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The Great Subdomain vs Folder Debate
apauto

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 3:09 am on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

OK, I have spent the last week searching, and still can not find any definite answer, as maybe there simply is no definite answer.

I am building a site about widget part sales. On this site, I am going to also have a forum about widgets in general. I also want a section later to sell widgets wholesale.

I was thinking of having

www.example.com (widget part sales, main site)
forum.example.com (forum for widgets in general, not just their parts)
wholesale.example.com (wholesale site)

or

www.example.com (widget part sales, main site)
example.com/forum (forum for widgets in general, not just their parts)
example.com/wholesale (wholesale site)

And etc, for each different directory, all relating to widgets.

Now, for the questions:

1) Does a link from subdomain to www act the same as a link from www to folder? And vice versa. Same value in SEO/page rank/rank distribution?

2) If you have the forum as a folder, and the forum has a lot of useless posts, (good to bad post ratio is low), does that hurt the ranking of the whole site?

3) If you have the forum as a subdomain, and the forum has a lot of useless posts, (good to bad post ratio is low), does that hurt the ranking of the www (since you have links to the WWW from a "low quality" section?

4) If the forum is in a directory, can you dilute the rest of the site with too many useless pages (if users are not posting good topics).

5) Do you really need to do seperate marketing for a subdomain? If you have a good www, and you point a lot of useful links into the subdomain, does that count as an "external" link? Like from a different site?

6) Do you need to build links to the subdomain as well? Won't the link juice being passed from the main site help the subdomain enough? If the subdomain gets popular, won't it help the www, since the subdomain links to the www?

7) Does anyone have any good examples of a big ecommerce store that successfully has everything in folders, rather than subdomains? (forums, blogs, profile pages, etc)

8) If a subdomain gets a penalty, does it pass to the WWW? Vice versa?

9) Since google can show up to two listings from your domain and subdomain per SERP, can you potentially get more traffic to your site with subdomains?

10) Am I thinking about this too much?

Please answer these questions taken only whitehat and full SEO has been taken into place on both the forum and www domains and folders.

Thanks in advance guys... i hope this doesn't just help me, but everyone else with this question!

BTW, I read this from Matt Cutts: [mattcutts.com...] and while it's helpful, it doesn't answer the questions above.

 

drasheed

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 3:46 am on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

All very good questions, I run a site that has over 40 subdomains so I have some views on some, but not all, of your questions.

5) Do you really need to do separate marketing for a subdomain? If you have a good www, and you point a lot of useful links into the subdomain, does that count as an "external" link? Like from a different site?

If you properly interlink your sub-domains you can get a big boost. I heard Matt Cutts, in answer to a question, say that sub domains are just like directories. Whilst I don't 100% agree with him for the reasons outlined in 8, I think he was talking about PR etc.

6) Do you need to build links to the subdomain as well? Won't the link juice being passed from the main site help the subdomain enough? If the subdomain gets popular, won't it help the www, since the subdomain links to the www?

Defo, you need targeted links to your subdomains as well

8) If a subdomain gets a penalty, does it pass to the WWW? Vice versa?

No, I currently have a penalty on one of my subdomains which has not followed through to my global site. I see this as a big plus to subdomains.

9) Since google can show up to two listings from your domain and subdomain per SERP, can you potentially get more traffic to your site with subdomains?

yes you can potentially get more traffic BUT Google is very quick to penalize if two pages are similar

I have even seen Google penalize for different language pages if the title text, descriptions or body is too similar. This is relevant if you are using subdomains for different language or differnet countries.

Exampe:
fr.widgets.com/widgets
de.widgets.com/widgets

10) Am I thinking about this too much?

No, these are good questions

apauto

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 3:51 am on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

drasheed, why did you go with subdomains vs folders?

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 4:31 am on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

8) If a subdomain gets a penalty, does it pass to the WWW? Vice versa?

No, I currently have a penalty on one of my subdomains which has not followed through to my global site.

But vice versa can be true - if the principle domain gets penalized, that definitely can take down the subdomains, too.

phranque

WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 6:14 am on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

8) If a subdomain gets a penalty, does it pass to the WWW? Vice versa?

strictly speaking, www.example.com is a subdomain of example.com, as is blog.example.com, forum.example.com, fr.example.com, etc.

apauto

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 7:35 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

strictly speaking, www.example.com is a subdomain of example.com, as is blog.example.com, forum.example.com, fr.example.com, etc.

I understand. My question was if it passes the penalty to other subdomains.

pageoneresults

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 7:37 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

strictly speaking, www.example.com is a subdomain of example.com, as is blog.example.com, forum.example.com, fr.example.com, etc.

Strictly speaking, and someone corrected me on this not long ago, www.example.com is a host domain of example.com. :)

Host Domains rock when used correctly. If abused, c'ya.

phranque

WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 9:00 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

www.example.com is a host domain of example.com

do you have a citation for that?
i couldn't find anything on ietf or w3c about subdomain naming conventions or standards.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 9:50 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

The technically precise name is a "host name"

Host Name Resolution

This chapter describes the various mechanisms that... computers use to resolve host names, such as www.example.com, to their corresponding IP addresses. Network administrators must understand host name resolution... to troubleshoot issues with host name resolution and to prepare for the complexities of Domain Name System (DNS).

[technet.microsoft.com...]


pageoneresults

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 10:20 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Thanks tedster!

phranque, someone corrected me back in 2007 as they knew how anal I was about using proper terminology. I had been using the subdomain nomenclature for years. I've since corrected my use of that term. :)

Here's another reference, you know the Wiki would have one.

Hostname at Wiki
[en.wikipedia.org...]

Reference RFC 952 and RFC 1123.

phranque

WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 1:04 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

so in that case, blog.example.com, forum.example.com, fr.example.com, etc must also be host names of example.com?

i still can't find anything in any of the referenced or linked documents that gives any special meaning to "www" or how you specify which domain name is "the" host name.

Marcia

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 2:15 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

host names of example.com?

Yep, and referenced in a lot of IR papers that way. There can be multiple host names within a domain.

Here's a reference showing how some of the usual suspects at Google: Bharat, Henzinger, et al define and refer to hosts (Warning: PDF):

Who Links to Whom: Mining Linkage between Web Sites [people.csail.mit.edu]

Another neat paper from a couple more of the usual suspects at Stanford, notice how they reference hosts or hostnames (Warning: PDF):

Exploiting the Block Structure of theWeb for Computing
PageRank
[citeseer.ist.psu.edu]

There really wouldn't be specs at W3C, since it's DNS/Protocol/Hosting/Server issues rather than standards and markup. Here's a nice post about the topic in this www vs. non-www thread [webmasterworld.com].

There's reference at Apache.org, like in the section on canonical hosts [httpd.apache.org].

[edited by: Marcia at 3:01 am (utc) on Aug. 20, 2008]

apauto

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 6:29 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

So let's get back to subdomain vs folder... :)

phranque

WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 8:10 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

So let's get back to subdomain vs folder

if there is a domain name that has some inherent authority among your (sub/host)domains it would be important to establish that for the benefit of your discussion.

Marcia

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 8:59 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

if there is a domain name that has some inherent authority among your (sub/host)domains it would be important to establish that for the benefit of your discussion.

phranque, I just read the first post again, and I don't think the OP has a site up yet, but is in the planning stages.

I am building a site about widget part sales. On this site, I am going to also have a forum about widgets in general. I also want a section later to sell widgets wholesale.

I was thinking of having...

So let's get back to subdomain vs folder...

Actually, that's what we've been talking about, but I think maybe we got into high English. ;) So did Matt Cutts in his article, but he made some very good points and I'd do what he suggested, and go with subdirectories.

If you're just starting out with a widget parts site, it would be a good idea to use the simplest structure possible and get some content rich pages up, enough to get some decent inbound links, and build up a history, including a decent link profile.

It's better to start smaller with quality than to load up a site with a bunch of pages that will land in the Supplemental index, including forum pages with little content (and low to no PR) before you even have enough PR, exposure and traffic.

Also think about where you'll have a shopping cart, if you'll be having one.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 4:36 pm on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

BTW, I read this from Matt Cutts: [mattcutts.com...] and while it's helpful, it doesn't answer the questions above.

That's because it's kind of "secret sauce" and Google isn't about to share the exact details. But w know this, Google wants to limit anyone's ability to get more than two results on page one of a high volume search - even two from the parent domain and one more from subdomain.

Links seem to be valued in a similar fashion - internally across directories or across subdomains. They're both a kind of internal link.

My rule of thumb is that a subdomain needs a distinct business purpose and plenty of unique content to support that purpose. In other words, it's almost an independent domain.

The decision to use a subdomain (a different hostname variant) is more of an organizational issue, rather than made for ranking reasons. It can be lot easier to manage template differences, CMS variations and so on.

It's not a good idea to compare your decisions and strategies to those of a large enterprise - if your business is not also a large enterprise. The big corporations have organizational challenges that put them at a competitive DISADVANTAGE. What you see on their domains may be something that is a thorn in their side - something that would take too many resources to fix, so they just live with it.

pageoneresults

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 5:01 pm on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

It's not a good idea to compare your decisions and strategies to those of a large enterprise - if your business is not also a large enterprise.

Great quote tedster! I'll take it one step further and say the same applies to large enterprise. Just because your competitor is doing it doesn't mean it is the correct or most optimal way for your business.

The big corporations have organizational challenges that put them at a competitive DISADVANTAGE. What you see on their domains may be something that is a thorn in their side - something that would take too many resources to fix, so they just live with it.

Ain't that the truth! I know from personal experience. Undoing years of programming "layering" to get things done quickly and efficiently without any forethought to scalability has brought many to their knees. That's the kind of work I like doing. Undoing the many years of "we need this now" or "the product launches on Monday" type of environment. Been there, done that, still doing it!

I've been slowly moving sub-directories to host domain levels over time. And, they are those areas that have grown way beyond their initial expectations. Also, different things occur at the host domain level from an indexing and PR standpoint. You have much more control at the host domain level and that is me personal opinion. Google may say one thing but experience says something else. The thing is, if you even come close to abusing the proper protocols, you'll get canned with no questions asked. So be very frugal in how you set up your architecture and where everything "flows".

Oh, and stay away from all the nofollow stuff and anything else that is a plugin for SEO. :)

apauto

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 10:07 pm on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

My rule of thumb is that a subdomain needs a distinct business purpose and plenty of unique content to support that purpose. In other words, it's almost an independent domain.

Wouldn't that be a good case for a forum? If you had to put a forum on a site, would you put it in a subdomain?

I've been slowly moving sub-directories to host domain levels over time. And, they are those areas that have grown way beyond their initial expectations. Also, different things occur at the host domain level from an indexing and PR standpoint. You have much more control at the host domain level and that is me personal opinion. Google may say one thing but experience says something else. The thing is, if you even come close to abusing the proper protocols, you'll get canned with no questions asked. So be very frugal in how you set up your architecture and where everything "flows".

You mean "sub-domains to host domain levels" ? Or do you mean the host domain level would be a subdomain?

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 10:26 pm on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

Let's not get all tangled in technical vocabulary. "Host domain" was a phrase that pageoneresults used by accident, and there is no technical definition for it. A subdomain is a kind of "host name."

Yes, if I were introducing a new forum on a website, I would consider a new subdomain (host name) - but only for the ease-of-management reasons I gave above, not because of ranking considerations. Note that I said "consider", not definitely use it. Especially with Matt Cutts' relatively recent suggestion in mind, if the site's back end can handle a subdirectory address, then I would lean in that direction for a new forum.

10) Am I thinking about this too much?

I'm beginning to think you might be ;) either way can work out fine.

[edited by: tedster at 1:09 am (utc) on Aug. 21, 2008]

apauto

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 10:52 pm on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

tedster, you are the man. I really appreciate and value your input, thank you!

And yes, I always overthink everything... better to start everything off the right way the first time. :)

I decided to go with the subdomain for the forum, and think it would be best.

Thanks again!

pageoneresults

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3726087 posted 1:03 am on Aug 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

Let's not get all tangled in technical vocabulary. "Host domain" was a phrase that pageoneresults used by accident, and there is no technical definition for it. A subdomain is a kind of "host name."

Man, sorry about that. Yes, I meant Hostname! Ya see how confusing this gets? I may go back to calling them sub domains if I make that slip again.

Hostname

Heh, and ya'll let me get away with it too. Don't believe everything I say. Not in this one instance anyway. ;)

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