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Subdomain vs. Subfolder: Which One Is Right for Your Website?

Last updated: Jun 21, 2024

What Is a Subfolder?

Subdirectories or subfolders are folders where web designers put website pages and categories. 

In general, subfolders are folders within folders that are in the parent directory.

The way it works is almost similar to storing files in computer folders. To categorize files, you would create a folder, such as /images/.

As with that example, subfolders on a website also have their own names, such as https://cmlabs.co/en-id/seo-guidelines/what-is-bounce-rate. So in this example, /seo-guidelines/ is a subfolder of cmlabs.co.

Furthermore, a subfolder is a virtual folder, meaning that it does not exist on a server where you can see the actual folder and navigate it with an FTP program. 

However, subfolders are still part of the web design structure and are related to the domain name. 

Using subfolders in the URL structure has its own advantages and disadvantages. 

The advantage of using subfolders is that you can organize and group content according to category or relevance. 

On the other hand, the disadvantage of using subfolders is that it may take you a while to organize or move folders. On the other hand, if you don't organize the folders properly, the URLs created will be too complex. 

In addition, if the URL changes or does not redirect to the correct page, you may lose visitors. 

However, the use of subfolders can provide benefits for SEO efforts applied to websites. 

This is because subfolders can help search engines index and understand the content on the website in a more structured manner. 

Then, the existence of subfolders can also help search engines and users to find relevant content. Last but not least, subfolders will help clarify the website's hierarchy. 


What Is a Subdomain?

In general, a subdomain is a child of the parent domain, but outside the main domain. This means that the subdomain is in the domain partition or is a branch of the main domain. 

An example of a subdomain is https://tools.cmlabs.co/en/plagiarism-checker, with tools.cmlabs.co as the subdomain. 

So, why do some child domains have to be separated from the main domain? Separating your site into subdomains can be useful if you have a lot of content that should not be managed on one site. 

In addition, subdomains are also useful if you have a campaign strategy that requires separate landing pages or want to partner with other parties and separate their projects from the main site. 

Generally, website owners will put blogs, store pages outside of regular products on subdomains, or pages that have multiple versions onto subdomains. 

Since it is separate from the main domain, analytic tools, templates, and Content Management System (CMS), and other required tools are separate.

Some organizations that have subdomains and main domains also usually separate the managers so that each manager can focus on the domain or subdomain they hold. 


Subdomain Functions

Even though they are separate from the main domain, subdomains can still be used for the following purposes and functions:

  • Manage the website better: You can separate parts of your website that are focused on customer service, such as contact pages, FAQs, and so on. 
  • Test a new website: You can rebuild your website without turning on maintenance mode on the main domain.
  • Separate other pages: Subdomains can separate shop pages, blogs, forums, help centers, or other pages from the main domain. 
  • Create other language versions of the website: You can create pages with multiple language versions, such as en.namasitus.com for English and id.namasitus.com for Indonesian. 
  • Create a mobile version of the website: You can also create a mobile-friendly website by using a subdomain URL such as m.websitename.com. 


Subdomain vs. Subfolder, What's the Difference?

Now that we understand the definition and function of these two parts of the website, let's learn the difference between a subdomain vs. a subfolder. 

Although both the subdomain and subfolder are located in the directory structure of the server's homepage, they have a notable difference. 

You can access a subdomain like a normal website address because it's a URL. On the other hand, a subfolder is a path within the domain. 

Subfolders also don't require a server partitioning process like subdomains, where you can access them directly from the main domain. 

Furthermore, a subdomain vs. a subfolder also differs in its contribution to your marketing strategy. 

Subdomains can improve search engine rankings by targeting different keywords than your main domain. 

This means that if you want to target a keyword on a subdomain, then the keyword will not rank on the main domain, and vice versa. 

Additionally, subdomains can be useful for audience segmentation. For example, you have several products or service branches in your business and target different audiences.

To be able to target the right audience, you can separate service or product pages according to their market segmentation. That way, your business will remain relevant to the right audience. 

A further benefit of subdomains for marketing efforts is that they improve user experience as visitors can go directly to your business' subdomains instead of having to visit the main domain and search for what they want. 

Moreover, if you're targeting audiences from other countries, having subdomains will help your business as visitors won't have to search for their geographically-appropriate pages on the main domain. 

So, what about subfolders? Do they contribute to digital marketing efforts? Subfolders certainly have their own role in digital marketing. 

You can target keywords on the main URL because basically, the keywords in the subfolder are also owned by the main domain. 

Keywords that are spread on the pages of the website can help search engines to understand the content of the website. 


Which One Works Best, Subdomain vs. Subfolder?

After reading the differences above, you might wonder, which subdomain vs. subfolder should you use on your website?

The answer is that it depends on your needs. Of course, in creating subdomains, you have to make sure you create them to improve user experience. 

In addition, from subdomain vs. subfolder, you also need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each part, especially in terms of branding and SEO. 

If you think that a page will be more accessible to users and its SEO performance will be better as part of the main domain, then using a subfolder could be a good choice. 

However, if you think that the page will have a better performance and user experience as a standalone web for various reasons, one of which is having a different context from other pages, then you can use a subdomain. 

But if you've already created a subdomain, and then think that the page should work better as a subfolder, you shouldn't change it right away. 

You need to double-check the technicalities of the subdomain, such as SEO, before deciding to switch it to a subfolder because changing it directly can affect the website's SEO performance. 

You can also consult an expert regarding the use of subdomain vs. subfolder to be more confident in implementing it as a whole on your website.

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