letterdrop.com".

Retool


How Does Hosting on a Subdomain vs Subdirectory Affect SEO for Your Blog?

Google treats subdomains as separate sites as far as SEO is concerned. You even have to set up subdomains as separate sites in Google Search Console. To understand the impact of subdomains on SEO, we need to introduce you to another concept first - domain authority.


What is Domain Authority?

The domain authority of a website is a measure describing how trustworthy a domain is in search results within a given topic area or industry. When users search for specific topics, your domain authority decides how your domain shows up in Google’s search results. You improve domain authority by creating web pages that have great content and engagement. Blogs are great candidates for creating content to answer people's search queries.


Host Your Blog in a Subdirectory for Domain Authority

In order for your blog content to boost the domain authority of your main site, it has to be hosted on the same domain as your main site, not a subdomain. So instead of a subdomain, your blog should be on a subdirectory like letterdrop.com/blog, letterdrop.com/updates, or acme.com/resources/guides.

If your business writes about multiple distinct topics, and you don't want them to be treated the same by Google, you can use a subdomain. Pages on your subdomains will not contribute to the authority of the main website. Subdomains are useful when you want to create content for entirely different audiences or markets.

Keep in mind that you can always start quickly with a subdomain and switch to a subdirectory in the future, but links will break, and handling that will be a pain, so best to get it right early.


Reasons to Host Your Pages on a Subdomain

  1. Multiple languages for international markets When your site has a global audience and supports multiple languages, subdomains help you separate the domain authority for each market. That way, your English content at acme.com and your Spanish content at es.acme.com don't mix and cannibalize your domain authority. Give each market its own subdomain. You can see this in practice with Yahoo - yahoo.com for the USA, fr.yahoo.com for France, and yahoo.co.jp for Japan.
  2. Dedicated Publication If you want your blog to have its own brand and content plan, you can host it on a subdomain. Some brands where their blog is more of a lifestyle publication that encompasses more than just its parent company like Taste by Williams Sonoma or Hubspot's blog.
  3. Ecommerce Stores Companies that sell merchandise on the side, but not as their primary business, can host their online store at a subdomain like shop.acme.com. This is because you don't want product listings on your store to influence the domain authority of your main site. A great example is the site of any musical artist like store.taylorswift.com.
  4. Different Target Audiences Sometimes, companies get big and have different target audiences for various product lines or initiatives. You want to treat these as separate companies in some sense. Subdomains can help you do that from an SEO perspective. For example, Google has developers.google.com for their educations resources for developers and engineers. They have cloud.google.com for their Cloud Computing platform.

Yahoo! Japan


Reasons to Host Your Pages in a Subdirectory

  1. Marketing Blog If your goal with a page is to contribute to your site's domain authority, host it in a subdirectory. These are usually blog posts or marketing pages. Most blogs or resource pages take this form. Look at webflow.com/blog or retool.com/templates.
  2. Listings of your main product If you want to take advantage of user-generated content or product-led SEO, such as product listings, user reviews, etc, put them on your main site. See ZocDoc's doctors in New York at zocdoc.com/primary-care-doctors/new-york-46063pm. Or Airbnb's listings in Denver at airbnb.com/a/stays/Denver--Colorado--United-States. When anyone searches for "rental home Denver", Airbnb shows up.

Airbnb has their rental home listings on their main site


How to Host Your Blog on a Subdirectory?

You've read this guide and decided to host your marketing blog on a subdirectory to boost your site's domain authority. That's smart! However, now you're wondering how to actually do that. Unfortunately, hosting most ready-made blogging solutions on a subdirectory is significantly harder than on a subdomain.


It's Easy to Host Your Blog on a Subdomain

If you build your blog with a tool like Letterdrop, WordPress, Webflow, or Ghost, where they provide hosting, it's easy to point blog.youdomain.com to the hosted blog. It requires no programming on your part; just copying and pasting some DNS records. A non-technical marketer can do it. You usually just need to add a CNAME or A record. For example, at Letterdrop, all you need to do is enter the subdomain you want to host your blog at like blog.acme.com. Then you just copy and paste two A records into your DNS provider (like GoDaddy, NameCheap, Google Domains). Now when you visit blog.acme.com, your blog hosted by Letterdrop shows up. It's as simple as that!

Letterdrop gives you A records to point your subdomain to your blog


Hosting Your Blog on a Subdirectory May Need a Reverse Proxy

Hosting on a subdirectory can be more challenging. Your website is served from a server that you or a 3rd party own - maybe it's a site your team built with Next JS and hosted with Vercel, or a Ruby on Rails site hosted with NGINX, or perhaps you use a site builder like Squarespace.

If you use a website builder with blog hosting that meets all your needs, you might want to use them. You can always connect it with a more functional CMS for your marketing team.

If not, and you want to use a dedicated blog platform like Letterdrop or Ghost, use a reverse proxy. A reverse proxy sits in front of your site and intercepts messages from your visitor's browsers. It decides whether to send the request to your main site's server or to a 3rd party server hosting your blog like Letterdrop.

You can use a CDN like Cloudflare or Amazon CloudFront. They offer the ability to reroute requests to different servers. This is the preferred solution if you're not already using a load balancer or reverse proxy. We recommend these guides:

  1. Set up a reverse proxy on Cloudflare
  2. Set up a reverse proxy with AWS CloudFront

You'll definitely need an engineer's help with this if you're not technical yourself. If this sounds like a lot of work, you can always start quickly with a subdomain and move to a subdirectory later when you have the engineering resources to do so. Just make sure to redirect your links. You don't want to spend hundreds of hours building backlinks and internal links for your blog only to break them.


Conclusion

Ultimately, whether to use a subdomain or subdirectory depends on the SEO goal for your website. You have to also think about the resources you have available to set up things the right way. Often, it's better just to get started with a suboptimal solution and fix it later. Some content is better than no content.

If you need help thinking through subdomains and subdirectories or need assistance setting them up, check out Letterdrop. We can help you set up our ready-to-go SEO-optimized blogs on a subdomain or subdirectory!

Read more posts like this in your inbox

Subscribe to the newsletter