Root Domain vs. Subdomain: Which Is Better for Ecommerce SEO?
Today, it is customary to distinguish the ten types of sites: landing pages, online stores, corporate sites, business cards, catalogs, etc. This article will focus on the so-called commercial and non-commercial information web resources. First, let’s figure out which sites belong to these categories and how the main differences and features are characterized.
The Main Differences Between Commercial and Information Sites
Commercial sites are designed to attract potential customers to your business and sell products and services. They are aimed specifically at sales, so they should be clear and convenient for shopping. The home page is a showcase with offered goods. It also has a convenient navigation menu for navigating through the categories of goods or services.
All other categories can be classified as informational web resources. These sites are designed and developed for convenient presentation of useful information. On their pages, there is no way to buy products or order a specific service. Earning money on such sites is carried out through the sale of advertising.
For effective promotion of the considered web resources in search engines, different strategies should be applied. For example, commercial and informational web resources are promoted by different key searches.
Quite often there are situations when information resources are not designed initially but are developed from commercial sites. For example, it can be blogs that provide useful information to customers or other types of non-transactional web resources. This strategy allows you to attract more potential customers to the main site using information requests and increase brand awareness. In this case, there are also two solutions: subdomain or subfolders on the root domain.
Root Domain vs. Subdomain
First, you need to understand the terminology and the main differences between subdomains and domains.
What is the root domain? The root domain or domain name of a web resource is an alphabetic designation of a website address on the network. This must be purchased when registering and creating a resource. Examples of root domains are as follows:
A subdomain is a third-level domain name. To create a subdomain, you must own the root domain. Examples of subdomains are as follows:
Which one is the best for eCommerce? How does Google rank root domains and subdomains? Note that the debate on this topic is still ongoing. SEO professionals and Google employees don’t always agree. Let’s take a closer look at this.
Root Domains and Subdomains: Which to Choose for Commerce
One of the basic rules of SEO optimization states that the pages of a web resource and the content on the pages must be properly structured. Google’s modern search algorithms have progressed. They can accurately determine the main topic of the page without the use of keywords. Read the related article – Google Algorithms That Affect SEO.
Before deciding which strategy to use for commerce, you need to understand how Google’s crawlers rank subdomains. Most SEOs agree that Google treats subdomains separately from root domains. In one of his videos, Google employee John Mueller discusses the differences between subdomains and subfolders. He did not provide a clear answer, but he hinted that subdomains are ranked separately from the main domains:
This video was criticized by SEO specialist Rand Fishkin on his Twitter account. He noted that subdomains are ranked worse than subfolders, and Google representatives simply do not agree:
Next, Google employee Danny Sullivan intervened in the discussion. He once again emphasized that the main criterion is user-friendliness. If a subdomain is the best choice for one web resource, it may be subfolders for another. It all depends on the specific site:
From this, it can be concluded that both root domains and subdomains have their own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s consider them in more detail.
Benefits of a Root Domain in Ecommerce
If the main information site has enough readers and authority, then it is worth considering developing an online store in the root domain. This approach will turn visitors to the resource into customers of the online store.
It contributes to an increase in traffic to the site, which will have a positive effect on its search engine promotion. Potential customers will come to landing pages for commercial and information requests.
However, when deciding to create an online store on the main domain, consider the possible risks. For example, if you plan to sell a large number of products, you need to take care of optimizing the page loading speed. This may seem like a minor factor at first, but if a page is loading too slowly, users will opt-out of visiting and go to a faster competitor’s site. This will negatively affect the number of sales and behavioral factors.
Duplicate content is a common problem for an online store on root domains. As the number of pages of certain products grows, it is difficult to keep track of their uniqueness. This is necessary to optimize your site’s loading speed and to rank correctly.
When choosing root e-commerce sites, you also need to take care of their proper structure. This is very important from a search engine optimization perspective. As a rule, the commercial part of the site is promoted by commercial keywords. Therefore, you need to take care of having a properly assembled semantic core before creating sales pages. Next, you need to select thematic clusters and plan the further expansion of the web resource. Read the related article – How to Do Keyword Research.
Benefits of the Subdomain in Ecommerce
Using a subdomain to create an online store is useful if you own several regional information sites with different languages and other settings. This will greatly simplify their administration, since all subdomains will be managed using one e-commerce system.
The choice of subdomains will be correct if an insufficiently experienced team is engaged in the development of an online store. Even if it is incorrectly developed or SEO-optimized, it will not damage the main site. All mistakes can be quickly corrected without significant damage.
If the main information site does not quite suit the planned online store thematically, then the choice of a subdomain will also be more correct. Otherwise, users will simply stop visiting the site where non-thematic goods or services are imposed on them.
Let’s summarize the above. Despite numerous claims from Google, most SEOs recommend using root e-commerce domains unless there are any special needs. The correct approach to creating an online store at the root of the site will keep existing visitors. This will significantly speed up the promotion of pages and sales.
Tips for Creating an Online Store on a Root Domain
Let’s look at basic recommendations for organizing online stores on the root domain.
- List targeted commercial keywords. Often, inexperienced webmasters and business owners make a mistake at this stage. They don’t pay enough attention to keyword targeting, although this is the basis for further search engine promotion. You need to understand that branded high-frequency searches are not always advisable to use on sales pages. Practice shows that more conversions are brought by medium and low frequency phrases. This is quite logical because a potential customer who is determined to buy is most often looking for something specific and not general information. The Semrush service can be an excellent assistant in the analysis of key queries. For example, parsing the key search“subdomain vs root domain”:
It is essential to take care of keyword clustering. This is necessary in order for all new pages to rank for different keywords. Otherwise, Google will not be able to figure out which page to show in the SERP in response to searches.
- According to the collected keywords, make a list of the necessary landing pages, and take their correct structure into account.
- Develop navigation for user convenience and transfer of weight between pages.
- Pages are best placed as close to the root as possible. There is a chance that Google will crawl them faster.
- Take care of the technical SEO optimization of the created pages. First, you need to check the indexability of pages, download speed, and user-friendliness of the interface. If necessary, you should eliminate all problems and only then proceed to the next step. More information can be found in the article Technical SEO Checklist – SEO Audit and What is the Technical SEO Audit?
- Check the robots.txt file and error pages. Get rid of your mistakes.
- Create schema markup. Schema markup is a relatively new SEO tool that is not necessary but can be useful for reaching leads. Google search robots use it to correctly understand the information about the product being sold. For example, it can be its rating, price, availability, etc. They use the information to display in the SERP. Here is an example of an article with recipes for vegetarian salads:
- High-quality, non-dubbed content is the main criterion for Google. It is clear that there is no point in writing long articles with keywords for product pages. You need to take care of the availability of a detailed description of images, characteristics of the product, and describe the main benefits and advantages of purchasing it. If the page is missing any of the above elements such as a description or an image, then search robots will not be able to make sure that a particular page fully satisfies the user’s intentions. It follows from this that when selling a product, you need to be well versed in its properties, features, and characteristics. This is the only way to provide the most reliable information to the buyer.
- If the main information site has enough regular readers, you can carefully guide them to the purchase in the article and leave a link to the product page.
- Availability of a mobile version of the online store. Today, having a mobile website for Google is a very important ranking factor. Read more in the articles Mobile-First Indexing and Mobile Search.
Basically, creating and promoting an online store on a root domain is no different from creating a new web resource from scratch. You only get some benefits in the form of an existing audience, which is easier to turn into leads with the right approach. The same goes for commercial sites on a subdomain. The only difference is how Google will rank these web resources.
According to many SEO practitioners, it is best to opt for the eCommerce root domain and place all content in subfolders. There are a number of objective reasons for this, which were considered in the material.
One way or another, the choice remains with the business owner. SEO only provides methods and tools to promote it.