Blog / Growth

Subdomain or subfolder? What is best for my SaaS marketing site?

Subdomain or subfolder? When should you choose the one or the other. This article explores both options and what you should choose.

Photo by David Bruno Silva on Unsplash

Subdomain or subfolder: what is the better option for SEO? At some point when exploring options before you build your SaaS marketing site, you undoubtly bump into this question. You’ve found a great product to build a blog, but it means you get a subdomain like blog.example.com. “No worries”, you think, “many big brands do this too. So it should be fine for my business blog too!”

Well, hold on. Unless you are a similar big brand (think: Apple, Nike, Disney, etc), the subdomain option can actually hurt your SaaS brand. In this article I want to explore the two option and provide the insights needed to be able to make the right choice.

What is the difference between subfolder and subdomain? #

Let’s get on the same page first. What is a subfolder? What is a subdomain? How are they different. Let’s grab a random link like the following:

Showing the different parts of the https://api.spinalcms.com/v1/ping/ url

  1. Protocol
  2. Subdomain
  3. Domain
  4. TopLevel Domain TLD
  5. Subfolder
  6. Slug

Maybe you don’t know it, but every link on the web consist of at least two of the above parts. A browser needs at least domain and a TLD. For example: spinalcms.com. If you click the previous link, you will notice your browser prepends it with the protocol (https). All the other parts are optional. This page you are looking at right now also has a subfolder (blog) and a slug (subdomain-or-subfolder).

So when we take two similar links:

  1. example.com/blog/ and;
  2. blog.example.com

The blog is a subfolder of example.com. For option two, blog is a subdomain of example.com. And although Google treats the content roughly equal, the two are seen as two completely different sites.

That is where things get interesting: option one gives you more SEO for your buck, than option two does.

A subfolder helps with SEO authority of your domain. And at the same time help search engines understand your site front to back.

So the answer to “when to use subfolder or subdomain?” is: almost always. But when is a subdomain the better option and why do you still see them so often?

When to choose a subdomain? #

If you visit many marketing websites, you might discover they host their blog, documentation and knowledge base on a subdomain. Why do they do that? We know it could hurt their domain’s SEO authority. The reason is usually technical.

Many SaaS providers and publising platforms, like Intercom, Ghost or Help Scout, allow you to publish content using their site. In order to provide the option to publish under their own domain, they provide a subdomain that can then be masked via DNS cname record.

Example for Ghost: https://example.ghost.io would become https://blog.example.com. There are other options, using reverse proxies to be able to a have subfolder instead of a subdomain, but they require quite more set up.

Subdomains and SEO don’t work well together.

Another reason businesses deliberately choose a subdomain is when they provide a massive number of products and services. These products or services you stand alone by themselves. Other reasons are if you want to do a deep dive on a topic that you don’t want to add to your main site. Or if you have a really specialised keyword, this could positively favour your SEO for that specific keyword.

There you have it. Have a small’ish marketing site with similar topics: go for the subfolder route. Do you have multiple (standalone) products or services: go the subdomain route.

Get all Spinal content in your inbox

Every first Thursday of the month, we'll send the latest about Spinal in your inbox. From product updates, articles and a little peek behind the scene of building a SaaS in 2022.