If you are planning a website that will be used to provide different types of service, you need to decide whether to user folders to sub-divide functions or sub-domains. Let’s look at the pros and cons.
Folders and subdomains are both effective way to organize different types of function from the same domain name. Each approach has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, depending on factors like user experience, SEO, analytics, and technical considerations.
Folders are usually denoted in a URL as sections after the domain name (e.g., www.domain.com/shop), and subdomains, which are usually denoted in a URL as a prefix to the domain name (e.g., shop.domain.com), can both be effective in certain scenarios.
Folders have the following advantages:
- SEO: Folders are considered part of the main domain, so all links, content, and other SEO-related factors within a folder contribute to the overall domain’s SEO strength.
- Simplicity: Folders are straightforward to set up, manage, and understand. Most Content Management Systems (CMS) support the use of folders natively.
- URL Readability: URLs using folders can be more straightforward to understand, as they present a clear hierarchy of the site’s content.
- Scalability: As your site grows, managing a large number of folders can become complex and difficult to navigate.
- Cross-domain tracking: If you want to track user interaction across different functions in your site, folders might complicate this process since everything is considered as part of the main domain.
Subdomains have the following advantages:
- Separation of Services: Subdomains allow for clear segregation of different parts of a site. This can be particularly useful for large websites with disparate functionalities, like a SaaS product and a shop.
- Technical Configuration: Subdomains can have different server configurations and can be hosted on different servers. This can help in load distribution and improve performance.
- Branding: Subdomains can provide a way to brand different parts of a website differently while still keeping the association with the main domain.
- SEO: Search engines may treat subdomains as separate domains. This means that SEO efforts may need to be duplicated across each subdomain, and SEO ‘authority’ might not be shared across the domain and its subdomains.
- User Perception: Some users may find subdomains confusing or off-putting, as they are less common than folders.
The choice between using folders or subdomains will depend largely on the specifics of the site, its purpose, and its audience. It’s important to consider factors like SEO, user experience, technical requirements, and future scalability when making this decision. If you are planning a large project, bear in mind that complexity often seems to scale exponentially so simplicity becomes a more important advantage over time and can dramatically cut down on website maintenance issues later on and, potentially, stop it becoming a software legacy problem in years to come.