matryoshka dolls

Organizations are sometimes steered toward a subdomain when they are thinking about adding a big addition to their current website. For example, a help center, community page or knowledge base. They can be a web development shortcut that’s easy to tack on using a non-custom development solution, but they have a downside. Today we’re discussing subdomains and SEO.

If you pay attention for a week of normal web browsing, you’re on subdomains all the time. Some common examples are ‘help’, ‘info’, ‘shop’ or even ‘www’. Technically speaking anything can be a subdomain, it’s just a shorthand for a certain section of the site.

In many cases users don’t notice when the leave the main domain ( and end up on a subdomain like , but if the design of the changes and you notice you’re on a subdomain that’s probably because that portion of the site was added using a separate content management system. Technologically speaking there is nothing wrong with that, but if you are in charge of SEO, you may find a few downsides.

Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of your main website are in terms of SEO, you’ll find that the new section you’ve added has its own strengths and weaknesses. Maybe the main domain and subdomain are on the same footing, but what if the new subdomain you tacked on has worse SEO problems than the main domain? Now you’ve added dozens of pages and they are dragging down the performance of the site as a whole.

Quick development fixes aren’t always the best fixes in terms of SEO, so when you’re deciding to build a new site section using a subdomain, make sure SEO is part of the conversation. Here are some example questions to ask:

  • How much time and money do we save by using a subdomain?
  • Is there a lot of chatter about SEO? Do current users seem frustrated?
  • Can you afford to take an SEO hit, or is Organic traffic really important?
  • Is there a plan to back away from a subdomain if it starts to pull the SEO results down?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to the ‘should we use a subdomain’ question, but keep in mind that that boxed solutions for help centers and knowledge bases have their downsides; one of which can be poor SEO performance.