If you’re not sure what that means, keep reading. While it might sound technical, or even a bit intimidating, it’s actually not that complicated. This page provides a step-by-step explanation of SEO for subdomains, including a look at what subdomains are and why you should optimize them.
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What is a Subdomain?
Before getting into how to use subdomains for SEO, it is important to understand what exactly a subdomain is.
In the URL “www.example.com,” “example” is the domain name. If you created a subdomain for your blog called “blog,” the URL would be “In the URL “www.example.com,” “example” is the domain name. If you created a subdomain for your blog called “blog,” the URL would be blog.example.com.
Subdomains are free to create, and you can have as many of them as you want. For example, Google has maps.google.com, scholar.google.com, mail.google.com, and many others.
Subdomains function like entirely different sites, and may have unique content. They can also be hosted on entirely different platforms from the rest of your site. This is convenient if you want to start a blog using a platform like WordPress without changing the setup of the rest of your site.
Why use a Subdomain?
There are many reasons you might want to use a subdomain, but the most common are blogging and targeting different geographical areas. They can also be useful for organization if your site is large and has thousands of pages.
I used “blog” as an example of a subdomain above because many businesses use subdomains for their company blogs — but shouldn't. The main reason for this is that a subdomain can be managed as a completely separate entity from the rest of the site, and therefore can use a different platform. This is helpful if you want to use a popular platform like WordPress for blogging, but don’t want to go to the hassle of switching your entire site over.
Targeting Geographical Areas
Subdomains can also be useful if your business serves different cities or regions. For example, if you have one location in Chicago and one in Denver, you might have chicago.domain.com and denver.domain.com. This is especially helpful if the locations are managed by different people, as it allows them individual control over their branch’s site.
One site that does this is Craigslist. Every city has its own listings in every category, which are all hosted on subdomains like “philadelphia.craigslist.org” and “One site that does this is Craigslist. Every city has its own listings in every category, which are all hosted on subdomains like “philadelphia.craigslist.org” and “nashville.craigslist.org.” This is helpful to users, because items for sale in one city aren’t at all relevant to people on the other side of the country.
Large franchises also use subdomains for different brands. One examples of this is Hilton, which owns many other hotel brands like Embassy Suites and Hampton Inn, which are hosted on the subdomains “embassysuites.hilton.com” and “for different brands. One examples of this is Hilton, which owns many other hotel brands like Embassy Suites and Hampton Inn, which are hosted on the subdomains “embassysuites.hilton.com” and “hamptoninn.hilton.com.”
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This is helpful to the company, because it allows the managers for each brand to have their own sites while also retaining company branding.
How to Use Subdomains for SEO
Now that you know how subdomains work, how can you optimize them for search engines?
Targeting Other Keywords
A subdomain gives you a chance to target different keywords. This is especially useful if you are using geographical subdomains. The obvious choice would be to make the city that your business is located in your subdomain, but it could be worth your time to do some keyword research. For example, a franchised hotel in Lancaster get more traffic from a subdomain like “centralpennsylvania” than “Lancaster,” depending on what people are searching for.
Subdomains also give you the opportunity to target keywords related to your business that aren’t in your domain. This should not be seen as an opportunity to start keyword stuffing, or cramming as many keywords (relevant and irrelevant) as possible into the elements of your site. Instead, you should see it as a chance to incorporate keywords that are relevant to your site and are being searched for by qualified traffic.
What Subdomains Can’t Do
Now that you have a basic overview of what subdomains are and how you can use them as part of your SEO strategy, it’s also important to understand their limitations. Considering the constantly-changing nature of search engines, it makes sense that there are many outdated ideas about subdomains that continue to be spread online.
Help you “Take Over” the Search Results
At one point, the most popular reasoning behind subdomains was that they could help your site completely dominate the search engine results for your keywords by occupying multiple positions. Although this used to be true, Google now recognizes subdomains as part of one domain, and assigns them one ranking.
Build a Strong Link Profile
Another outdated way of viewing subdomains is as a method to build links. You probably already know that search engines place a lot of value in the links pointing to a site, and since subdomains are essentially entirely different sites, you might think that links between your subdomains could boost your rankings.
This is untrue, at least in the sense that the links are viewed as external. In reality, Google recognizes them as internal links. This is not to say that isn’t wise to use links within your subdomains, but that you should see them for what they are.
While subdomains aren’t necessary for every site, they can be useful for companies with blogs, different geographical targets, and franchises. They can help you better organize your site and allow different people to manage different parts, and also offer an opportunity for optimization.
If you are considering creating subdomains for your site but aren’t sure how to go about it, feel free to contact us! Our team has the knowledge to help you structure your site in the most efficient way possible.