In the past few years there have been some misleading statements made regarding landing pages on subdomains, exact match or keyword stuffed domains and subdirectories. Firstly, we’ll decipher what each of these actually means.
Let’s say you own a biscuit company- ‘Cathy’s Cookies’ and your domain name is www.cathyscookies.com. You could then create another subdomain for this, specifically for Chocolate chip biscuits, www.chocolatechip.cathyscookies.com OR you could create a subdirectory, www.cathyscookies.com/chocolatechip. Maybe you think that you will try and gain more of a competitive advantage by creating another domain name altogether and you go and call it www.chocolatechipcookies.com.
But which of these is actually going to help Cathy’s Cookies gain traffic and build authority?
Well, this is where people have become confused. Some Google authorities have publicly stated that Google has become much better at identifying and associating subdomains with their other domains so having content on subdomains shouldn’t be an issue. While we can assume best efforts are made to do so by Google, there is astounding evidence to suggest that hosting on subdomains is not a good idea for a number of reasons.
We are often approached by clients who want to generate a number of pages on subdomains or new domain names to increase their presence which they believe will enhance their SEO. This is at no fault of the clients and, given the number of conflicting ideas and opinions online, can be a confusing topic even for those in the industry.
Our research finds that subdirectories are overwhelmingly more beneficial than subdomains and there are a number of reasons why.
While some people are under the impression that saturating the internet with numerous domains and subdomains will be beneficial to the SEO of their website, the contrary is actually correct.
When a new subdomain is created, the authority of that domain will be zero until enough traffic and interest is built for Google to decide it deserves any authority. Starting a new subdomain or a new domain means building authority from the ground up rather than inheriting authority from the parent domain, which is what happens to subdirectories. Particularly with landing pages where the subdomain appears as a single page website, authority will be difficult to build. The website will appear thin, lacking any genuine quality which will cause it to rank poorly.
In one of his Whiteboard Friday episodes, Rand Fishkin from Moz urged people to keep their content on one single subdomain to maximise their potential SEO benefit. He also made reference to a website who shifted their blog from a subdirectory to a subdomain and saw terrible results.
Let’s take a look at that particular website.
After months of research, iwantmyname.com decided they would shift their blog from a subdirectory (iwantmyname.com/blog) to a subdomain (blog.iwantmyname.com). They did all they were supposed to including page redirects for all URLS. While they expected an initial hit to their traffic followed by a gradual recovery, the traffic did not revert to normal after 6 months on the subdomain. It was at the 6 month point the team decided enough was enough and moved back to the subdirectory.
If a landing page is being created for a PPC campaign, content may be taken from the products, services or about us pages of the website. One reason people often suggest subdomains rather than subdirectories is to avoid duplicate content sitting on their website. As Matt Cutts from Google Webmasters points out, 25-30% of the web is duplicate content, whether that be in the form of quotes, links or paragraphs taken from blogs and websites. He goes on to say that for the most part, duplicate content is not treated as spam unless it really IS spam.
Cutts says that while Google notices duplicate content, it is able to decipher which pages are doing it in an abusive or manipulative way. Websites that have some duplicate on 1 or 2 pages need not to worry.
Not convinced? If you’re landing pages are designed purely for PPC campaigns then they should ultimately be hidden using robots anyway. This will avoid any chance of search engines picking up duplicate content and means your adverts will rely solely on quality score.
Each time a subdomain is created, that subdomain may be subject to hosting fees making it an expensive process. If you are wanting to create several different landing pages, the initial costs as well as maintenance and upkeep can become an unnecessary expense.
But…… can’t I just host them all on the same server to reduce costs? Clever, but no. To get any SEO benefit, you will need to host on a completely different server.
Let’s go back to our new business venture, Cathy’s Cookies. You’re going against all we’ve already discussed and you’ve decided to create some exact match or keyword stuffed domain names to try and reach a wider audience. To try and reach people searching for chocolate chip cookies you create www.chocolatechipcookies.com. To reach people wanting peanut butter cookies, you create www.peanutbuttercookies.com and to reach those who are after smarties cookies you go ahead and claim www.smartiescookies.com. As a wholesaler, your customers will generally look on your website, decide what they want and call you to make an enquiry.
If your customer is looking to add all three cookies to add to their cafe, they’re going to find it very strange if they end up calling the same number listed on three different websites. Not only will this confuse the customer, your business will look spammy and untrustworthy.
If you are wanting to run a PPC campaign and send customers to a particular page, you can create landing pages with subdirectories. The way we do this is by creating a new page within the subdomain and removing the navigation on the page, aside from a link back to the website.
By doing this, a much better user experience is offered, with the option for the user to explore more of the website.
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