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Does putting an unrelated site in a domain's subfolder (to avoid buying a new domain name) affect the domain's search engine ranking even if there are no links between them? For example, is it a bad practice will placing a cooking site at programming.com/cooking affect the search engine ranking of programming.com?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

I don't have any data for this, but I personally wouldn't do it. Search engines are spending a lot of effort trying to understand what your site is "about" in order to determine whether to return it for various queries.

Diluting the focus of your site could be risky. In my opinion, the < $20/year is well worth avoiding wasting all of your hard work.

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Having multiple domains and completely separate sites in different folders is perfectly fine. Search engines have no way to know those extra folders are there unless you link to them. Google should see those 2 url's as completely separate sites.

The bad side is if you have a link to programming.com/cooking this will show up on the search engine for programming.com and may show up instead of cooking.com.

So the solution is: only link to cooking.com. (opposed to programming.com/cooking) Stick to that and you won't have any problems.

EDIT: I somehow thought you were talking about buying a new hosting account instead of a domain. What you can do is a sub-domain like cooking.programming.com. That should do the same thing.

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It can be a management nightmare though, especially if you're using .htaccess files. I think Daniel was trying to avoid buying another domain though, using programming.com to host both programming and cooking content, but somehow keeping them separate. –  JasonBirch Jul 26 '10 at 17:19
    
@JasonBirch ah I though he was talking about multiple hosting accounts... if he's that cheap he could use subdomains... –  WalterJ89 Jul 26 '10 at 22:39
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Adding an unrelated subfolder is highly unlikely to have any effect on your ranking for what's already on your site (and certainly will have no effect on 'PageRank', but you shouldn't pay much attention to that anyway).

SEs generally focus on pages, since that is what they return in results, not sites as a whole. Furthermore they are smart enough to be able to separate sections of a site. It can have a positive effect: if the subfolder gains links from elsewhere you can pass that 'juice' back to the parent site.

Having said that, if the site is anything more than a few pages it's certainly worthwhile using a separate domain name (or a subdomain). They are pretty cheap and it's easier to build up the site if it becomes larger.

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If you don't want to buy another domain, your best option would be to set up subdomains instead, as search engines treat them as seperate sites. so cooking.programming.com would be better off than programming.com/cooking

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