Subfolders, subdomains and new domains: Where your blog should live
Ian Lurie Mar 22 2010
Last week my creative well ran utterly dry. I asked folks to post internet marketing questions, and they obliged. This is one of those questions.
I would really like help with which URL to use for a new ecommerce store blog, ie
pros and cons of each would be great to know.
Here you go, Simon – the answer:
Using a subdomain
If you put your blog on a subdomain – blog.mystore.com – search engines effectively treat your blog as a separate site.
The good: Once you run a full link building and separate SEO campaign for your blog, links from the blog to your store will carry a lot of weight, since they’re inter-domain. Plus, you can get the subdomain to rank separately, meaning you could potentially occupy multiple positions on page 1 of the search results. That’s good for reputation management.
The not-so-good: There’s evidence search engines lend less weight to links between sites owned by the same person. So, if I launch 3 sites, and link 2 of them to the third, that will carry less weight than if 2 sites I do not own link to me. There’s no possible way to conceal the common ownership when you’re using a subdomain – you own both sites. So the links may be discounted.
The hideous: Since the subdomain is a separate site, none of the authority from the ecommerce site will pass to the blog. That means it’ll take a long time to get it indexed and ranked, unless you’re Amazon.com. Even better, it means that if you write a great blog post and get tons of links, none of the authority from those links will pass back to your site unless you execute a careful linking strategy.
The Lovecraftian nightmare: Content you write on the blog will in no way boost the relevance of the primary site. Nor will can it help boost the store through trending content.
Personally, I give using subdomains a C-. Unless you’ve got or anticipate a reputation management problem, you’re wasting effort. You’d be better off adding more content to your main www.mystore.com site.
The separate site
I like this better than the subdomain. Here’s why:
The good: With a separate site, you can brand separately. That gives you freedom in writing potentially more outrageous link bait than you’d otherwise want to. You can also conceal ownership, if you want to, and then use the separate domain to drive links and authority to the main site. Just be sure you use a domain name that doesn’t read like an expansion of mystore.com. That’s a dead giveaway. Finally, you can potentially encourage guest posts from competitors who might not want to blog on your site, but are comfortable with contributing to an independent site (even if they know it’s you).
The not-so-good: Good luck getting an entirely new site ranked in less than 6 months. In the mean time I hope you like writing for the sake of writing.
The hideous: Why launch and optimize another site, when you’re still trying to optimize the first?
This option gets a B-. Nothing wrong with that – it was my GPA when I graduated law school.
It gets an A if you’re writing about a completely different topic than you were on the original site.
This is the best solution. Barring a crushing reputation management issue, or a hosting configuration that somehow doesn’t let you add a blog, there’s no reason not to do this.
By the way, there is no hosting configuration I know of that rules out installation of a blog. There are some webmaster mental problems that can, though. See below for more valid objections.
The good: With the blog in a subfolder, any rise in link velocity that’s caused by a blog post should also help the main site. Also, the blog will get crawled and indexed very, very quickly. And, if you write a post that hits a fast-trending topic on the head, it’ll boost all nearby (linked) content on mystore.com. Finally, you can easily interlink blog and store content and not worry about losing customers in an awkward intra-website jump. There are lots more reasons, but this should be enough.
The not-so-good: This makes far too much sense. The very fabric of corporate America will shriek in protest.
The hideous: This solution will lead to a number of protests from your IT department. Some are legitimate. Some are ridiculous. See the next section for an explanation.
The Lovecraftian nightmare: As part of your site, your blog gets to drag along all the baggage of whatever implementation compromises you made at 3 AM to get the damned site launched.
Overall, this one gets an A.
Potential arguments against using a subfolder
These are all arguments I’ve run into when trying to move a blog from a subdomain or separate domain to a subfolder:
“It’s a security problem.” OK, I have to acknowledge that. Any time you install another piece of software on your server, it’s potentially a security issue. WordPress in particular is known to get hacked now and then. If you keep it updated, though, it’s just fine. Plus, if you’re running your server on Windows and haven’t installed the last 1,233 patches, you’re screwed anyway. But security is a valid concern.
“It’s too hard. We don’t want to do it.” What?! It’s too hard?! I’m a frakking liberal arts graduate and I can get WordPress running on my laptop in about 4 minutes flat. Are you crying? Are you CRYING? There’s no crying in marketing!!!!
“It will overload the server.” Riiiight. So, that means any day with more than 3 orders will overload the server, too?
“This guy over here says a subdomain is better for SEO” or “There’s no proof that a subfolder is any better for SEO.” Just read this article on SearchEngineLand. Or read Matt Cutts’ article on the subject. But you’re right, he can’t possibly be as trustworthy as some guy on a site called SearchSuccessNow.com.
“The frendeges gizmohickey will conflict with WordPress’s mozenge and cause a total frilliwopy on the server. It’ll be bad, man. Bad.” A translation of some utter BS a web host once threw at me. Needless to say, I don’t agree.
“It’s a bad idea. I could tell you. But then I’d have to kill you.” Yes. A developer once actually said this to me. It’s here strictly for entertainment value.
Breathe, Ian. Breathe…
In conclusion: Subfolders win
Unless you’re writing completely about a whole new topic that’s unrelated to your main site, go with a subfolder. Avoid subdomains. Use a separate site if you’re looking to write about something new.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More