When a company is growing and a separate business branch needs its own web space, there often arises a question whether it’s better to use a separate domain and different website, or save by just creating a subdomain of the existing website. Here are the pros and cons of each option that I jotted down during my research.
- Consistent name branding with main site, certainty and visitor trust about the site origin and ownership,
- Better manageability and uniformity, version control and easier maintenance,
- More traffic coming from the main site,
- No extra hosting or domain registration cost,
- Possibility of separate hosting just like with standalone domains (with extra cost).
- A bit more co-dependent page ranking on search engines where credit and trust trickles mostly from a main site (depending how popular the main site is, this could be a good thing too),
- Generally less attractive for search engine traffic, unless the subdomain is highly related to the domain (same or similar keywords and products). Even then, Google doesn’t treat subdomains as separate sites, so they can possibly compete with the main site and squeeze each other out of a Google search top results,
- Complex (although totally possible) move to a standalone domain later (with inevitable redirection),
- Typing “www.subdomain.domain.com” instead of “subdomain.domain .com” in a browser will by default return a 404 – page not found (some users still often mistakenly assume that www is a necessary part of every html link),
- A bit more complex analytics, possibly overlapping and confusing with the main site unless well planned and executed.
Standalone Domain Pros:
- No need to worry about links and site redirection later if there is a desired or imminent split or spin-off,
- Totally separate analytics without overlaps (could be a disadvantage depending on your goals),
- Scalability – easier to upgrade to a dedicated server if the site becomes very popular,
- No need for uniformity with main site (although it may be desired).
Standalone Domain Cons:
- Extra cost ($70 and up annually for hosting and domain expenses),
- More sites, domains and possibly hosting providers to manage.
The universal answer is my standard “it depends – nothing is always and everything is sometimes”, but after reading several relevant articles I find it surprisingly attractive to go separate and avoid subdomains, unless the two are very closely related or required to reside within the same site, e.g, the college of physics and the college of chemistry at a major university.