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Google's View on Sub-Domains

     

RichTC

12:44 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Hi all,

About three years back on one of the sites i worked on from time to time i created about half a dozen subdomains off the main site. Widget1-abc.com, Widget2.abc.com etc, etc.

The site abc.com had large sectors anyway for widget1, widget2 but i thought i would give them their own dedicated sub-sites.

I guess the truth is that back then it wasnt for users benefit but for ranking reasons. I thought having keyword.domain was going to help rankings - I am obviously more experienced now but this is how i thought at the time and how i see a number of other webmasters thinking!

What i have noticed recently is that on google, when doing a search for the term widget1, i might find that abc.com rank say position 23 in one data centre. I may try another data centre and find that either abc.com or subdomain.abc.com rank in exactly the same position.

Clearly google in this example rates both the subdomain site and the main site as equals depite them both pages having the same Page Rank but abc.com having far, far more backlinks than subdomain.com.

My question is this:-

If i re-visit this website and remove all of the sub domains , do you think the search positions in google will improve for abc.com? or get worse?

Also, i noticed a site that had every area known to man as a subdomain, area1.cde.com, area2.cde.com etc. It had 400,000 back links from its own pages!- my thoughts were that surely this site will get crushed by Google yet some of its subs are filtering into the index! so google must think subs are OK.

In conclusion im thinking that in truth a sub-domain is a bit spammy to be honest - ive not seen any genuine cases where a sub-domain is really that vital, so im thinking that perhaps i should re-visit the site and remove the subs from it, but obviously the webmaster wont be to pleased with me if i advise they should go and his site drops off the map!

Any thoughts anyone or has anyone any experience of this?

Bilbo123

1:43 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



According to MC's blog - google is going to get smarter with BigDaddy update on subdomains.

Quote from Blog:

"my current pet peeve (subdomain spam, which BigDaddy does better on). "

I hope they aren't too hard on it because it is a very logical way to break up a site for many reasons.

I'd keep it the same as you have it if it's 20 or less subdomains. You can check on your subdomains and BigDaddy at the 3 datacenters where they have updated.

216.239.51.104
66.249.93.104
64.233.179.104

If you are using a ton of subdomains - I'd change them. I'm sure MSN will get smarter soon too (if you go to search.msn.com and search for credit cards you will see the first couple results are subdomain spam.) They can't continue with bad results like that for large volume keywords.

Krapulator

2:35 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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it is a very logical way to break up a site for many reasons.

How is it any more logical than using a good directory structure?

truezeta

2:38 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



How much is too much? I was thinking about adding a few subdomains for some of my broad topics.

Bilbo123

2:40 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Allows you to change directory structure without redirects, easier to remember for users, etc.

I'm not saying it's good in all situations, but they do have their place. As I said - if you have only a few areas that need to be clearly defined such as corporate.domain.com or investors.domain.com.

This obviously makes it easier to maintain your inbound links when doing overhauls.

About.com has redone their site for this and a few other reasons. It works great - IMO. This way I don't have to remember about.com/od/blah/

When you are working with a site that is huge and has a lot of traffic - it is much easier to manage the DNS to split up onto multiple servers. All you have to do is point forum. or members. to a diff. IP.

McMohan

5:41 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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If anyone wanted to see the sub-domains of a single site dominating the entire SERPs of a keyword that produces 8 mil + results PM me.

grant

5:41 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



How is it any more logical than using a good directory structure?

Studies have shown that users more easily remember subdomains than directories.

tictoc

6:28 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



When it gets to the point that 90% of the sites of the subdomain sites are spam sites its time to start penalizing them. MSN needs to just ban them all that are not related to the keyword of the main sites domain name. The problem is very bad in MSN and something needs to be done - it is long overdue on all the keywords I have searched on.

tictoc

6:31 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



McMohan, if you are talking about MSN results on spam with ONE subdomain we could start up an entire WW forum on that... I sure wished MSN would comment on this spam and at least ACT like they are trying to get rid of it. If MSN is at PubCon Boston that is one of the questions I plan to ask them when they start bragging about their results vs. Google...I would say they would beat google in the results if they took out the subdomain sites!

One more thing.. yes i get fired up about subdomains.. Yahoo spams the internet with their duplicate content on their subdomains - google and msn should not be listing Yahoo results that are duplicate content used from their partner sites.

Pass the Dutchie

7:43 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



If anyone wanted to see the sub-domains of a single site dominating the entire SERPs of a keyword that produces 8 mil + results PM me.

[google.com...]

idolw

8:45 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



we have a website that has a subdomain for each major geographical region we cover. works very well for us but we do not use subdomains for spamming reasons.
as we are now building another (much larger) website, we have decided on subdomains, too. these simply make stuff more clear to everyone.
I see no reason to ban them.
If google cannot handle subdomains properly, they'd better stop spending cash on new acquisitions and start working hard on their algo!

McMohan

9:08 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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tictoc,

Nops, I am talking about Google.

Munster

9:44 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Haha I got a bullseye when I had a guess at the keyword!

[edited by: Munster at 9:45 am (utc) on Feb. 14, 2006]

Jack_Hughes

10:11 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



we use a subdomain to take some potentially hackable scripts off our main ecommerce site.

there are perfectly good reasons to have subdomains so i can't see blanket bans coming into force.

now if you've been getting advantage in the serps because of them, then good luck to you...

i can certainly think of at least one site that is getting a big advantage from using sub-domains and i always thought that some day they were going to get nailed. that day sounds like it is coming closer...

idolw

10:44 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



sure there are sites taking advantage of subdomain spam. if you build subdomains such as: buy-widget.domain.com it does not look to good and the aim of that is certain.
however, if subdomain is just a logical part of the entire website then why should a ste be nailed?
the only thing that scares me is that trying to nail bad boys, google will kick good boys first.

glitterball

11:19 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



How is it any more logical than using a good directory structure?

I use subdomains for seperating localised language versions of my sites i.e. es.domainname.com for spanish, de.domainname.com for german.

That way, I can use the same scripts and pull the localised text from a DB.

powerstar

12:20 pm on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Google is using sub-domains

adwords.google.com
toolbar.google.com

and so on

idolw

2:47 pm on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Google is using sub-domains

adwords.google.com
toolbar.google.com

and so on

exactly. the key is just not to use subdomains such as:
best-pay-per-click-advertising-program-cheap.google.com ;)

Bilbo123

3:11 pm on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



They ought to look for many things when evaluating subdomains. The ones on MSN that get in the SERPS are single page, redirects, etc.

They should look at a subdomain - see how many pages are within that sub, links directly to the sub from other non-sub sites, are the pages in the sub content rich, etc.

AcsCh

3:24 pm on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



We got a bit hit by bigdaddy with our subdomains. We have them organized by themes. Every subdomain has quite some pages (100+), and the this-widget-has-a-long-name.ourdomain.com got heavily down. the widget.ourdomain.com domains are keeping positions for "red widget", but heavily going slightly down too on the "widget" search.

Looks like google is having a sharp eye on subdomains, and any spammy sign as multiple dashes might be a bad idea. Without subdomains you might have more margin to "mess", until you are "caught". ;)

pageoneresults

3:30 pm on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



The only time that you really would consider using sub-domains are when the site is so broad and the categories are not related. For example, a shopping search engine. Another example would be a directory like Yahoo!

I've had excellent success with using a sub-directory structure for websites. I've not yet had the opportunity to develop sub-domains as we can logically build into the existing site structure.

There are a couple of cons that I see when using sub-domains. For one, they are not user friendly for many. Why? Because people have this inherent nature and want to type in www.sub.domain.com not realizing that the sub is to be used in place of the www.

You want your sub-domains to be short and sweet, one word, highly targeted. For instance...

cars.example.com
homes.example.com
electronics.example.com

If you have 7 buttons for main navigation at the top of your site and you are using a sub-domain structure, those seven buttons are most likely going to be your primary sub-domain links.

Remember, sub-domains are one level above the root and will typically have more power than a sub-directory which is one level below the root. But, site architecture, inbound links, etc. will all have a final say-so in the matter.

That www. thing is the main reason why I've not made the trek into sub-domains. There are also additional maintenance/management issues to content with using a sub-domain structure.

Eltiti

5:31 pm on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



About a year ago, I wondered if I should set up a new site using subdomains (which were doing *very* well in the SERPs in my country at that time) or subdirectories.

I ended up choosing the latter --mainly because so many "spammy" sites were using subdomains ("clean" sites like About notwithstanding)...

While I *may* have given myself a minor disadvantage at the time, I now feel it was the right long-term decision! :-)

arran

5:44 pm on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



That's the first time i've ever heard about.com described as clean ;)

jcoronella

5:53 pm on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Clean is what Matt says is clean, and I doubt about.com has escaped his scrutiny. Judging by it's killer rankings, I'd say it passed.

Halfdeck

6:56 pm on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



One remark I remembr Matt saying at the end of his radio interview (and I'm paraphrasing here): "There's no need for a domain to have 9000 subdomains with just one page per subdomain."

pageoneresults

7:14 pm on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



There's no need for a domain to have 9000 subdomains with just one page per subdomain.

This is where I think many make a mistake. I do believe that there are routines (filters) in place to determine if a site is large enough to justify a sub-domain structure. Obviously if a domain has "too many" sub-domains with little content, it may raise a flag.

There was a time where this worked in Google. They've since corrected much of it. There are still a few who know how to work the sub-domain structure very well. I've even seen instances of sub-domains outranking the root domain.

netchicken1

7:18 pm on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Sub domains are also good for seperating out your statistics from each other.

Each sub can have its own stats as opposed to them all being lumped togehter under the main site.

TechPad

10:49 pm on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Interestingly enough, if you look at the query for "web hosting" most of the top 10 results are from companies that have 100,000's of subdomains pointing at them from free web hosting providers user pages and is helping the rankings across the board. Personally I think it is a spammy way of doing SEO. But yet still effective.

Jay7

1:51 pm on Feb 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Because people have this inherent nature and want to type in www.sub.domain.com not realizing that the sub is to be used in place of the www.

You can have www.widgets.example.com redirected to widgets.example.com.

I personally prefer the first option - looks more like an URL to a regular Internet user.