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Posted On: 9th July 2020
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Updated On: 13th July 2020

Subdomains vs. Subdirectories vs. ccTLDs – What’s the Difference?

The decision about how to structure your international website is one that has much discussion across the industry. One thing that has been agreed, there are three main options when it comes to internationalisation: subdomains, subdirectories and ccTLDs. However, for businesses of different sizes, budget and goals, it’s not a one-size-fits-all-approach and even choosing the right solution can be complicated. To help you out, we’ve broken down the differences between the three, and why they might be the right choice for your site.

ccTLD

A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is an Internet top-level domain generally used or reserved for a country.

An example of this would be having these two domains as websites:

• echowebsolutions.com
• echowebsolutions.co.uk
• echowebsolutions.de

Pros

👍🏽Clearest signal to search engines

👍🏽Typically the quickest and easiest way to rank your website in a new country or geographical area

👍🏽Allow for you to run a different website experience for different countries/targeting

Cons

👎🏽Expensive and time consuming to maintain multiple websites

👎🏽Each site has separate domain authority and status

Conclusion: ccTLDs will have the strongest impact on international rankings, although with them being seen as different sites entirely, this can be an expensive approach in terms on an SEO investment as well as the cost of the domains themselves. If you’re not planning to target a large number of countries, it could be the best option.

Subdirectory

A subdomain is a division or alias of your domain that can be used to organise your existing website into a separate site.

An example of how this would look is:

• echowebsolutions.co.uk
• echowebsolutions.co.uk/us/
• echowebsolutions.co.uk/de/

Pros

👍🏽Easier to maintain websites when compared to ccTLDs and subdomains as content typically is managed by one CMS

👍🏽Most reputable CMS’ with a multilingual option typically can be set up with a great SEO structure to cater for websites targeting different locations

👍🏽Consolidates domain authority

👍🏽Typically the cheapest to set up

👍🏽Easier to ensure all content is on-brand and controlled centrally (this can be important for franchise-type businesses)

Cons

👎🏽Weaker signal to Search Engines

👎🏽Users might trust more and prefer to browse using a local domain name

👎🏽Websites can become bloated and navigation complicated

Conclusion: Creating subdirectories is usually the easiest solution in terms of setup and long term maintenance and costs and they also allow you to carry over your ranking value. This is, however, a weaker signal to Google and users which may impact how your website is scored against the local competition.

Subdomains

A subdomain is a domain that is part of a primary domain address. An example of how this would look is like the below

  • au.echowebsolutions.co.uk
  • jp.echowebsolutions.co.uk

Pros

👍🏽Typically cheaper and less effort to implement than ccTLDs

👍🏽Allow for you to run a different website experience for different countries/targeting

👍🏽Subdomains can use separate IP addresses or hosts

Cons

👎🏽Weaker signal to Search Engines

👎🏽Users might prefer to browse locally

👎🏽Could dilute the overall domain authority

👎🏽Content managed on different sub-sites, which can mean updates can be time-consuming

Conclusion: Creating subdomains has the same negative as ccTLDs in that Google will see each domain as a separate website meaning it’ll require a larger SEO investment to ensure that the rankings and authority are built up. This approach is typically avoided by SEOs, although it has its benefits in being able to host in separate locations.

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