Sub-Domain vs. Standard Domain — SEO Debate
I’ve seen a lot of debates about whether using a sub-domain (name.domain.com) vs. a standard domain name (www.domain.com) has any benefit over the other search engine ranking wise.
I’m willing to bet that 95% of the people behind these debates haven’t done any testing for themselves and are either repeating what they heard elsewhere (from people who haven’t done any testing) or just flat out making assumptions. Well, I thought I’d take a few moments to tell you a bit about some testing that I’ve done and what my own conclusions are.
For those of you just looking for a quick answer as to which is better, it depends … so read on to get my thoughts and test results on it…
To clarify how I did this test, I took a few blogs in a related niche — some new, some old — and did a new blog post on each of them targeting a few of the same keywords. I also divided up the groups so that each group had an even number of old vs. new sites as well as an even number of low and higher page rank.
I then did my normal SEO routine of optimizing the posts, pinging the sites, etc. and the test was to see which ones got 1) ranked the fastest (appeared somewhere in Google or Yahoo) and 2) got ranked the highest for the keywords that I was targeting.
For the sub-domains, half of them were blogger blogs ([some name].blogspot.com) while half were on domains that I owned. I then compared the two different types of sub-domains, sub-domains vs. normal domains as a whole, new vs. old sites, and low vs. high (by high, I mean more than a pagerank of 2 — most in the test were 3 or 4 — , low is pagerank of 2 or less).
Here’s what I found:
1. New vs. Old — regardless of the domain type used, the older, more established sites tended to get ranked faster (some within minutes compared to others taking several hours to a day or more). For my own domain names and sub-domain names on my own domain names, there wasn’t really a significant difference — maybe a slight edge to the normal domain names. However, there were some interesting exceptions that will be brought up in a later point here…
2. Low vs. High PageRank — as what would be assumed, the higher pagerank sites tended to perform better. An edge was given to the normal domain names vs. the sub domain names. However, like before, there were some interesting exceptions (yeah yeah, I’m getting to those exceptions).
3. Sub-Domain Names vs. Normal Domain Names as a Whole — this is where it gets interesting. I found that on the newer sites, if the sub-domain name was on my own domain name, they performed far less as well as my new normal domain names. They took longer to show up in the search engines, didn’t rank as well, etc.. With the older, more established sites, the discrepancy between the two wasn’t as bad, but there was still an edge to the normal domain names when comparing my own domains to my own sub-domain names on a domain that I owned. But like before, there was a HUGE exception that I’ll explain in my next point…
4. Comparing different Types of Sub Domain Names — This is where the interesting results came in that shattered a lot of the advice that I’ve seen out there on internet marketing forums and other blogs…
My own sub-domain names (regardless if they were new or more established) didn’t even compare to blogger blog sub-domain names (name.blogspot.com, which you can sign up for free at www.blogger.com). The blogger blog sub-domain names beat them hands down every time in every aspect possible — they ranked MUCH faster (literally within minutes after pinging them), MUCH higher (I was grabbing top rankings on a variety of keywords — to be fair, they weren’t the most competitive keywords, but they were still decent keywords), and seemed to stick for much longer.
That was a hunch that I had because I’ve seen blogger blogs doing exceptionally well, especially after some minor tweaks that I did (to be fair, comparable tweaks were done on the non-blogger-blogs).
My theory is that when super well established and known sites like blogspot.com or about.com are out there, the sub-domain names feed off of the main domain name’s credibility. Now, this makes perfect sense to most people when they consider a site like about.com, as about.com has a lot more control over their sub-domain names (you’ll notice that they have sub-domain names ranking well for almost anything online). However, blogger blogs anyone can sign up for for free, so some might argue that it’d be dumb for them to feed off of the established name. Well, I put that to the test, and found that it appears to still help significantly.
In fact, that brings me to another interesting point…
5. Blogger blogs as a sub-domain to blogspot.com (blogger’s standard format) outperformed the standard domain names, even if the standard domain name WAS a blogger blog!
This means that it wasn’t something with the way the blogger blog was setup or optimized (as a standard domain name using the blogger script still got beat out by the blogger sub-domain name). The interesting part was that even newer sub-domain blogspot.com blogger blogs seemed to outperform the more established and older domain names.
And upon further review, the brand new blogger blogs weren’t performing as fast or as good as ones that were a little more established, but they were still both doing quite well.
So in conclusion, the blogspot.com sub-domain blogger blog kicked butt compared to normal domain names (including highly optimized WordPress blogs), other sub-domain names, and even normal domains run by blogger!
***What Should You Do?***
Well, that all depends. This test doesn’t mean that you should go run out right now, ditch all your other sites, and move everything to blogger. I have many non-blogger sites that rank extremely well (many of which took a long time to gain #1 rankings for competitive keywords), and I don’t plan on moving those over for a variety of reasons.
First, you got to ask yourself what your goal is — if your goal is to start up a new site just to get quick rankings fast with no other goal in mind, then blogger blogs might be your best bet.
If your goal is to get ranked and make sales off that site, you probably still want to get a standard domain name — it not only looks more professional, but a good domain name can bring a ton of repeat traffic if it’s easy to brand and rememberable.
Remember, getting ranked in Google (which, by the way, was much easier in my testing compared to Yahoo) isn’t all there is to making money off of a website.
And for those of you that remember my blog back in the old days, I actually ran it off of a blogspot.com sub-domain name, and I experienced super awesome and super fast rankings after some minor tweaks to the blogger code. You might ask why I switched it to the briankoz.com domain (it’s still run by blogger), and that’s simply because I found it better for branding and people searching for me respected that domain a lot more than some blogspot.com one.
Hah, in fact, I was questioned on more than one occasion about why I didn’t spend $7 on a good domain name for it originally, and my response always was “I’m already ranking very well for a variety of keywords that I’m targeting” or “I just don’t focus on my blog and never bothered to switch it.”
But once I did switch it over to briankoz.com, even after quite awhile, I did notice that it wasn’t quite as easy ranking for a lot of the keywords as it was before — even after quite awhile. Again, it’s not horrible, but there’s definitely a difference.
So, if you’re looking for quick rankings for some fast, immediate traffic without caring as much about the branding, go with blogspot.com sub-domains. If you’re looking to make sales off your website or brand it more, go with a normal domain name.
And just for the sake of pointing out how easy it can be to make money online, my “simple” blogspot.com sub-domain name had some posts that literally did hundreds to even thousands of dollars in sales off of just a few minutes of work all because of the fast and high rankings. Not bad for a crappy blogspot blog when it was first starting out years ago, eh?