Subdomain vs. Subdirectory: What Is The Difference?

One of the most heated discussions in SEO is between subdomains and subdirectories.

Which performs best in SEO? Does it really matter that much? Should you move a blog that is hosted on a subdomain into a subdirectory? What is Google’s opinion about this?

These are just a handful of the numerous queries frequently posed to the SEO community on social media, typically receiving a wide range of answers.

Determining the differences between subdomain and subdirectory will assist put an end to the confusion and is what this article is here to do.

Let’s begin,

What is a Subdomain?

A subdomain and a subfolder are significantly different from one another; they are whole different websites. The subdomain is connected to the domain, but not to the website associated with the domain name. Simply said, a subdomain is thought of as a separate website that is connected to the main domain. For example, Elaborate the example

What is a Subdirectory?

A website’s main components are its pages and several category divisions. When HTML coding first became popular, a web designer would make folders and place the web pages inside of them.

They are referred to as “subfolders or subdirectories” as a result.

Similar to how creating folders and placing photos or spreadsheet files inside of them work when storing files on a desktop computer. The online folder would have a name like /green-widgets/, just like your desktop folders. All of the HTML pages for green widgets would be placed there. You would actually be navigating to a folder and an actual HTML file after you click through to those pages Subdirectories or subfolders are the terms used to describe those folders, /widgets/ and /green-widgets/.

Typically, those subdirectories are virtual on websites built using PHP and WordPress. They do not exist on the server, where you can navigate to them with an FTP program and view the actual folders. Despite being virtual, they continue to be referred to as subdirectories and are still a part of the website’s file structure. The subdirectory is a component of the website’s architecture that is related to the domain name.

Let’s now move to,

What is the difference between Subdomain and Subdirectory and which is better for SEO?

The best site structure for SEO is a subject of intense discussion. But first, what does it say regarding the use of subdomains as opposed to subdirectories?

According to John Mueller (A senior webmaster trends analyst at Google) 

“Google Web Search is fine with using either subdomains or subdirectories…use what works best for your setup and think about your longer-term plans when picking one or the other”.

As per Mueller the question of subdomain vs subfolder is irrelevant for Google’s search algorithms. His point is that search bots process them the same way.

Even though John Mueller said Google was OK with both but then he put out the three differences at the end of the video

  • Subdomains must be independently verified in Google Search Console.
  • Subdomain performance needs to be tracked independently.
  • Subdomain settings must be changed independently.

Based on the way the words independently and per domain are emphasized. You may have already guessed what I’m going to say next: Subdomains are viewed by Google as distinct entities from the parent domain.

What does this actually mean?

  • Domain authority and subdomains

Regarding domain authority, the fact that Google treats subdomains as different entities mean two things. The authority of the main domain is not increased by any link, internal or external, to information on a webpage within the subdomain. The content on the subdomain pages does not, however, benefit from the authority of the main domain because it belongs to a different entity. Google considers links and content to be two of its three primary ranking factors, with RankBrain serving as the third (source SEMrush)

What is Domain Authority?

A website’s domain authority is a measure of how effective (and valuable) a domain is in search results for a certain topic area or industry.

Scores for domain authority are metrics created by independent businesses like Moz and SEMrush to gauge the authority of websites. It’s critical to remember that these are trailing measurements, not ranking factors. Being a trailing metric domain authority can only estimate a site’s likelihood of outranking its rivals in search engine results.

  • Subdomain vs Subdirectory: Use cases

We are completely aware that traffic going to subdirectories provides advantages for the metrics we care about, including rankings, visibility, and traffic.

Having said that, the following situations justify maintaining a subdomain structure. Let’s look at it.

When to use Subdomains?

If your website fits into one or more of the following use cases and your overall organic traffic is satisfactory, you might want to preserve your subdomain structure

  • Different departments

When a department needs to be kept separate from the main domain, this is one of the most common uses for subdomains.

For instance, Google uses as a branch off of its main domain for its support service.

  • Different regions or languages

It makes sense to keep the relevant areas or languages separate from the main domain if your website supports many languages or regions.

The counterargument is that the same outcome may be completely achieved using a subdirectory site structure, which has the added benefit of better search engine rankings.

  • Blog

Some businesses want to keep their blog and main website separate.

For instance, HubSpot offers a

  • Store

Many websites have made the decision to separate their eCommerce operations into a separate subdomain.

  • Events

With, Microsoft made the decision to separate its event area from the main domain.

  • Mobile

Prior to when websites could adapt to different screen sizes, it was normal practice to construct a mobile-friendly version of the site and submit it to a subdomain called a mob., or just mobile.

For mobile consumers that access their website using a mobile web browser rather than a mobile app, organizations like Facebook and Twitter adopt this technique.

When to use subdirectories?

The short answer is that, unless your website falls under one of the use cases mentioned above, it always uses a sub-directory site structure.

Even so, consider the advantages and disadvantages of your choice:

  • Use the subdirectories if you wish to improve your visibility on Google.
  • Consider subdirectories if you regularly provide content that will increase your main domain authority.
  • Choose subdirectories if you want your primary domain to gain from the content you frequently write.


Unless and until you have a strong business reason to develop subdomains for your content, subdirectories will serve your SEO strategy better. One root domain unifies your link authority, concentrates keyword gains over time, communicates a clear structure to Google, and keeps overhead costs down.

If you want to change the layout of your website, you should seek the help of a reputable digital marketing agency like Stellar Digital, one of the best digital marketing agencies in India and Gurgaon. We have a skilled team of professionals who will deliver long-term solutions. To reach us, please send an email to

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