Google’s Subdomain and Subdirectory Change is Nothing to Get Excited About
There’s been a lot of misinformation going around regarding an algorithm tweak by Google. The tweak affects subdomains and subdirectories, which for an SEO specialist can be quite alarming. Fortunately, there’s not much bite to this update.
The algorithm tweak was relatively minor and was only intended to clean up some SERPs that were returning too many results from a top level domain (TLD) that uses one or more subdomains. Matt Cutts described the subdomains and subdirectories change like this:
This change doesn’t apply across the board; if a particular domain is really relevant, we may still return several results from that domain. For example, with a search query like [ibm] the user probably likes/wants to see several results from ibm.com. Note that this is a pretty subtle change, and it doesn’t affect a majority of our queries. In fact, this change has been live for a couple weeks or so now and no one noticed. The only reason I talked about the subject at PubCon at all was because someone asked for my advice on subdomains vs. subdirectories.
Just to be doubly-sure that this update was truly minor, I asked Matt if subdomains and TLDs were still treated as separate, unique entities (AKA virtual properties), and this was his reponse:
Our policies for how subdomain.example.com vs. example.com relate to each other haven’t changed.
One interesting thing that came out of the comment thread on that post was about subdomains and multilingual websites. Matt actually listed his preference for how to setup up multilingual sites. As with most of Matt’s preferences, it can be assumed, unless he states otherwise, that it’s also the preference of Google’s algorithm. His preferences were:
- ccTLDS such as example.fr or example.de
- otherwise, subdomains such as fr.example.com or de.example.com.
- otherwise, subdirectories such as example.com/fr/ or example.com/de/