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I have setup a system that will allow me to generate sub websites. These will be completely independent websites that will share a single users database and will all fall under video games. The parent site is a gaming site and the sub websites will be for specific gsmes.

I need to decide whether I should go with a system like calloftuty.example.com or example.com/callofduty.

I want to be able to make potentially 1000s of these so I want to get it right from the start. Subdomains seem the best to me since session data isn't shared and that's what I want as all sub websites use the same code base but have a different dB.

The reason I ask is because I have seen a lot of guides that say subdomains are bad and others say its good. I saw a post that mentioned Google could penalise you if you use subdomains to cheat in keywords. E.g. how-to-do-something.example.com.

Will I be OK from an SEO and website point of view to create many subdomains dedicated to specific games or game series rather than going with sub directories?

I can go with either system if one is better than the other.

marked as duplicate by Stephen Ostermiller seo Jul 26 '17 at 10:58

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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To start, I've never really found a hard and fast "best" answer here in terms of which setup will help you the most with Google. I've gone both routes and been able to get sites ranking in Google either way. You can be penalized for keyword stuffing (and other reasons) no matter what direction you go.

Now, that said, in general, if you are looking at what is best for SEO purposes, I have found it is better to go with a sub-directory instead of a sub-domain, especially if you are going to cross promote content (people interested in one game will probably be interested in information you have on another game, right?).

When it comes to the SEO benefit, I'd recommend the sub-directory not because a sub-domain is bad, but it is that you have a lot to gain by using a sub-directory. Google generally views sub-domains as separate websites, and each separate website has separate rankings signals (like links).

For example, any links pointing to callofduty.example.com won't really help grandtheftauto.example.com because those are two different websites (generally speaking, there are always exceptions). However, any links pointing to example.com/callofduty could help the pages in the directory example.com/grandtheftauto gain rankings because those are all pages on example.com.

This starts to matter especially at scale for traffic, and it sounds like you are going to have some scale. Let's say you start with 50 of these as sub-domains. You put in the work, get good rankings and a decent amount of traffic for all 50. You decide to add your 51st video game onto your site. If you had done the first 50 as a sub-domain, then that 51st will require as much investment (more than likely) to get it ranking. If you do this as a sub-directory, though, then the 51st one you add will be easier to rank because those pages will just be new pages on the same domain as the other 50. With the sub-directory setup, you have one massively awesome site with 51 video games on it. With the sub-domain setup, you have 51 websites.

Here is a video from a few months back with more info about this topic and more explanation on link equity passing. It seems to be the most current info on this topic, and the one I've seen referenced the most by people in the tech SEO world: https://moz.com/blog/subdomains-vs-subfolders-rel-canonical-vs-301-how-to-structure-links-optimally-for-seo-whiteboard-friday

  • really good answer, thanks a lot for this. Do you think the long url will effect anything? so website.com/callofduty/news/interesting-new-news-article. I will make sure to use slugs to keep as much junk out of the url as possible. will having callofduty in the url rather than domain matter at all? – Dan Hastings Jun 20 '15 at 18:12
  • Cool - glad I could help. On the URL, so long as "callofduty" is part of the URL, you should be good. In my testing, I've found that words in the URL are more important to get people to click on your listing in the result as opposed to actually getting the page to rank. Like you said, just keep the URL as short as possible - maybe /call-of-duty/interesting-news-article/ (without the "news" directory). – Matthew Edgar Jun 20 '15 at 21:18
  • According to powermapper tools, URLs should be no more than 80 characters, especially if they should be included in email messages. – Mike Jun 20 '15 at 22:50
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  1. Subdomains are more difficult to setup: you have to create a DNS record for each subdomain.
  2. If you wish to switch to HTTPS while using subdomains, you have to buy a wildcard SSL certificate which 10 times more expensive than a regular domain certificate. With subfolders, since your domain don't change you just need a SSL certificate that will cover www and non www versions of your website.
  3. Today it is possible to geo-target subfolders in Google Search Console for those who think about internationalization. (/fr/,/de/,/es/)
  4. There is a life outside of Google and link juice will sure pass from subfolders to subfolders & be considered as internal links by Yandex or Bing.

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