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We have a shopping cart site with a course attached to it like so: www.example.com is the cart Magento Platform www.example.com/course/ is the course Wordpress Platform

Both the sites are linked both directly and indirectly i.e. people doing the course can buy things from the cart and visa versa. The idea of building them on different platforms is to simplify UI and user experience. The Course is aimed at schools and we want the users to be able to get onto the course website and use it more like an app.

We have a domain for the course and ideally, we'd like the course to be visible under its own domain - For user experience. This, however, is not the best approach for Google SEO (as far as I am aware).

So my question is: Is it possible for google(or othe earch engines) to view the course as a subdirectory of the main site: www.example.com/course/lesson1.... But users to see it as its own domain: www.Course.com/lesson1....

  • Having a separate domain for some content isn't good for your brand. Keeping everything on one site is better for SEO and for your branding. – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 23 at 9:27
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You cannot show Google one thing and users another. That is called cloaking which is against Google's webmaster guidelines. You may not:

  • Redirect Googlebot to https://example.com/course/
  • Redirect users to https://course.example/

In addition to having all your content on one domain for SEO you want to have all your content on one domain for branding. You want your users to remember more than the name of the course. You want them to remember that it was a course from your brand. This is particularly important because you have items for sale and you want users to remember where to buy them. If you ever create another course, you want users to jump at the chance to take it because they remember the high quality of the previous course they took from your brand.

Rather than a separate domain for the course, I would recommend putting it on a subdomain: https://course.example.com/ That will associate it with the brand in the URL while allowing your to adjust the hosting platform as needed. You would still need to brand the course with the same logo and color scheme and keep the shop and the course interlinked. Subdomains are not always great for SEO, but they are far better than separate domains, especially in terms of branding. See Do subdomains help/hurt SEO?

If you really do want the content on a separate domain you should just accept slightly worse SEO and worse branding. The SEO aspects are not going to be that much worse. The branding problems are worse than the SEO problems, in my opinion.


If you really want to go ahead and try to have different places for SEO and users, there are a couple technical tricks that might work. Google allows:

  • The same content available on both URLs
  • Canonical tags to tell Google which URL to index
  • Redirects to the non-canonical version for users that are not from Google search

So you could try putting the content in both places and putting canonical tags on it such that Google indexes it on the subdirectory. You would have to have all links from the store point to the canonical version (the subdirectory). The subdirectory would have to link to itself.

However, the separate site could also link to itself, so that if a user found themselves there, they would stay there. The canonical tags on the separate domain would point Googlebot to the subdirectory version.

The trick would be getting users to the separate domain. Any users that found your subdirectory from Google would have to see the content there to avoid cloaking. However, you could tell schools just to use the separate course URL, and maybe that would be good enough for your purposes. You could also redirect users (but not bots) that were not referred from a search engine. You could redirect based on the referrer header or you could redirect logged in users.

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Google or other Search Engines, do not look at the platform you hosted on or the engine you run your website on. They care about the content that is shown to the users and the performance of the website. Based on the notes you have quoted above: "NO, the practice you employed is good and does not relate to SEO"

Back to your questions:

Is it possible for google(or other search engines) to view the course as a subdirectory of the main site: www.example.com/course/lesson1

Google or other search engines, view the URLs you listed as sub-directories and will treat them accordingly. (As mentioned above, does not relate to the platform as mentioned above.

But users to see it as its own domain: www.Course.com/lesson1....

I am not sure what you were trying to ask here.

  • If you are maintaining the sub-directory www.example.com/course/lesson1 and are asking if showing Wordpress site to access these courses, it is absolutely fine as you are showing the user what they are looking for.
  • If you are trying to make it look as a different domain for users and search engines, you can try courses.example.com.

Suggestions:

  1. If you have properly integrated your "Buy" options in Magento with the courses sub-directory on Wordpress, just take care of your SEO and site performance so that things go smooth for you.
  2. If you think managing a system like this is being hard, why don't you try Wordpress with Woocommerce?
  3. Before thinking about SEO, check whether you are offering the best landing page experience for your paying customers. If they are satisfied, then do the SEO optimization to target both.

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