subdomain vs subdirectory? which one is better for wordpress multisite

WordPress multisite subdirectory VS subdomain – Which is the Best Approach?

Site structure affects SEO. That’s why the WordPress multisite subdirectory vs. subdomain is always a controversial topic. People ask: Which is better and helps rank better in search results? What are their pros and cons? Although both subdirectories and subdomains look similar, they are different from each other. Even their configuration and setup are extra. […]

Site structure affects SEO. That’s why the WordPress multisite subdirectory vs. subdomain is always a controversial topic.

People ask: Which is better and helps rank better in search results? What are their pros and cons?

Although both subdirectories and subdomains look similar, they are different from each other. Even their configuration and setup are extra.

This blog post will help people who are going to build a network of websites within a single domain. As you may know, there are two main approaches to achieving this goal: subdirectories and subdomains. We are here to help you decide which is good for you and your multisite.

Let’s dive in.

What is WordPress Multisite?

Briefly, a network of various websites built on a single WordPress installation counts as a WordPress Multisite. Each website can have its unique domain, but the installation is the same for all.

Considering the growth of internet technology, almost every business and individual should have an online presence. The internet has more than five billion active users, according to First Site Guide. Your target audience is probably using the global village too. That’s why you should have a website or websites to interact with them and win their attention.

Sometimes, you need more than one site to build a solid online presence. To illustrate, If you have an international website and your visitors are from different countries, it’s better to show them their mother language version of the website. Spanish people prefer to gain information in Spanish, while German audiences rather get it in their language. This is where our hero, the multisite feature, comes in! You can have two websites with the same content but in different languages to please your various visitors around the world.

Large companies, schools, universities, and organizations that need multiple sites with similar or different content take advantage of WordPress Multisite.

Thanks to this fantastic feature, WordPress multisite, managing numerous sites is more straightforward than before. Assume you want to add a new plugin to the website, you’ll do it once, and all sites on the network will get updated automatically. You can manage everything on your site from a single dashboard.

manage WordPress multisite from a single dashboard

Now let’s dive deeper. In order to have several sites on a single network, you should choose between subdomains and subdirectories. That’s the main idea behind writing this blog. We want to talk about WordPress multisite subdirectory vs. subdomain.

Subdomain vs. Subdirectory at a glance

Before the comparison, we need to know what exactly they are. You know what a domain is. It’s a digital address that locates each website on the internet; therefore, users can find them easily.

Technically, domain name maps to an IP address which is understandable for computers. 

When users type a domain name in their browser, the request goes to the DNS server to find which IP address matches the entered domain name. Then, the answer is sent to the user’s browser to show them their expected content.

With this in mind, let’s talk more about subdomains and subdirectories, as both are branches or, better to say, the ramifications of domain names!

What is Subdomain?

In simple terms, a subdomain is a part of the domain that comes before the main domain name.

You can make as many subdomains as you want because there is no limit.

Sites you build on subdomains can have their unique design and content.

Usually, webmasters use subdomains to create a separate website with rich content on the same installation, AKA WordPress multisite.

These websites often count as entirely different websites, suitable for presenting other products or regions.

Subdomains require more server resources and time to manage, as they are different websites.

It is also possible to have subdomains in subdomains. For example, if you want to build e-commerce on your website for French users, you can use the subdomain below:

There are no obligations, but it’s suggested to use a subdomain for content that is not significantly related to the main topic in the main domain.

For example, a website about cloud computing has a blog that covers a broader range of topics, like AI, crypto, NFTs, etc. In this case, the posts on the blog are not necessarily related to the main domain, which is about cloud computing, so it is a good idea to host the blog on a subdomain.

Wrapping up all we said, a subdomain is a good choice for section separating and can be used for:

  • Blogs
  • Ecommerce
  • Internationalization
  • Mobile Sites
  • Different Departments within an Organization
  • Quote Forms

We’ll discuss subdomains and their pros and cons further in the blog post, but now we want to discuss subdirectories.

What is Subfolder?

A subdirectory, or subfolder, is another way of creating multiple sites on a single network.

Unlike subdomains, a subdirectory is not another site but a folder inside the existing domain. It comes after the main domain and the extension, separated by a slash:

It is also possible to make subfolders in other subfolders! Imagine that you have a category in your blog about topic X. To separate the content about this specific matter, you can create a subfolder in your blog, which is a subdirectory too:

Remember we told you to use subdomains when the content is less related to the main topic? Vice versa for subdirectories.

When the content is highly related to the main domain, the best approach is to use a subdirectory. In addition, if there is not much content, utilizing a subdirectory over a subdomain is a wise decision.

While some service providers may ask you to pay more for using subdomains, making subdirectories is entirely free.

This way of building WordPress multisite has a lot of advantages which we’ll discuss about it further. You should know that using subdirectories has more SEO benefits than using subdomains. Despite many insisting that they are the same, they are not!

So here is the question that’s been bothering you:

Subdomain or Subdirectory For WordPress Multisite?

So you want to build a network of websites on a single installation, and you need to know which one to use? We are here to help you with wordpress multisite subdomain vs subdirectory.

subdomain or subdirectory

First of all, the answer to this question depends on your needs and your website’s goals!

As mentioned earlier, subdomains can be used to create different websites within a network with distinct content and design.

Google crawlers treat subdomains as separate websites because their content is unrelated to the main topic. 

Conversely, subdirectories are part of the leading website with a similar design and content.

You must use a subdirectory when you have similar audiences and want to gain the primary domain authority. However, if your content, design, and audience are diverse, it may be better to use subdomains instead.

Many SEO experts say there is no significant difference between subdirectories and subdomains in terms of SEO ranking.

John Muller stated that Google treats both subdirectories and subdomains the same. But he also mentioned that search engine bots take a bit longer to index subdomains.

It’s not good. If you have the opportunity to use subdirectories, go for it. If you prioritize SEO, it is generally best to avoid subdomains and use them only when you have a large amount of specific content that requires a particular website.

Users find subdirectories more user-friendly. It’s easier for them to navigate the website when the parts are in different folders we know as subdirectories. Subdirectories keep the site integrated, and the primary domain and its content can help each other rank higher on SERPs.

Let’s explore both subdirectories and subdomains regarding advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages & disadvantages of using Subdomains with Multisite

We’ve already talked about some pros and cons of using subdomains for Multisite, but here, we want to explore deeply and find out the exact benefits and harms of it. Stay tuned.

Advantages πŸ‘‡

The most noticeable benefit of a subdomain is content separation. As we said above, if you plan to host content entirely different from the main domain topic, it’s advised to use subdomains. This way, google bots won’t get confused.

Subdomains can be independent of the main domain with their unique design and specific configuration. You can have plugins on your subdomain website that are not used by the root domain.

Most of the time, it’s free to add new subdomains to the network and build a Multisite. However, sometimes the hosting provider charges you more, but it’s rare.

Scaling up in the future will be accessible using subdomains for your Multisite. You can add new sections to the website without affecting the primary content as your business grows.

If you have different groups of audiences, subdomains can help you in the process of marketing. We also talked about this earlier in the blog post. You can use subdomains to target people from different nationalities and languages if you have an international website.

disadvantages πŸ‘‡

The list of weaknesses of subdomains in a multisite network can be endless. Here are some of the most important ones.

Firstly, subdomains can pose a security risk. Each subdomain counts as a different site, and Google crawlers index them separately. It can be challenging for WordPress to handle a large amount of bot traffic, which can lead to a system breach.

Using subdomains can also lead to poor overall performance as a significant amount of resources will be involved in managing incoming traffic.

While you can link the subdomain to the root in a navigation menu, it won’t inherit primary domain authority. This means that even if the main domain ranks high on SERPs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the subdomain will rank high too.

It will take longer for bots and crawlers to index the content on the subdomain, which can negatively impact SEO.

Managing subdomains requires more time, energy, and money as they are separate from the central website. A dedicated team is needed to handle updates, plugins, and publishing content.

To ensure the security of users, additional SSL certificates must be purchased because the one purchased for the primary domain won’t work for the subdomains created.

In addition to all the above, protecting subdomains against DDoS attacks is much more complicated.

Advantages & disadvantages of using Subfolders with Multisite

While some argue that subdirectories and subdomains offer similar SEO benefits, many experts suggest that subfolders are the better choice.

We’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of using subfolders in-depth so that you can make an informed decision for your website.

Advantages πŸ‘‡

Users prefer subfolders over subdomains, as they are more user-friendly and easier to navigate.

Google considers subdirectories to be part of the main domain, and they inherit its authority.

Site development, marketing, and all other tasks are much easier when you create a Multisite with subfolders.

As we said above, subdirectories keep your site integrated and are suitable for content closely related to the root.

Managing subdirectories is much easier. You will do it only once to update and maintain plugins and themes, and all subdirectories will change.

Suppose you bet on subfolders in the wordpress multisite subdirectory vs subdomain battle. In that case, you’ll save significant money and time because subdirectories are much cheaper and easier to handle.

High-quality content published on a subdirectory can benefit both the content and the main domain by increasing their authority for Google ranking, but it requires excellent backlinks.

disadvantages πŸ‘‡

Subdirectories don’t have many downsides, but there are a few that we are going to note here.

Building an international multisite network using subfolders is a waste of time. This is one of the biggest limitations of subdirectories.

If you are going to have both eCommerce and a blog on your website, it’s better to go with subdomains, as it is unwise to host an eCommerce and a blog on the same server.

It is also possible that some conflicts occur when you use subdirectories to host several sites, as they all use a shared main domain.

Last but not least, it’s about security. Again according to the fact that all subdirectories have the same domain address, in the case of any cyber threats, all sites are in danger.

Zoneit Multisite Hosting πŸ€–

Zoneit has provided a good solution for you to manage multiple websites from a single dashboard.

With Zoneit multisite hosting, you can streamline your website management and save valuable time and resources. This centralized approach makes tasks such as updating themes and plugins, managing user accounts, and performing other website-related activities easier than ever.

Some benefits of Zoneit Multisite Hosting:

  • Cloudflare CDN
  • Caching and optimization
  • Cutting-edge infrastructure
  • One-Click PHP Version Switching
  • Theme And Plugin Manager
  • File Manager
  • Free SSL Certification
  • Resource monitoring
  • Redirect Management

Conclusion: WordPress multisite subdomain is a bad move!

However, John Muller says that it does’nt matter which approach you choose; research has shown that subdirectories are better than subdomains regarding SEO.

opt subdomains only if the topic is entirely unlike the main domain. Otherwise, subdirectories or subfolders are definitely a better choice.

We discussed WordPress multisite subdirectory vs subdomain and explored both advantages and disadvantages. You learned that choosing the right one depends on your needs and goals. Still, it’s advised to utilize subdirectories instead of subdomains when building a website network.

If you’ve already chosen subdomains and want to switch, it is possible, although it’s not suggested.

Stick to the approach you chose for the long term until you get results and rank high in SERPs.

We hope you find this article helpful. If there are any questions, ask us in the comment section.

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