Search Marketing

Subdomains, SEO and Business Results

Here’s a very touchy SEO subject (which I ran into again this week): Subdomains.

Many SEO consultants despise subdomains. They want everything in one neat place so they can do off-site promotion easily and focus on getting that domain more authority. If your site has multiple domains, it multiplies the work it takes. In other words, if you’re going to gamble… they want you gamble it on one hand. Here’s the problem… sometimes it makes absolute sense to subdomain your site.

In fact, some of the properties who have recovered from Google’s renowned Panda update turned to subdomains. One of those sites was Hubpages. Using SEMRush, we analyzed the number of keywords that Hubpages was ranking on before and after the Panda hit and their subsequent move to subdomains.

If you put aside all of the branded keywords, Hubpages top rankings are now all on keyword-based queries! Here are some discussions on it:

Did you happen to see anyone in those articles discussing conversion rates or business results? Yea… me neither.

It’s not just about content farms and Panda. Subdomains allow an effective separation of your site, providing clarity and focus on the content there. When you slice and dice your site up into subdomains, you will probably take a hit in ranking as you move content and have to redirect traffic. But in the long run, you will most likely gain better ranking on relevant keywords, drive more traffic easier through your site, and provide a more targeted user experience that segments your readers effectively and improves overall conversion rates.

Subdomains aren’t bad for SEO, they can be fantastic for it… if you believe SEO is about getting business results. But by implementing subdomains, SEO consultants know that they’re kicking the can down the road. So… are they going to make a decision that gets some results sooner or better results later? If they wish to keep getting paid, they’ll probably take the easy road.

Targeting is an effective marketing strategy that’s underutilized throughout the industry. We’re seeing the winds of change, though. Google knows that highly relevant, targeted content is key to a great strategy… it’s what their search engine was built on. The additional 600 algorithm adjustments they make a year are helping to continue that focus.

So why would you do something that avoids targeting content and user interaction?

Another example is the onslaught of infographics that have absolutely nothing to do with the actual business. SEO guys love a great infographic because it will go viral and the company will get tons of backlinks and they’ll increase ranking and traffic.

Win.

Or was it…

Now you’ve got tons of traffic that’s not converting. Bounce rates are up, conversions are down… but you’re ranking better – especially on a bunch of terms that have nothing to do with your business.

In my opinion, you’ve just damaged your search engine authority and optimization because you’ve confused the search engines into thinking your site may be something its not. I would much rather have a luke warm reception to an industry-specific infographic than a viral infographic that’s irrelevant. Why? because it focuses my authority and reputation in my industry. A targeted site will always outperform a general one… and I won’t even go into the social impact of a tight community.

If my client has a variety of topics that may not be directly related, I’d much rather advise them to move to subdomains, take the hit, and build a highly focused strategy centered around their industry, products and services. If all you’re after is rank and traffic, subdomains are probably a pariah. But if you’re after business results, you may want to take a second look.

Those of us in the industry who work on getting clients conversions understand the role they can play. You may want to give subdomains another chance.

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