Hosting your blog on a subdomain? The pros & cons battle it out
Wading through the pros and cons of hosting a content hub on a subdomain is like watching a wrestling match unfold. One moment, the pros are delivering an impassioned speech to the cheering audience, then the cons leap in from out of nowhere, slide into the ring and “Oh my God, J.R., THEY’VE GOT A CHAIR!”
…anyway, we’re here to set the record straight. In this article, the pros and cons of hosting your business’ content hub on a subdomain battle it out once and for all – and we’re offering a ringside seat.
First, some valuable context on SEO
SEO is often a major component of the content hub pros/cons match. It’s the steel chair, if you will, a weapon to be used by anyone who can grab it.
But the fact is, there’s currently no universal conclusion on whether or not a subdomain is worse for SEO than hosting your blog on the main website. In the video embedded below, you’ll see Google’s Matt Cutts state clearly that Google perceives no difference between the two – they are treated equally in search.
But then the chair swaps hands. Moz’s Rand Fishkin argues that there is a difference, even if Google says there isn’t. He, among others, has found evidence that site rankings increase – if only marginally – when moved from a subdomain to a subdirectory.
So to summarise the great SEO debate: When you’re putting together a new website content strategy, you need to think more about your audience and the value you can provide, not just the nitty-gritties of SEO (as important as it is). Choosing whether or not to create a subdomain content hub isn’t just about SEO – it’s about you. And it’s really as simple as that.
The benefits of a subdomain content hub
The pros start strong, stepping in for the clothesline. Their strengths?
- Quick and easy to start: Subdomains aren’t anchored to the same CMS as your website, meaning you can access tools dedicated to blogging – WordPress is one of our favourites at Castleford. Additionally, these come with many useful plugins, which can enhance your SEO, allow you to embed all sorts of visual media (social media, Apester, YouTube or Vimeo, etc.) and anything else you can imagine.
- Perfect for a knowledge hub: An easy-to-navigate content hub allows you to carve out authority in your industry niche. You can technically do this with a subdirectory, of course, but you don’t need to display landing pages and other business-oriented buttons on a subdomain unless you wish to – this is great for marketers who don’t like the hard sell, and just want to drive leads through sheer education. Readers won’t feel like you’re advertising a product.
— Moz (@Moz) February 28, 2017
The pitfalls of a subdomain content hub
But the cons dive from the top rope! And they’re bringing their pitfalls with them.
- Subdomains often look different to the main website: If consistent branding is an issue for you, know that using a different CMS (e.g. WordPress) may mean compromising on a consistent website layout. More often than not, the same style simply isn’t available on a different platform, unless you want to fork out for a custom design.
- Some hosts charge you for the service: A number of domain hosts charge extra for subdomains, or limit you to a certain amount.
- SEO will always nag you: While the battle rages on, the ringing of that steel chair will always be in your ears – yes, there could be a minor SEO impact. But again, modern-day content marketing is more about providing value than tweaking every tiny detail for SEO, and you can do that just fine with a subdomain.
So what other options are available?
If you think a subdomain may not be the solution for you, know that content marketing is a veritable battle royal when it comes to hosting options.
Subdirectories are great team players. They keep your blog contained within your main website, allowing you to internally link from blogs to landing pages and back again. This can increase your SEO footprint, whereas linking to a subdomain is the equivalent of an external link – not as strong. And as we’ve seen, subdirectories are considered better for SEO by certain experts, such as Moz.
Social media hosting is the upstart growing in popularity, but isn’t recommended for SEO on its own. Thanks to tools like LinkedIn Pulse, Facebook Video, Pinterest and so on, some marketers don’t bother with a blog at all, and focus instead on producing valuable content where their customers already are – social media.
Finally, social media hubs are the anti-hero – the blend of both worlds. Using tools like Tint, some marketers aggregate their social platforms on to their website in a similar way to a content hub. Navigable from the home page, a social hub looks a bit like a blog, but displays social feeds instead of articles. This is also not as strong for SEO as a subdirectory or subdomain.
In closing: It’s time to make your choice
No matter what you choose, you’re right. As long as your website is built to modern SEO standards, and your content is valuable for your audience, it matters little whether you opt for a subdomain or not – your content will still benefit in some way.
Ding ding ding! And that’s the pin.