Shahrain K M
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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!
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