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I recently moved from having a main site like www.example.com with a subdomain associated site yyy.example.com, to moving everything off the subdomain to a subdirectory like www.example.com/yyy/, with the same hierarchy underneath the subdirectory, and now yyy.example.com is just a redirect page to the subdirectory, so yyy.example.com/abc/page-x is redirected to www.example.com/yyy/abc/page-x and so on.

The effect has been that the traffic increased by several times (the total page views are more than ten times at the present rate) what it was to the yyy subdomain. Previously almost all of the traffic to the yyy subdomain was from the www site. This is from monitoring the old yyy site for a year or more.

I'm curious to know if there's any research or results which would indicate whether this is universal (subdirectories beat subdomains) or "just me".

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+1 Your question is a very interesting by itself. But when you say the traffic increased by several times I suppose you are comparing the traffic of (the old traffic of www.example.com + the old traffic of yyy.example.com) towards the (new traffic of www.example.com), and NOT (the old traffic of www.example.com) towards the (new traffic of www.example.com), because in this 2nd case it would be obvious that the traffic increased. I know it seems trivial, but some people are not able to analyse traffic on subdomain and think webstats for main domain do already include the subdomain –  Marco Demaio Mar 28 '11 at 12:50
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4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I think the issue may be due to "trust" - search engines usually treat subdomains differently from the main domain, so if you moved some pages to a different domain or subdomain then essentially you are "starting from scratch". Whereas if you use subdirectories the domain is already trusted and pages may be indexed more quickly.

If your traffic is increasing it could be due to any number of things such as more links being picked up, or just a single link from a popular site like digg or stumbleupon.

One more point of note: PageRank is page-based, not site-based, so if each of the pages had the same number of links in they will have the same PR.

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There aren't any significant new links or single links from popular sites. –  delete Jul 18 '10 at 22:39
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i just came across this info graphic from slingshot that might be of interest :

Reverse Proxy Infographic

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super useful - thanks for sharing –  Susan Dec 16 '12 at 9:05
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I believe it's to do with page ranking. Search engines treat subdomains as completely different sites from the non-subdomain and thus by moving your pages from the subdomain to the main domain, they will be picking up it's PR (which may be higher?).

It may also just a coincidence. How long have you been studying the traffic for?

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I've edited the answer to point that. Studied traffic for one year at old site and one month since move. –  delete Jul 18 '10 at 15:54
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Matt Cutts of Google has basically stated, in reference to the 2011 Panda update, that subdirectories are treated as separate sites by the search engine. Your increase in traffic is probably due to the sum quality, NOT quantity, of your content.

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Do to have a reference/URL regarding the 2011 Panda update? I can only find Matt Cutts blog post from Dec 2007. –  w3d Jun 9 '12 at 17:37
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You mean sub domains surely :P –  bybe Mar 12 '13 at 20:12
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