Subdomains & SEO

Frequently we at Beanstalk get asked about the creation of multiple websites for SEO in cases where the topic is varied. For example, if one is attempting to build a large real estate directory and would like to rank for a variety of cities, states or countries would it be better to build a unique site with a unique domain for each of these regions. Consistently the answer is a resounding “no”.

Some years ago the practice of building multiple websites was a common practice to artificially increase PageRank by interlinking them all. Note the word “artificially” in the previous sentence and you’ll see why the practice is no longer valid. Search engines are sophisticated beings and can now easily detect this sort of thing. While there theoretically may be valid reasons for the multiple domain approach and periodically we see the valid use of it (the iEntry network of sites which includes WebProNews, WebProWorld, SearchNewz and many more for example) the best practice for most is to use subdomains.

To clarify what a subdomain is, it’s easiest to use an example. In the case above where we have multiple cities in a real estate directory one would build the general directory at http://www.thedomain.com. For the area of the directory on California for example the URL would be http://california.thedomain.com, for Washington state it would be http://washington.thedomain.com, and so on.

The benefits:

The are two primary benefits to this tactic. The first is that the SEO efforts done on one area will cascade to the others. Links built to http://www.thedomain.com with strengthen that area and thus internal links pointing to one of the subdomains will hold more weight and result in a higher PR. The second is the greatly reduced risk of penalization due to link sp@mming. When multiple domains were first introduced as an artificial link building tactic, webmasters would build 100 sites focusing on … say … Viagra and point them all to a single domain that they actually wanted to rank. Detection systems were thus introduced by the major engines to find these and discredit the links or worse, penalize the site for such practices.

The downside:

There are no real downsides to this other than the simple fact that you re going to have to treat each site as unique and SEO and link build as such. That said, you would have to do this regardless of whether you are using subdomains or unique sites.

As a note:

One may also want to consider the simple use of folders. Unless you’re planning on building large regional areas (50+ pages) or require unique designs for each section, using folders is completely acceptable and SEO-friendly. An example of the use of folder can be seen exactly where you are right now. The Beanstalk site lives at https://www.beanstalkim.com/, or SEO blog at https://www.beanstalkim.com/blog/. With links established to point directly to https://www.beanstalkim.com/blog/ our blog ranks for the phrases intended (i.e. “seo blog” and “seo news”). Because our design is consistent on our blog and site this was the logical approach and successful from an SEO standpoint.

Resources:

This post was inspired by client questions and a decent article recently published on just this topic. If you’d like more information on the subject you can read the article on the ISEDB website here.

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