Oct 262012

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.

Subdomain Pros:

  • 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).

Subdomain Cons:

  • 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.

  2 Responses to “Subdomain vs. Standalone Domain”

  1. What if I want http://www.myname(dot)com to be my main site, then have several subdomains for specific niches in order to be considered an expert in many categories, would you recommend going the subdomain route? I don’t want to pay for several websites and I don’t want to use one site with categories because I’m not an ezine and Google will see my random posts about different things with varying outbound and inbound links and penalize me for link farming and not “focusing.”

    • I’d still go with separate domains. You can host them on the same hosting provider so all you’d have to pay for is the domain names registration.  To visitors, these domains would appear totally independent, but you’d manage them from the same host.
      ——– Original message ——–

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