What is good for SEO Website on a new domain, subdomain or subfolder

What’s good for SEO – blog on a new domain, subdomain, or subfolder?

Should you host your blog on a new domain, subdomain, or subfolder?

If you are at that point in your career where you have to decide for a client or even for your own business about choosing between a domain, subdomain, or a folder, to host your blog, I have got two words for you! Be careful!

The reason why I say this is because I have witnessed firsthand what happens when we shift from a subfolder to a subdomain. It comes with a lot of challenges. Just like with everything else here too there are pros and cons.

Let’s take a look at our options to host a blog with examples:

MethodURL Example
On a Subdomainhttp://blog.xyzcompany.com/
On a Subfolderhttp://www.xyzcompany.com/blog 
On a New Domainhttp://www.xyzcompanyblog.com 

You can host a blog either on a Subdomain, a Subfolder or even on a New Domain. Before making a decision it is important to know the pros and cons in each case.

Let us take a look at each case individually:

1. Hosting your blog on a subdomain:

Advantages of hosting your blog on a subdomain: 

  • This method requires you to go with a new WordPress login that gives you the flexibility to build the blog in any way you please without affecting the parent site in any way (provided your hosting servers have the required resources).
  • The parent site may have numerous plugins that may not be used on the blog and hence would just slow down the overall website. This problem is taken care of when you are hosting on a subdomain as you can select a completely fresh site with a new CMS (WordPress or any other) or theme.
  • Even if something happens to the parent site the blog would remain unaffected. This is particularly true if the website is hosted on a different server.
  • It usually gives you a lighter and much faster website.
  • When hosted on a subdomain it inherits some level of authority from the parent domain as opposed to being hosted on a completely new domain.
  • The blog can also provide backlinks to the parent domain and vice versa.

Disadvantages of hosting your blog on a subdomain: 

  • The blog will not inherit the complete level of authority of the parent domain and this is one of the biggest disadvantages.
  • The blog will need to create and publish very high-quality content and organically build backlinks to raise its domain authority to bridge the gap with the parent domain.
  • If a switch is made from a subfolder to a subdomain the transition would result in it a sudden fall in traffic. This is to be expected.
  • It would take months and even years for the subdomain to reach somewhere near the level of authority of the parent domain.
  • Usually, the subdomain is hosted on the same server as that of the parent domain thus utilizing more server resources. 
  • If hosting of the parent domain and the subdomain is done on a shared hosting platform then any spike in traffic on either of your websites would affect both websites.

1. Hosting your blog on a subfolder:

Advantages of hosting your blog on a subfolder:

  • The authority of your parent domain would be inherited by the blog. This helps us to rank for keywords a lot easier.
  • Google will crawl new blog posts published under the subfolder typically at the same rate that it would crawl pages on the parent domain.
  • There would already be a lot of posts on the domain that can easily be interlinked to the blog posts in the subfolder.
  • Usually, content on the blog gets easily shared across social channels resulting in higher social mentions. This has a positive impact on other pages published on the website and hence ranks more quickly as a result.
  • A subfolder integrates better with the main website if the design is not made to differ a lot.
  • Unlike for subdomains or new domains, Google Analytics tracks first-party cookies for the site as a whole without making a distinction when going for the subfolder.

Disadvantages of hosting your blog on a subfolder:

  • The presence of the blog as a subfolder might pull away some traffic from pages of high value on the parent domain. This is greatly reduced when hosting the blog as a separate domain or a subdomain.
  • You cannot control what goes into the anchor text of external backlinks unlike for a subdomain or a new domain. 
  • The impact of manual actions by Google can be kept separated from the parent domain to a certain extent on subdomains and almost completely on a new domain. While this is not possible when using a subfolder to host your blog.

3. Hosting your blog on a new domain:

Advantages of hosting your blog on a new domain:

  • If the blog hosted on the new domain rises in authority then any external backlink that you get to your main domain can have anchor text that you give it. In other words, you can get external links from the new blog on the new domain with custom anchor text. This would improve the rankability of the main domain.
  • The new domain has the potential to position itself as a new brand that attracts visitors from the same niche but also ends up bringing in those who may not otherwise end up on the main website.
  • The blog on a new domain could target an audience from a specific country effectively. For example, domain names with country-specific extensions like .co.uk, .ca, .au, .nz or .in are great at ranking in respective countries.
  • Any manual actions by Google (penalties) are highly unlikely to affect the ranking and authority of the main website.

Disadvantages of hosting your blog on a new domain:

  • You cannot control what goes into the anchor text of external backlinks (as it’s done by site owners whom you have no communication with) and so the quality of these may not be on par with the context of the content it has been linked to.
  • It could take years for a new domain to gain authority if ever it does and time is always a cause of concern for commercial websites.
  • You cannot expect the content you publish on your blog to rank within weeks or months initially. It would have ranked instantaneously or in a couple of days had you published it on the main domain as a subfolder or sometimes even as a subdomain provided the domain authority exists.
  • You will have to build the site’s authority right from scratch willing to allocate the necessary resources required for this task.

My experience with a blog transfer from the parent domain to a subdomain:

I have worked on a website that has a very high authority in the education space. The blog was initially hosted under a subfolder. The traffic to the blog was substantial. Everything was going fine until the firm decided to transfer the blog to a subdomain.

This action resulted in a massive drop in traffic and the redirects had to be managed for a ton of URLs without spitting out any 404 pages.

It took some time but eventually, everything was sorted. For the first couple of weeks, nothing brought any organic traffic to the website apart from the direct visitors and those visiting through marketing campaigns.

Then it slowly started to pick up volumes. But something that I noticed was that anything published on the subdomain did take a lot more time to get indexed. It also took more time to start ranking.

I had to put in extra effort to make sure that the content being published would deliver the best user experience. All posts that delivered the best user experience started showing good numbers.

Plus, I had to make sure to target keywords that were not being targetted by the parent domain. Here’s why; when the parent site and the subdomain targets the same keyword eventually only one site will rank for it. Can you guess which one? If you guessed was parent site then you are absolutely right! This is because the parent site will always have a much higher authority than the subdomain.

If you are an SEO in a similar position then you have to learn to be patient and you also need to learn to focus on creating high-quality content that delivers a great user experience for your visitors. Remember the higher the authority of a site the easier it is to rank.

If immediate results and near-zero impact on page authority are your requirements then go for a subfolder. For example, http://blog.xyzcompany.com/blog

The authority of a subdomain will never be the same as the parent website. That means it will take posts a much longer time and higher quality content to rank on the first page.

For the external links that you get from the new domain to the main website, you can select the anchor text that you want (contextual anchor text). This helps improve the authority of your parent domain. But remember do not create spammy links to cheat Google’s algorithm; you could get blacklisted.

Yes, it is possible to host the subdomain and the parent domain on different servers. This reduces the risk of both servers failing at the same time due to an overload of visitors.

Subdomains are not registered or purchased. If you own the parent domain which is the main domain. For example, if seowebjournal.com is the parent domain then you can create free subdomains by using a prefix before the main domain like test.seowebjournal.com etc.

The purchase of a subdomain from another person is possible only if there is some legal way for you to record the purchase.

This depends a lot on the kind of hosting plan you have bought into. Some hosting plans offer a fixed number of subdomains to be hosted on them. But most servers do not allow any subdomain to be hosted on them.

If the severity of the issue is small it only affects the subdomain but if the matter is grave then even the parent domain would be affected.

Any issue on a subfolder is considered to be an issue of the main domain and hence a manual action on the subfolder would have its impact on the main domain.

The new domain would be considered as a new entity and hence any manual action taken against the new domain would remain limited to the same rather than having any effect on the main domain.