The FutureProof Blog

Subdomain vs Subfolder vs New Website – Which is best?

Over the past month or two I’ve spoken to several clients about the structure of their website, or websites. If you launch a new product or service, what place should this take within your existing site structure; should it be a page or section of your current website hierarchy? Should it be a subdomain, a self contained site, attached to your current website? Should you launch a brand new website with a new domain name? Each have implications for SEO, and the potential success of your business growth.


Subdomain vs Subfolder vs New Website.

The importance of search engine optimization (SEO) cannot be overstated. For business owners looking to expand their customer base, understanding best practices and basic SEO strategies is crucial. A key decision for established businesses, launching a new product or service, blog or ecommerce store, is whether to use a subdomain, a subfolder, or create an entirely new website. In this post we’ll explore their respective advantages and disadvantages from all perspectives, each hotly debated with SEO circles. We’ll consider various factors; domain authority, content targeting, user experience, and link building opportunities, giving you all the knowledge you need to make an informed decision.

Choosing Your Domain Name. Subdomain vs Subfolder

What is a subdomain?

A subdomain is a part of your main domain that acts as a separate entity, yet it is still related to the main domain. Structurally, it appears as a prefix to the main domain, creating a distinct address for a specific section of the website. For example, if your domain name is example.com a subdomain could be blog.example.com or store.example.com.

Subdomains are widely used across the web for isolating different website functions, creating separate content sections, or setting up specific language versions of a site. They allow site owners to organize and manage content efficiently while maintaining a degree of separation between the subdomains and the primary domain.

SEO Benefits of Using Subdomains

When considering the best site structure for you, subdomains can offer distinct advantages, especially from an SEO point of view. Understanding these advantages can help you make informed decisions when incorporating a subdomain into your website’s file structure.

Keyword Targeting

Subdomains provide an excellent opportunity to target specific keywords and improve topical authority. By creating keyword-rich subdomains that focus on specific topics, products, or services, you can signal to Google the relevance and expertise of your content. This targeted approach can lead to higher rankings for relevant search queries and drive more qualified organic traffic to your website.

Brand Awareness, Authority & Reputation

A well-structured subdomain can enhance your brand’s online presence, authority, and reputation. Using subdomains to showcase different areas of your business allows you to establish expertise in various topic areas. As customers encounter these specialized subdomains, they associate your brand with diverse, valuable content, building trust and loyalty. Distinct subdomains, dedicated to specific regions or languages, can also enhance your brand’s international appeal, expanding your global reach and strengthening your reputation.

Flexibility & Scalability

Subdomains offer the flexibility and scalability you might need. They allow you to create separate environments for various purposes without impacting the overall site structure. This adaptability is particularly advantageous for businesses with diverse offerings or those experiencing rapid growth.

Additionally, subdomains enable you to experiment with different functionality and design. You can test new features, layouts, or content strategies without affecting the core functionality of the main site. These insights ultimately contribute to an enhanced user experience and improved SEO performance.

SEO Drawbacks of Using Subdomains

Reduced Domain Authority

One of the primary concerns about subdomains is the potential impact on domain authority. Domain authority is a ranking metric, developed by Moz, that measures the overall strength and credibility of a website. When you use subdomains, the authority of your main domain does not directly transfer to the subdomains. As a result, each subdomain must independently build its own authority, which can be time-consuming and challenging. When backlinks and link authority are spread across multiple subdomains, the cumulative impact on the main website’s authority can be diminished. This can potentially hinder your website’s ability to rank well in the search engine results.

Conversion Rates & User Experience

Subdomains may negatively impact user experience, and in tern, conversion rates. When users navigate between domains and subdomains, they often perceive it as moving to a different website, even a different business. This can lead to confusion, undermine trust and result in lower conversion rates. Additionally, managing multiple subdomains can become challenging, leading to potential inconsistencies across various sections of your website.

Subdomain vs Subfolder vs New Website

What is a Subfolder?

A sub-folder is a directory or folder that exists within your main site. In simpler terms, it is a way of categorizing and organizing website content, creating a hierarchical system of web pages and files. Unlike subdomains that appear as prefixes, sub-folders are appended as extensions to the primary domain. For example, if your domain name is example.com a sub-folder URL could be example.com/blog or example.com/products.

Sub-folders create a clear and logical division of content within your own website, making it easier for both users and the search engine crawlers to navigate and understand the site’s structure. This approach should be taken by all websites, but especially those with a lot of content categories, products, services, or different sections dedicated to specific topics. The content in a sub-folder can include individual landing pages, posts or other content types and enables you to group and manage content efficiently, improving SEO performance.

Search Engines Advantages of Using Subfolders

Consolidating Domain Authority

Subfolders play a crucial role in consolidating domain authority, in contrast to subdomains described above. When content is organized within subfolders, it remains part of the main site, and any authority gained through backlinks and other SEO efforts directly benefits the overall domain authority. This consolidation of authority can foster a more cohesive web presence in Google’s eyes, as they assess the expertise, relevance, and trustworthiness of a website. The collective impact of valuable content housed within subfolders can significantly boost the search rankings for an entire domain.

Seamless User Experience & Navigation

Subfolders contribute to a positive user experience and smooth navigation. Users can effortlessly move between different content sections without feeling like they are visiting a separate website. This continuity encourages visitors to explore more of your content, reducing bounce rates and sending positive user signals to the search engines. The logical and organized nature of subfolders allows users to locate information quickly, increasing the likelihood of return visits and potentially higher rankings.

Simplified Website Management & Maintenance

From a website management perspective, subfolders streamline content organization, maintenance, and updates within your content management system. The hierarchical structure of subfolders allows you to easily categorize and manage files, ensuring a more organized and efficient website. As your website grows, subfolders facilitate a well-structured framework simplifying the process of adding new content or making site-wide changes.

Subdomain vs Subfolder vs New Website

Launching a New Website?

Benefits of a New Root Domain

While subdomains and subfolders have their advantages, starting with a new root domain can be a compelling option in certain scenarios. Understanding these advantages will help you evaluate whether a new root domain is the right choice for your website and your business.

Targeted Content, SEO Strategies & a Fresh Start

Launching a new website provides a blank canvas for targeted content creation. With this fresh start, you have the opportunity to develop a site structure and content that aligns precisely with your chosen niche and target audience. This approach allows you to focus on specific keywords, themes and topics, optimizing your content for improved rankings. Starting from scratch provides a clean slate, enabling you to implement best SEO practices as you build your new domain’s authority through high-quality content and backlink acquisition.

Enhanced Company Branding

A new root domain offers an excellent opportunity to enhance your company’s branding and online identity. With a new domain name, one that resonates effectively with your target audience you can create a stronger, more memorable impression, setting your website apart from competitors and leaving a lasting impact on your customers. Additionally, a new root domain allows you to develop a cohesive and consistent brand image; design, colour schemes etc. fostering trust and recognition.

Increased Link Building Opportunities

As described above, link building is a crucial aspect of SEO, and a new root domain can open up link building opportunities that other options miss out on. As you establish your website’s authority and credibility, you can actively pursue high-quality backlinks from relevant, high quality sources. With a new domain, you have the chance to engage in outreach efforts, guest posting, and collaborations with other websites. A new root domain can also attract natural backlinks as your content gains traction and recognition within your niche.

New Website Challenges & Considerations

Building Domain Authority from Scratch

Establishing domain authority is one of the most significant challenges for a new website. Without an existing backlink profile or historical data, building domain authority is a gradual process. To overcome this challenge, focus on creating high-quality, valuable content that resonates with your target audience. Engage in outreach efforts to gain backlinks from reputable sources, and leverage social media platforms to increase visibility and drive traffic to your website. As your content gains traction your domain authority will gradually strengthen.

Resource Allocation & Management

Launching a new website requires a fresh look at resource allocation and management. From content creation to web development, it’s essential to plan and prioritize your tasks to ensure a smooth and successful launch. Begin by defining clear goals and objectives for your website and allocate resources accordingly. Identify key milestones and deadlines, and establish a well-structured project management approach. Consider outsourcing certain tasks to leverage specialized skills and streamline the process.

Google Web Search Implications

New websites may experience a “sandbox effect,” where Google temporarily withholds full ranking potential until it establishes the website’s credibility. This period can last for a few months, during which it’s essential to focus on building quality content. Create unique, original content that adds value to users and adheres to SEO best practices. Monitor your website’s performance through Google Search Console and address any issues or errors promptly. This proactive approach helps to ensure that Google accurately indexes and ranks your website.

Subdomain vs Subfolder vs New Website

subdomain vs subfolder; let's break it down...

(These are not hard and fast rules, but use the following examples as a guide)

New Website if...

  • you are launching a new business, completely unrelated to any business you have already. For example; you have an E-Commerce website selling beauty products and you are launching a new business providing business coaching services.
  • you run a business already but you are launching a new product or service that is very different from what you already do. For example; you have an E-Commerce website selling beauty products and you are launching a range of food products.
  • you have a localised domain name (.ie in Ireland for example) and you are launching your existing products and services in a new location and/or a new language.

Subdomain if...

  • you are launching your existing products and services in a new language.
  • you have been writing a blog for many years and you are launching a line of products in the same or very similar field. For example; you are recipe blogger and you are launching a line of baking products (the reverse of this scenario also applies).

Subfolder if...

  • you are launching a new service in the same or very similar field. For example; you run a commercial construction company and you are branching out into domestic services. The URLs might look like this; construction.com/commercial/plumbing and construction.com/domestic/plumbing.
  • you are launching a product range in the same or similar product area. For example; you have an E-Commerce website selling baking products and you plan to branch out in pre-baked goods.

Now You Understand Site Structure

The choice between subdomains, sub-folders, or even a new root domain significantly impacts your website’s SEO, visibility and performance. Each site structure option offers distinct advantages and considerations that necessitate thoughtful evaluation based on your unique business goals, stage of development and content organization requirements.

Subdomains can be valuable for categorizing and managing diverse content, but they may lead to SEO fragmentation and dilution of domain authority. However, they excel in providing targeted keyword relevance and flexibility for different sections of your website.

Sub-folders offer consolidated domain authority, seamless user experience, and simplified website management. They efficiently group content within the main domain, enhancing your website’s overall SEO performance and user engagement.

A new root domain presents a fresh start, enabling targeted content creation, enhanced branding, and increased link building opportunities. However, building domain authority from scratch and effectively allocating resources are key challenges that require strategic planning and execution.

Ultimately, the best approach depends on your website’s, and your business’s specific needs and objectives. Consider the scale of your website, the diversity of content you offer, and your long-term SEO goals when making this critical decision. Check out the links below for our services and we can also point you in the right direction…

FutureProof Digital SEO Copywriting Services & Web Design Services


About Adam Bermingham
This blog is dedicated to helping you stay ahead of the curve, with insights into the latest trends, tools, and best practices. Whether you’re a business owner, marketer, or web designer, we have something for everyone. We bring you expert advice, tutorials, and case studies to help you optimise your online presence.

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