21Oct 2017

When to Use Subdomains, Domains and Subfolders?

A website possesses almost the same attributes as that of a desktop computer. The starting point of a desktop computer is always a chain of folders and subfolders, which leads to a specific file location. The only difference between a desktop computer and a website is their purpose; desktop computers satisfy personal requirements of operational efficiency and entertainment, while websites are accessible to everyone increasing a business’s overall productivity that depends on the user engagement.

When we combine these external aspects with the changing trends in website best practices, factors like website navigation might experience undulation. To align with the conventions of the changing web design trends, it is highly recommended to replace the commonly practiced usage of “subdomain.website.com” with the www.website.com/subfolder, which is considered to be one of the latest updates in the list of best practices.

It is majorly recommended to avoid any possible negative side-effects. If you have by any chance happened to examine the latest best practice checklists, you will find that most of the UX, SEO, webmasters and digital marketing strategists recommend avoiding subdomains with websites wherever possible. But, implementing and replacing the current best practice is not an easy task.

Here we shall discuss about the situations where you can essentially apply subdomain usage and also we will be discussing another situation where you need to avoid implementing it:

Ensuring Mobile Friendliness

Ensuring Mobile Friendliness

Now that most businesses are shifting their focus from the traditional desktop designs, to mobile responsiveness, a sub-domain approach must be the most favorable method to ensure mobile-friendliness. Businesses are following the mobile friendly alternative to provide users with an enhanced experience while they are accessing their favorite brands via mobile devices. But, now the question is whether the mobile-friendly approach needs to be implemented in accordance with the responsive design convention or on the basis of adaptive design conventions. Let us examine both these conventions:

Responsiveness in Designs

We are all familiar with the term responsive web design, which actually means the scalability of website designs across the screens of a variety of devices. These websites are designed to be scalable with any kind of screen along which it is being accessed taking into consideration the website design attributes such as columns, text, images and also the navigation shifting in tandem that needs to be in synch with the screen pixel count.

Responsiveness in designs

Browse for the specific responsive site across your desktop browser; slowly reduce the window size to adjust the layout accordingly to fit in to the tablet, iPad or mobile screens in real time. (You can try out the same with Brafton.com).

Adaptive designs

While responsive designs are focused on providing an awesome experience to the users across various screens, adaptive designs focus on providing unique user experience via different devices. These websites are capable of detecting the kind of device that is being used to access the site and then it automatically fits into the suitable layout. While the website adapts itself to fit into the device frame, you can find the URL address reload to something similar to m.website.com. This means that adaptive designs need to be built on subdomains.

Though responsive designs are quite popular among web designers, businesses prefer adaptive designs to build their websites for a variety of reasons. There are a large number of factors that needs to be considered while deciding between responsive and adaptive designs and these includes the efficiency of website functionalities and redesign deadlines, raw design preferences, analytics strategy and much more. When it comes to mobile-friendliness, adaptive approach wins over the responsive approach.

Uniqueness is maintained across the subdomains that are used to host the adaptive layouts. When you access adaptive layout via desktops, you will be directed to www.website.com, whereas with mobile devices you will be directed to m.website.com and via tablets you will be directed to t.website.com.

CMS or Marketing Automation Integration systems with limited usage

Business websites specifically E-commerce sites are launched with an intention to serve strong and potential purposes. Implementing subdomains across these kinds of sites is an excellent idea to derive extra benefits. These days almost all retail outlets are opting for E-Commerce sites to save their users from the effort to visit the physical store when they can make their shopping comfortable from their homes with just a click on the mouse. Banks facilitate online account management system and registered users can make use of this facility by just logging in through the safe & secure login system that the website is equipped with.

marketing automation integration systems with limited usage

Integrating websites with content management system (CMS) or Marketing Automation Systems are the latest in the website development series. These new additions are a blessing to the marketers, developers and web administrators, as it helps them to manage the websites much efficiently just like people manage their computers or phones with the support from the respective O.S. Custom-built websites that utilize CMS or MAP integration to boost their digital marketing strategies will have their websites installed across the website subdomains, as it supports marketing purposes.

Corporate Blog

Generally, the corporate blogs are integrated with its CMS implemented on a subdomain. Brands that already enjoy online reputation in abundance can utilize subdomain approach (blog.website.com) to

establish an unprecedented online presence rather than having it installed using the subfolder approach (www.website.com/blog).

Corporate blog

This approach might not be perfect, but it is among one of the most recommended ones. As they say “something is better than nothing”, and you cannot let your brand’s reputation suffer from the absence of a corporate blog.

PPC Landing Pages

What makes Marketing Automation Integration systems so popular? It facilitates for the creation of conversion- focused landing pages for PPC, or any other promotional mediums with extended ease, &speed while ensuring impeccable results. These landing pages are usually implemented in association with a subdomain.

PPC- Landing Pages

It works like this: when a user decides to take any action with regard to your brand at: www.website.com, and happens to click on a paid search ad, it will take them to promotion.website.com/landing_page.html.

Enhancing Business outreach through Localization

Globalization is the latest zest among businesses trying to increase customer outreach. These days the same brand operates in multiple countries with an aim to expand beyond the boundaries of their nation. So, it requires these brands to not only voice the local language but also make their online presence viable across the respective languages of the other nations along which they are expanding. With regard to the overall design architecture of a website, you can utilize different techniques to localize the browsing experience in the desired language. These methodologies can be implemented using different domains, subdomains or subfolders.

Let us examine the implementation of these approaches:

Enhancing Business outreach through Localization

Domain Methodology

While implementing domain approach, you can provide either different language or country options at the domain level. For instance, if the user is a Canadian, they might prefer to use www.website.ca or if the user is an American they might prefer www.website.com. This is one of the most inherent options for users as well as for the search engines, though the approach might be available only across limited number of locations.

Domain Methodology


International brands or those available across multiple geographic locations can utilize the subfolder approach to provide the users with a unique experience based on their location or language, or both. For instance a user based in America might prefer www.website.com/en, whereas a Japanese user


might prefer: www.website.com/jp while it might be www.website.com/fr for a user based in France. This is one of the excellent options, as it involves only the root domain.

Subdomain Approach

In this kind of an approach, you can choose to change the language/ country at the subdomain level. This approach is almost similar to the subfolder approach and both these approaches are considered to be less inherent than the domain approach. Here, it works like this: A French user might go to fr.website.com while an American user chooses to go to en.website.com. Also, this approach is quite incompatible with the SEO best practices.

It is time to bid goodbye to theme based Subdomains

Remember those good old days, when the major website sections were categorized into subdomains on the basis of a particular theme. This was the time when search engines treated each subdomain as a separate and distinct domain. In 2015, we have witnessed the replacement of all these existing and outdated techniques and here is how:

In those days, when subdomain technique was much in demand, for instance, a website on automobiles might be sub-domainized into cars.website.com, vans.website.com and trucks.website.com. The logic behind the sub-domainization into these wide categories is that any search query related to trucks or cars or vans will fetch all the related subdomains.

Avoid Thematic Subdomains

There was a time when it was arguably a best practice to divide major website sections into subdomains by theme. An automobile website might have cars.website.com, trucks.website.com, and vans.website.com. The perceived SEO benefit was that a search query like “trucks and vans” might yield both the cars.website.com and trucks.website.com subdomains. At that time, search engines treated subdomains more like distinct domains. That was 2010, and times have changed. Here’s how:

The subdomain approach might work in contradiction with the existing conventions of organic search methodologies. The updates in the search algorithms have resulted in altering the interpretation methodologies implemented by the websites, as these utilize a more comprehensive approach. This means that today the search query will not fetch multiple listings from the same site. The internal link authority finds it difficult to transfer across subdomains which are a lot easier when dealing with the same domain.

Subdomains might lead the users to misinterpret the experience. For instance, if the search engine results fetch a subdomain page that is irrelevant instead of fetching a directly relevant page that has been optimized for the purpose of conversion, then this will lead your users to take diversion from your webpage ultimately affecting the turnover in the sales funnel.

A corporate blog subdomain is one of the common content marketing mistakes that are frequently witnessed. When a brand’s top listing and the core search term are both the same and if you develop an article revolving around the popular search term, then the users will end up reading the article while they are expected to reach the desired landing page and take some action. For instance, if the user is searching for an ultimate guide on the things to look for while buying a new car on the related automobile website and instead of this the visitors get to read case studies on “how to deal with the spare part failures”.

It is recommended that for the website theme based division you may utilize the subfolder approach. For instance, if it is for an automobile website then the best way to divide is www.website.com/vans, www.website.com/cars, and www.website.com/trucks.

Ensuring Enhanced User Experience

We would recommend that it is always ideal to implement a subfolder-centric navigation approach rather than choosing the subdomain-centric navigation approach as it provides the following benefits:

  • Synchronization with SEO best practices
  • Enhanced user experience
  • Easy to integrate with the futuristic digital marketing innovations

Today, there are a large number of successful brands and businesses that are still leveraging their online presence effectively based on the subdomain approach though it is outdated. Some of these wait to implement the new technologies, until their website demands a major revamp. These websites are under the risk of being sued.


Your website is the future of your business and the SEO practices that you implement for your website is one of the major factors that determine customer acquisition that has a major impact on the success of your brand and business in the long run.

Trust us for we have done this before and we know what exactly your business needs are, as we the best ui ux design companies in India, and have won several awards for our designing works.

Acodez IT Solutions is a leading web designing company and digital marketing solutions provider delivering effective web development and SEO strategies to our clients across the globe. Our team of web development experts are constantly researching and implementing innovative ideas to foster and deliver products that are highly competent with no compromise over quality. To avail our value added services, contact us today.

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Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan, Co-Founder, and Director at Acodez IT Solutions, who has a rich experience of 16+ years in IT & Digital Marketing. Between his busy schedule, whenever he finds the time he writes up his thoughts on the latest trends and developments in the world of IT and software development. All thanks to his master brain behind the gleaming success of Acodez.

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