When developing a blog, the following question usually comes up:
For SEO, is it better to locate your blog on a subdomain, in subfolders, or on a completely different domain?
For those who are visual, the options look like this:
Scenario 1: awesomewebsite.com/blog
Scenario 2: blog.awesomewebsite.com
Scenario 3: awesomewebsiteblog.com
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that we are answering the question with the goal of maximizing search engine optimization performance. More specifically, we want to know which scenario gives a website the best opportunity to bring in organic traffic, increase the volume of traffic, and rank higher for the content. We are not factoring ease of implementation or cross-platform hosting challenges.
With that out of the way, let’s dig in:
The Google Answer
In October 2012, the Google Webmasters YouTube channel released the following video featuring well-known Google spokesperson, Matt Cutts. He essentially states that Google is smart enough to recognize that content from blog.awesomewebsite.com is related to awesomewebsite.com so Scenario 1 and Scenario 2 are interchangeable.
In February 2015, Google Webmasters posted a Google Hangout video that contained the same topic. At the 0:50 mark, the question of subfolders versus subdomains was asked during a Q/A session. This time, Scott Mueller of Google reinforced Matt’s point that Google sees both as equally effective options.
Real World Example
In January 2015, Timo Reitnauer of IWantMyName.com posted an article detailing a dramatic drop in traffic as a result of switching his blog from a subfolder (Scenario 1) structure to a subdomain structure (Scenario 2).
His company followed the advice of Google, experienced a dramatic drop in traffic for the next six months, and then decided to revert back to the subfolder structure. The author goes on to state:
“…we decided it would be better for our long-term SEO strategy to put our blog back on our primary domain.”
The Rand Fishkin Answer
In Reitnauer’s blog post, he references a similar sub domain / subdirectory content migration experiment from Moz co-founder Rand Fishkin. Like Matt Cutts, Rand is well-respected in the SEO community. On moz.com, they tested moving an SEO guide from a sub domain to a sub directory. In a Moz Community Message Board topic discussing the content migration, Fishkin states, “The results were astounding – rankings rose dramatically across the board for every keyword we tracked to the pages.”
The topic received so much interest that Rand released an SEO video in February 2015 elaborating on this experience. The first four minutes of the video provide a great overview of how he came to the conclusion that using subdirectories (Scenario 1) is the ideal structure for search engine performance.
What Have We Learned?
According to Google, Scenario 1 (/blog) and Scenario 2 (blog.) are interchangeable. However, when switching from one to another, there are real-world examples of companies experiencing positive SEO impact from Scenario 1 and negative SEO impact from Scenario 2. What about Scenario 3 (awesomewebsiteblog.com)? It fits into the same category as Scenario 2. Your content is either centrally located under one domain or it isn’t. Search engines like websites with lots of content-rich pages that frequently have new, unique pages being added. If your company blog discusses topics similar to the industry, products, or services on your primary website, we do not recommend splitting up your page count across multiple domains. Subfolders are still the best option for search engine optimization.