Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from

Forum Moderators: phranque

Message Too Old, No Replies

To subdomain or not subdomain, that is the question.

What's the scoop?



3:50 pm on Feb 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

Ok, Brettís come out and said a few times now that we should not be using subdomains. He says our sites will be banned and that search engines do not like them. I mean this with no disrespect to Brett or others who have this feeling but without specific evidence then I am not about to change the direction of my business or my recommendations to clients that have proven and continue to prove successful. Anyone who knows me around here knows I use canonicals generously for my structuring of sites. Nearly every campaign I do uses them and I have had across the board tremendous success with them, particularly with Google.

You also know if you read anything Iíve written that I do not use them to in any way promote spam. It is a {sorry Brett} but ridiculous notion that any search engine would be dumb enough to do an across the board ban of canonicals because some folks may have used them for spam. Every major news, college, and corporation uses these for their structure. About.com of course is another very large site that uses this structure. Itís probably the easiest to search under so I would like to submit the following:

Fast - 912,300
Lycos - 911,604
Hotbot - 300,300
Google - 1,760,000 but thatís contains the term
Wisenut - 149,585,025
Alta Vista Ė their search stinks. Funny but I came up with other sites (not about.com) that use canonicals when I searched for about.com. No wonder no one uses Alta Vista, ugh.
Teoma - 284000

I know some will try to argue that about.com is so big and has been around so long and thatís the reason they are listed so well. I agree but there is no reason not to strive to create a site just as effective as about.com, utilizing canonicals or subdomains.

Iím afraid this reminds me of all the other blanket scares that weíve discussed. In my humble opinion itís not that you use them itís how you use them.

Ok, bring it on folks. If any of you have actually been banned for this form of structuring please come forward and tell us with which engine. Iíd also love to hear success stories. If itís true then I will happily change my entire style of site structuring but I need help from all of you first because that would be a huge decision and I certainly would not change what has been a very successful strategy based on feelings.


3:59 pm on Feb 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

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

See that Hotbot? Looks a bit out of whack with the rest of them? 3rd level domains are almost garanteed a ban from Inktomi. In order to get a 3rd level domain into Ink and make it stick without getting banned, it has to be from a site in the white db. Either they get grandfathered (large portion of them), have been hand checked in the past or get let in because of size. Almost all non-www 3rd level domains trigger a hand check. If they don't find some "special" for a site, it gets the boot almost without exception.


4:11 pm on Feb 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Well I don't think that SE would be doing a very smart thing by banning all the subdomains. Becuase, for example, I am in the middle of project where I am making 30 unique sites (inter linked, but with totally different topics and content). All these sites are on sub domains and have unique IP. Below are few site example of the sub domain:

www.html.domain.com [HTML tutorial]
www.metatags.domain.com [detialed info about Meta Tags]
www.perl.domain1.com [a directory like Hot Scripts, but only for Perl Scripts]
www.asp.domain1.com [[a directory like Hot Scripts, but only for Perl Scripts]]

In addition, I also own www.**********.com and plan to offer churches free web sub domain hostings (Churches all over USA & Canada).

Now if search engines plan to ban all these sites becuase they are on sub domains, then I hate to say it, but the one who will be lossing in this game will be search engines!

Few good reason to use sub domain:

1) Saves lots of money - no need to buy additional domain.
2) I can divide Script site (like Hotscripts.com) in different sub domain and can decrease lot of work in maintaiance.
3) ..................
4) ..................

I was wondering if others can give their input about above method on using sub domains.

(edited by: seth_wilde at 5:30 pm (utc) on Feb. 4, 2002)


4:32 pm on Feb 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

This possibly answers a question for me.

I have two pages that have recently been paid into inktomi

Both pages are subdomains both have been buried - they are both highly optimised using my normally succesful Inktomi techniques.

hmm.. will test again using directories and report back


4:38 pm on Feb 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ianturner is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Okay, I have no firm experience either way here. However here are some thoughts, in general canonicals are used by large corporates and education establishments to give seperate IP addresses to different parts of the site.

This arose in the edu's out of the need for each dept. to maintain their own content. Thus each machine on the edu net had its own IP address and content maintained locally.

Similarly in the large corporate environment, but many of these corporate canonicals are due to sheer weight of load on the server. (Crude load balancing)

So I would say my gut feeling on the subject is that I wouldn't play with canonicals on the same IP address unless someone gave me some very convincing evidence that I couldn't make the top of the listings without using canonicals.

If I could split the canonicals over different IP addresses, one per sub-domain i would be happier doing so, espcially if my site were already overloading a single server.


5:01 pm on Feb 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member nffc is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

>actually been banned for this form of structuring please come forward

My ears were burning, yes.

I look at it this way; if the content can stand alone [my guideline is will it get in Dmoz] then why bother with a sub domain, get a "real" one. If the content will not stand alone then put it in a sub directory of the site.


5:21 pm on Feb 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I look at it this way; if the content can stand alone [my guideline is will it get in Dmoz] then why bother with a sub domain, get a "real" one. If the content will not stand alone then put it in a sub directory of the site.

I tend to agree with what NFFC has said, however I think that cost can play a big part in the equation. The cost of a free subdomain against the registration and hosting fees for a new domain can be significant especially if multiplied a number of times. Finding the appropriate domain names can also be a problem if you are trying to build a brand.

NFFC do you think that you got banned purely because of your sub-domains or because of the way that you were using them. If you had used seperate domains in the same way might you also have been red-flagged ?

ridiculous notion that any search engine would be dumb enough to do an across the board ban of canonicals because some folks may have used them for spam

History is littered which examples and hearsay of SEs using a sledge hammer to crack a nut.

I would not worry if I currently had a spam free network of sub-domains, but I would make double sure that they were sqeaky clean.

Incidently BT has also said recently that he believes that keyword domains (a viable alternative to sub-domains) are on the way out - That's me snookered then :)


5:23 pm on Feb 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

hmm, been revisiting some server logs... got one site which has 2 different 3rd level domains, and I can see Slurp all over www, but not a trace in the other canonical

Hardly conclusive, but it does explain it...


5:29 pm on Feb 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member nffc is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

>NFFC do you think that you got banned

It would have been banned with seperate domains, on a web map view it would appear as a flashing red dot:) We have moved the site back into the www domain and used sub directories, give it a month or two and it may return.


1:49 am on Feb 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

I've now read from this discussion and the Google discussion where Brett recently weighed in [webmasterworld.com...] Iíve also gone over emails that folks sent and I requested.

I'm not sure it matters to anyone but I'm personally ok with continuing my use of canonicals/subdomains. I'm basing this entirely on my own ongoing results and how perhaps my strategies may differ from those who have had problems.

I think it would be great if folks would continue to weigh in with their personal experiences, not theory. Perhaps in this way we can continue to grow and in the spirit of Webmaster World, share our knowledge and experience.

If you are in doubt or not willing to take the risks then I suggest you donít. These are the ongoing decisions we make in dealing with site development. Think about it. We deal with cloaking issues, javascript, flash, PPC, honestly the list goes on and on. I find it exciting and I think it contributes to the variety we need to ensure that the web is unique. If we all followed the same path it just wouldnít work.


1:57 am on Feb 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member chiyo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

maybe the subranking of subdomains may be due to the small number of pages usually on subdomains - being in reality a subdirectory. Maybe they are not being penalised for being subdomains as such but becuase they have relatively smaller content.

Paynt's expereince may be due to the fact that her subdomains have a good number of pages.. (say the 100 that brett mentioned in his 36 steps) Subdomains created for the purpose of SEO only on the other hand may have much less content.

Simultaneorusly, I see domains (regardless of whether they are sub-domains, or standard domains) with a large number of pages being favoured by algos and domains with just a few pages demoted.

Any SEO must have at least mused about splitting their domains into many independent domains since Search engines many years ago started returning only one result per domain. It gives you maybe many more chances of being hit for a specific keyword of phrase.

That would mean that a domain with 100's of pages of great content would be disadvantaged against the 3 to 10 page domains. Maybe theming solved this for search engines, where it was difficult to theme based on just a few pages.


11:21 pm on Feb 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I got to jump in here with my experience.

I recently made the decision to reengineer my site as a themed site using subdomains to target my major keywords.

I am only part way through the project, but already the results are impressive.

The subdomains follow Brett's new 26 points quite well. All pages are around 200-400 words in length. Keywords are used in the right places. Content is unique writing - i.e. no dup's, and no WPG spammy pages.

I submitted about 10 pages to inktomi via position-tech in January. WHAM! These things went right to the top. All are in the top 20, and most are in the top 5 or top 8. All are modestly competitive 2 keyword phrases that I chose using wordtracker. The only pages that are stuck below 10 are the ones I haven't completed writing the content and optimizing for.

The reason these were submitted to Inktomi first is that I was nearing the cutoff date for being able to swap in new "domains" via postion-tech. So I wanted to get these in as placeholders. I had no idea that they would do so well on my first try.

The plan is roll this out in February as a large theme site that I can grow. Currently I have Googlebot blocked because I don't have the site properly interlinked as I am still developing it. I plan to let Googlebot at it once the interlinking is done later this month.

This site has been live since 1999 and was first indexed by Inktomi since around February of 2000. It may qualify as what Brett calls one of the sites on the "white list" for Inktomi.

Personally I think that subdomains help you to define subthemes within a site, while giving you the ability to maintain a consistent "brand" or user experience across topics.

I have a hard time believing that the SEs will ban these. I think they could pull abusers out by hand. Otherwise they are going to kill a lot of good sites.

A blanket statement that subdomains are a bad idea seems to be based on conjecture rather than hard facts. But then again, isn't that why we all hang out here... because the hard facts are so hard to get?

(edited by: NFFC at 11:23 pm (utc) on Feb. 6, 2002)


8:07 pm on Feb 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Need for cookies...

Some of our sites have a need to track certain information via cookies. Out clients have deals with traffic affiliates where they direct the traffic to us (some are banner ads, bleah, no returns) and split the revenue.

If I subdomain, I can cookie them. If I get separate domains, I can't share the cookies across domains. I suppose I could pass the information when I cross domains and recookie them (no ? if no cookie, so spiders are safe).

We had been using subdomains for each affiliate, it's become unmanagable, and now google thinks that all of our sites are one affiliate (this trashed accounting and revenue numbers).

So my choices are really: subdomain or directory. The entire site is built off a database, so the URL structure is only based upon what I think is most convenient for the spiders and more comfortable for users.

There used to be the strategic benefit of more content being closer to the root with subdomains, but one of my sites got a google ban for subdomaining. (Identical content on different interlinked sites with just a graphic and some text changing).

I'm coming around to the directory structure, I'm just wondering if some engines will perform better having everything one directory closer to root.



8:52 pm on Feb 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

ok, subdomains help you break your topics down, separate main themes under a site, are cheap, work well for you, etc. etc. You may be able to build a site using them, and get great rankings.

So, what's the problem? People do use them for spam, so SEs see this as a red flag. Does that mean you get a hand check? Does that mean your site gets blacklisted/banned/etc? ok, you may be fine today, but what about in 6 months or a year? What if the problem gets so bad SEs bury all subdomain stuff? All hypothetical, but you have to look at what the SE is thinking.

Might work for you, might not. Just make informed decisions.


Are your affiliate subdomains not duplicate content? All affiliate schemes I have seen, even co-branded stuff, didn't differentiate itself enough to not be considered dupe content. I think that would be more of a prolllem than being subdomained or dir'd.


8:59 pm on Feb 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member eliteweb is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I have freaky.xxxxx.com as my main site it was developed before the xxxxxx.com site was, then we added a few more NAMES.xxxxx.com and they are high on the search engines also. The sites have nothing to do with each other just the whole why pay for new domain names (;