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Is the use of subdomains (or subdirectories) a Google ranking factor?

Is there any connection between subdomains, subdirectories and improved Google rankings?Let's take a look.

Subdomains and subdirectories allow you to organize specific types of content on your website.

But does using subdomains or subdirectories affect your organic search rankings?

Read on to find out if there is any connection between subdomains, subdirectories, and improved Google rankings.

Disclaimer: Subdomains and subdirectories are ranking factors

What are subdomains and subdirectories?

Subdomains are parts of your website.

Examples of subdomains include the bolded portion of the following URL:

  • https:// Company
  • https://
  • https://

Subdirectories, on the other hand, are folders within a domain.You can have subdirectories on both the main domain and subdirectories.

Examples of subdirectories include the bolded portion of the following URL:

  • /
  • Blog/
  • 类别/

Evidence of subdomains and subdirectories as ranking factors

In 2007, Matt Cutts, former Google spam team leader, wrote a blog post about subdomains and subdirectories.

He said in the letter:

"Subdomains can be used to separate out completely different content.

In 2011, in response to Google's Panda update, HubPages moved its user-generated content to a subdomain.

According to The Wall Street Journal and Search Engine Watch, HubPages:

"...In the first three weeks since he activated the subdomain for himself and several other authors, he has returned to his pre-Panda level of [traffic].Other authors have seen a significant (if not total) recovery in network traffic.

Evidence against subdomains and subdirectories as ranking factors

Google has confirmed how they handle subdomains and subdirectories.

In the Google Search Center support documentation, you can find the following:

"Is it better to use subfolders or subdomains?

You should choose what is easiest to organize and manage.From an indexing and ranking standpoint, Google has no preference.

In 2013, Katz answered the same question about how Google views subdomains and subdirectories:

"They are roughly equivalent.I would basically choose what is easier for you in terms of configuration, your CMS [Content Management System]…All these things.

Cutts gave an example of using a business that wanted to use a different CMS (like WordPress VIP or Tumblr) to power their blog.

He went on to say that, historically, Google would show two results for each host.This allows webmasters to abuse subdomains enough to take over search results.

Google updated their algorithm to show only one or two results for each domain, making it harder for subdomains to get more spots in search results.

In 2018, Google search advocate John Mueller made it clear in his response what is best for SEO – subdomains or subdirectories:

"Google Web Search can use subdomains or subdirectories.

He goes on to discuss the difference in processing between subdomains and subdirectories:

"Some servers make it easier to set up different parts of a website as subdirectories.This helps us crawl as we know everything is on the same server and can crawl it in a similar fashion.

Regarding subdirectories, Mueller said:

"You'll need to verify subdomains individually in Search Console, make any changes to settings, and track the overall performance of each subdomain.We do have to learn how to crawl them individually, but for the most part it's just a form of the first few days.

Subdomains and Subdirectories as Ranking Factors: Our Verdict

Since you must verify subdomains individually in Search Console, not subdirectories, it's safe to assume that Google treats subdomains as separate websites.

This does not mean that using subdomains or subdirectories is a Google ranking factor.

Extended reading:

Are spelling and grammar a Google ranking factor?

Are Outbound Links a Google Search Ranking Factor?

Are meta keywords a Google ranking factor?

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