Subdomain, subfolder or new domain: how to renew your URL?
As they grow, many web pages require restructuring or moving their content. There are several options for the renewal of the structure of a web project, among which is, for example, the restructuring through a subdomain or a directory (subfolder). If the new content differs clearly from the one elaborated so far and would appear decontextualized within the structure of the main page, a good option would be the creation of a new page and / or a new domain for this content. These two options are not only different at the structural level, but also in what concerns the optimization for search engines (SEO)of the web page. If previously, creating a subdomain was the best solution from the point of view of SEO, opinions today are divided radically.
How to know if you need to expand a web page
A web page should always cover a well-defined theme , which may mean dedicating itself to a subject in a specialized way (a blog about a movie star), but which could also be conceived with greater flexibility and openness, as could happen in a online store of high-fidelity appliances.
The fundamental content of a website must be integrated into its permanent structure. Taking the previous examples, this would include the news about this movie star or the entry of a new model of smartphone or television in the digital store. But if we want to introduce a new autonomous theme, a restructuring or expansion may be necessary. In the first case, a new thematic niche could consist of publications about other artists and, in the second, a new category (“books”), which does not necessarily have a connection with the main theme (appliances).
When is a subfolder, subdomain or new domain convenient?
If the new content with which you want to expand the page has some relation with the main theme of the web, you can stay in a subdirectory or subdomain for this thematic area. For example, a blog about cinema could be an ideal choice to regularly publish news about your partner.
If the subject is too foreign, as could be an artist without any relation to the blog’s theme, the conception of the page changes completely . If one considers the evolution of this blog towards a news portal about cinema in general, the registered Internet address becomes an obstacle. A domain that contains the name of an artistic figure is not suitable for a news portal that will deal with many other artists. In this case, the creation of a new domain is considered , a solution through which the content of the page remains intact, although in the future it will be accessible under a new address. Thus, this becomes the most appropriate solution if you want to gain a certain reputation in the sector or build your own brand.
Advantages and disadvantages of the different options
When choosing between the three options you have to look at the type of content we want to publish. Next, we clarify its operation and its differences and show the cases in which it is more appropriate to apply them.
The directory of a URL defines the structure of a web page and is divided into different subdirectories that adhere to the domain. Taking an online store as an example, a subdirectory could be www.example.com/store . If it is necessary to create a subpage for each of the manufacturers, subdirectories can be added: www.example.com/shop/fabricante1 , www.example.es/shop/fabricante2 , etc.
From an SEO perspective it is very important that subdirectories have an appropriate name. Ideally, this should include a keyword search or keyword, in exactly the same way subdomains are named, which is not only relevant for SEO but also to ensure the transparency of the website. If instead of the name of the manufacturer, a landing page contains a name without any relation, the effect is very unprofessional. This can lead to confusion and negatively influence the public perception of the page.
You can use subfolders or subdomains to structure the subpages of a website. However, the advantage of the subdirectories is the technical facility with which they can be implemented . The golden rule could be summarized in these two points:
- Content thematically close to the home page, but covering a self-contained field, is often classified into subdirectories .
- When the content differs clearly from the content of the page, webmasters tend to opt for the creation of subdomains .
With this term is defined fundamentally to a domain that is subordinate to another domain . In the sample domain www.ejemplo.es, the second level domain ” example” constitutes a subdomain of the TLD .es . The third level domain ” www.” Would be a subdomain of the second level domain example .
However, regarding the structure of a web page, the term is used for the third level domain . To create, for example, an online store at www.ejemplo.es , you could use the subdomain tienda.example.es .
Some well-known subdomains are:
- www (World Wide Web)
- mail./smtp./pop3./imap. (mail servers)
- ftp. (FTP server)
- es./en./fr. etc. (for pages in a certain language)
- m. (for pages optimized for mobile devices)
The manual creation of a subdomain is very complex . Many CMS, including WordPress , Joomla! o TYPO3 , include plugins to implement subdomains, but having to make the corresponding adjustments in the web server and create the wildcard in the DNS server necessary for its implementation, can constitute a major obstacle for inexperienced users. Some web hosting providers offer support facilitating the creation of subdomains and facilitating the implementation of novice web administrators.
Subdomains are especially convenient in the following cases:
- web pages in several languages ( de.example.com for the German version and en.example.com for the Anglo-Saxon version),
- when you want to differentiate thematic areas without losing the link with the main page ( viajeavion.example.es differentiated from viajetren.example.es and viajebus.example.es ),
- when you want to prioritize products ( manufacturer1.example.com , manufacturer2example.com ).
The change of domain is the simplest solution for those cases in which a domain is constituted by a very specialized name or very linked to a topic and the new content does not fit this at all, taking into account, however, that the old page does not have to remain online as an offer of its own. In our cinematographic example it would be necessary to register a new domain if the address of the blog takes as a reference a proper name and from then on news will be published also by other artists. The blog, in this case, needs a new address with an appropriate title. In our digital guide you find all the information you need to change a domain.
If the original page has to continue to operate autonomously, it becomes necessary to create a completely new platform for the new content and, of course, a new domain is also needed.
Both in the case of a new domain and in that of hosting another page, additional costs are generated , contrary to what happens if a subdomain or subdirectory is created. One of the major drawbacks of creating a new website is that you have to start from scratch with your conception and once online, you have to go through all the phases until your administration . However, the creation of a completely new page with autonomous content unrelated to previous offers offers very valuable opportunities in terms of the process of building a brand , so that it becomes a mandatory process that is only possible through a change of ownership .
The virtues of a completely new website can be exploited in the event that the image of the old page has been damaged , regardless of whether it was caused by others or due to own negligence. If the causes of this damage are known, it is possible to optimize the new page so that it is perceived positively by the users and well valued by the search engines. In the next section we deal with the SEO aspects involved in the construction of a new web page, as well as subdomains and subdirectories.
The role of SEO
Many web administrators often ask themselves which option is the most convenient from the point of view of SEO. Regarding the search engine positioning, there are relevant differences: in the case of the subdirectories , the quality of the content and the linkpower of the root domain have an impact on the ranking . On the contrary, the subdomains do not have any relationship with the root domain from an SEO perspective , so in this case, the main domain has a much smaller impact on the assessment made by the engines of the search engines.
In the change of domain, the linkpower reached (or the previously called PageRank) and the trust would in principle be transferred to the new address , although some SEO adjustments are necessary. The most important steps to take are:
- Link the content with the new domain
- Verify the new address in the Google Search Console (formerly called Google Webmasters Tools) and specify the change of address of the web page. To do this you have to access with the same account with which the old domain is registered.
- Create a type 301 redirect from the old to the new address (access more information about this in this article about the different types of domain redirections .
- Provide in the same Google search console the site map of the new page. It is advisable to allow the indexing of the sitemap so that the bots can begin to examine it as soon as possible.
- Observe for several weeks (or even for a year in the case of large pages) the statistics of the page under the new domain using the Google Console, together with other additional tools if possible.
If you have decided to create a page in a domain for new content, you should know that you start from scratch, which means also starting from the beginning with optimization , which in turn also leads to opportunities.
Subdirectory and SEO
- The subfolders benefit much more than the subdomains of the content and the linkpower of the header page, since through the main page these are transferred without changes to the subdirectories.
- In the case of the penalty of a directory by Google, which usually has to do with backlinks of poor quality or mediocre content, the root domain in full with all its rankings is affected.
Subdomain and SEO
- Normally you can refer up to two search results to the same domain, but by using subdomains it is possible to position yourself in the list with more matching results .
- If a subdomain is penalized by the Google algorithm, neither the root domain nor the other subdomains are affected , which also serves otherwise, if other subdomains or the header page are penalized.
- Each subdomain must be optimized so individually in regards to keywords and link building strategies.
- The subdomains benefit less from the content of the main page , and vice versa, than the subdirectories. The same applies to backlinks, since the link of the subdomain to the root domain is valued, just like an external link, with a “1” in popularity.
New domain and SEO
- The linkpower and the trust can be transferred from the old to the new domain.
- Especially in the case of large pages, subsequent monitoring requires considerable effort .
New page and SEO
- If any of the existing pages have been penalized by the search engines or have a bad ranking for some other reason, a new page can be optimized again from the beginning. This would also apply to subdomains, although in reality it would not make much sense to move the offer to the subdomain of a root domain already penalized.
- A new page can be optimized correctly with backlinks in certain countries or linguistic areas .
- A new page does not benefit from the positive positioning achieved by the previous page.
- With a new page the expenses for the creation of content and for the marketing of links increase .
Adjust new content to the concept of the page
Deciding to integrate new content into subdirectories, sub-domains or a completely new page depends on the concept of the original website , which generally enjoys full priority and should not be affected by the new thematic orientation.
If it is convenient from this point of view, the new content can be integrated into subdirectories or subdomains . Keep in mind that the creation of the first is much simpler, because if the content has a clear relationship with those of the main page subfolders are often used. As the thematic differences between one content and another increase, it is convenient to decide on a subdomain.
This decision can also be made from the power of the web from the SEO perspective. Considering that the penalty of a subdomain does not affect the root domain or other subdomains, a subdomain should be created especially in the case of pages whose content can not be controlled by the administrator at one hundred percent, as in the case, for example, of forums that are nourished by content generated by users, very often of dubious quality.