Subdomain, Subdirectory & ccTLD: Which One Should You Use?

You can compare the pros and cons of subdomains, subdirectories, and ccTLDs to help you decide which one is right for your website and SEO strategy.

One of the most frequently asked questions is: What overarching structure should I use when launching a new website?

Should we use or switch to a subdirectory or subdomain if we have international content?

Is one better than another?

Google claims that there is no difference.

This topic will fall in the “it all depends on” category.

SEO is complex.

Let’s look at the pros & cons of each option to help you choose which one is right for you.

Let’s first define subdomain, directory, and ccTLD.

Subdomain, ccTLD, and Subdirectory Defined.

A subdomain is an individual domain that is part of a larger domain.

You could, for example, create a subdomain on your blog to sell products or differentiate content.

This would give you a URL like this: blog.example.com or productname.subdomain.com.

Subdomains can be used to create distinct sections of websites with different content.

A subdirectory on your website is a folder that contains different pages or pieces.

For example, if you were managing the GAP, I would recommend an SEO-friendly and specific product subdirectory instead of the URL they have now, i.e., https://www.gap.com/browse/category.do?cid=6998&nav=expmore%3Amen%3Acategories%3Ajeans#pageId=0&department=75.

Subdirectories can be used to create distinct sections of websites with different content.

A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is a domain that is unique to a country.

A ccTLD is required for websites that you own in Canada.

The Pros and Cons of Using a Subdomain

A subdomain can have advantages and disadvantages, especially if the vast majority of the content is not available on the root domain.

It all comes down to the publisher’s purpose for creating this new content.

Will they put in the effort to create the necessary link equity?

Is the content on the new site so different from the original content?

Pros

  • Subdomains can help organizations.
  • It’s easier to track your content by having it on its subdomain.
  • This is specially useful if your website has many different types of content.
  • Search engines consider subdomains to be separate websites. Therefore, a subdomain that is optimized well has the potential to rank high in search results.

Cons

  • Higher than other options.
  • Subdomains can be confusing for some users. If someone searches for your website by typing in example.com, they might not know that your blog is placed at blog.example.com. This could lead to confusion and loss of traffic.

Additionally, Google considers subdomains separate websites. If you create new content on a Subdomain, the authority is not passed down as it is regarded as a brand new respective website.

The Pros and Cons of Using a Subdirectory

A subdirectory can have many benefits and drawbacks.

Pros

  • They are usually more economical to maintain than other options.
  • Subdirectories are easier to understand for some users than subdomains. If someone searches for your website and types in example.com, they will see your blog at example.com/blog. This can prevent confusion and loss of traffic.
  • The authority is passed from the root domain to the subfolder. This can improve your search engine visibility.

Cons

  • It can be more challenging to set up than the other options.
  • Search engines may not consider subdirectories to be separate websites.

The Pros & Cons of Using A ccTLD

A ccTLD has its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

  • We can help you set up international websites.
  • A ccTLD signal is vital because it tells search engines that your content focuses only on one country.

Cons

  • You don’t need international content if you don’t serve users worldwide.
  • These are usually more expensive than other alternatives.
  • Each ccTLD is a website. If you have multiple websites worldwide with different ccTLDs, you will need to optimize them all as they are each considered separate entities.
  • To purchase domain names with ccTLDs, you may need to be a country citizen.

What Are The Favorite SEO Terms?

SEO professionals prefer subdirectories over subdomains, as new URLs can benefit from the root domain’s established online authority and equity built through external links.

Subdirectories can leverage the authority of the root domain to achieve meaningful rankings and better organic performance than subdomains.

Many SEO professionals prefer them because they are often translated to “better.”

Google can recognize subdomains as property of larger domain entities and see the relationship when done correctly. However, publishers will limit the linking between these properties.

To be an authority, the subdomain will need many external links. This can often take a lot of time and effort.

A ccTLD might be required if you have content from different countries and want to send strong signs to Google and other search engines(SE’s) regarding your international content strategy.

This can be costly depending on how many countries you manage. However, subdirectories and subdomains may be worth considering to direct users from different nations to the relevant content.

Case Study

We advised against a client in the financial sector who changed from a.com to a subdomain.

Our client saw a decrease in search engine traffic and visibility after moving. However, it wasn’t too severe.

After spending a year on a subdomain, they could move back to the main domain.

Our client saw a 15% increase in traffic after implementing the redirect and content migration strategy. They moved back to their main domain with authority, links, etc.

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Krishna Chaitanya
Krishna is a digital media strategist with experience in the media and publishing industries, He is also the lead marketing strategist for Hustle Chronicle. He is currently employed at Intentify Media & resides in India.

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