I have a site with many users. Lets say my site is called thecommunity.com.

For each of my users I give them a free url such as jason.thecommunity.com or susan.thecommunity.com

These subdomains really just render their thecommunity.com profile page. I use wildcards in dns and all *.thecommunity.com requests are sent to the main domain. In the main domain I look at the request and if there is a subdomain I just render their profile page. So jason.thecommunity.com looks exactly like thecommunity.com/jason

When you are at jason.thecommunity.com you can still click around the full site but your clicking around using the jason.thecommunity.com subdomain, accessing pages that are also available on thecommunity.com

This created thousands of subdomains. Any many of them are suddenly ranking very high in search results. For instance a search for soup recipe might have jason.thecommunity.com/soups/recipeas the top result!

But thecommunity.com/soups/recipe is not even in the first say 100 pages of results. My traffic has increased x 5 which is a pretty big number. Most of this search traffic is coming into my subdomains vs the main site.

Any reason for this?

  • 4
    Because some of your users are creating great content? Nov 22 '16 at 22:24
  • 2
    ... and the subdomains are being linked to/shared. Are you not canonicalising the URLs? It looks like you should at least be setting a rel="canonical" to your apex domain if the content is available on both. Otherwise you could find that just one or two "user" subdomains might take over!?
    – MrWhite
    Nov 22 '16 at 22:56
  • Yes, @MichaelHampton the content is great I feel. It's just so odd that these subdomains are getting the traffic as opposed to the main domain. jason.thecomminity.com looks exactly like thecomminity.com with the one single exception that jason.thecommunity.com renders his profile page because of a single conditional that checks for a subdomain and renders their profile page instead of thecommunity.com homepage. Nov 23 '16 at 14:01
  • @w3dk I really don't think the subdomains are being shared much to be honest. But I will have to look into rel="canonical" as I do nothing like this and am not sure what it even means. I want to be careful to not mess up all this traffic I am getting! Nov 23 '16 at 14:03

To summarise the comments from @Michael Hampton and @w3dk:

Your users are providing great content (like the soup recipe) and it's gaining backlinks, traffic, and visibility.

You should be adding a rel=canonical tag to your page headers that is a cross-domain suggestion that Google index another address for the content. When it's indexing the page on your domain, you domain gains equity rather than the subdomain (which is seen as a different site to Google).

  • I'm honestly just scared that that this could mess up my rankings. I am very thoughtful about designing for SEO but I just can't be sure if recent work on SEO optimization is responsible for this traffic or if somehow this change in architecture is doing something. I don't want to lose the traffic! Really once someone browses off the profile page of jason.thecommunity.com the url should switch to thecommunity.com I can fix that but not sure I want too... Nov 23 '16 at 14:07
  • You can either 301 redirect (which changes the request URI and therefore what is indexed) or you can canonicalise (which Google can optionally ignore but generally is good about). In your position, I would canonicalise. The content may vary and is spread out across many different domains - however, having one large powerful domain is likely to increase it's worth.
    – L Martin
    Nov 23 '16 at 14:26
  • Thats the thing. The content does not vary. Not at all. All of the subdomains look like the root domain. Exactly. Except for 1 thing. When a user visits the root of jason.thecommunity.com they are shown the profile page of jason. When a user visits the root of thecommunity.com they are shown the root page of the entire site. That is the only difference. Nov 23 '16 at 15:17
  • Are they only profiles, no extra content? Because that's where the value is. If they're generic and repetitive then keep them as is and don't move them on domain.
    – L Martin
    Nov 23 '16 at 15:26
  • 1
    Then you'll want to go the canonical tag route. It tells Google the content is all (nearly) identical despite the domain being different.This will aggregate all the equity onto your main domain. You'll want to add rel=canonical for every single template to make sure it maps correctly, not just the home page.
    – L Martin
    Dec 23 '16 at 12:12

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