Subpages or Separate Domains?
Companies often expand into new areas, launching product lines or offering services that weren’t part of their original business plan. This can be problematic if their websites weren’t designed to grow and adapt with the business. An online retailer of baby clothes might commission a compact site about the practicalities of buying for infants, only to discover there’s a much stronger market for children’s clothing. Similarly, a site dedicated to piano lessons wouldn’t lend itself to offering guitar tuition as an additional income stream.
When a company expands into new areas, there are three main ways to demonstrate this online:
1 Additional subpages in an existing website can allocate a dedicated page to each product or service, alongside rewritten About Us pages.
2 A separate domain can be launched with a very specific focus, indicating expertise and a dedication to that particular strand of the business.
3 The third option is to create a subdomain within the parent directory – a separate web address preceding the parent site’s name and TLD.
The choice between subpages, subdomains and separate domains affects everything from the content of About Us pages to the key homepage takeaways. Here, we consider the pros and cons of each:
- Advantages. If a company is already paying site hosting costs, it is preferable to avoid duplicating this expense. Adding in subpages or subfolders is easily done through portals like Yoast or WordPress, with menus automatically reformatting and sitemaps instantly updated. The existing site will already have a position within search engine results pages (or SERPS), which the new page can capitalize on. And search engines love websites that regularly add new content, so extra pages boost SEO. Plus, adding new keywords into a single pay-per-click ad campaign is relatively cost-effective.
- Drawbacks. Every company wants to demonstrate expertise in a particular field, but that becomes increasingly difficult with every divergent specialism. Parents wanting their offspring to be coached by a top pianist might hesitate in selecting a tutor who also teaches other instruments. Perceptions are critically important online, where websites act as shop windows for new audiences. About Us pages can reflect any brand confusion when a company expands, as can sprawling sitemaps.
- Advantages. If the established brand has a name for quality or service, a subdomain can piggyback on that reputation. At the same time, it provides a sense of distance from the parent brand – a music teacher could have various instrument-related subdomains under the expertmusic.us brand, such as piano.expertmusic.us. This is clearly a piano-specific portal, albeit one with a known pedigree. Search engines view subdomains as individual websites, so multiple subdomains can achieve results page dominance compared to the limited appearances each unique URL is permitted.
- Drawbacks. Although a subdomain can harness an established brand’s reputation, it’s treated as an entirely new site with no domain authority or SEO. This prevents a WordPress-hosted blog copying the prestige of its parent platform, though it also means a subdomain takes time to establish itself as a standalone site. A subdomain lacks autonomy, yet it can’t be sold on as a separate entity in the way a microsite could. Deleting a subdomain can actually damage the wider website’s SEO ranking.
- Advantages. Having a separate website for every key service suggests a dedication to that niche, and a well-chosen domain name can achieve exact name matches for optimal SEO results. Many visitors will be completely unaware of other sites, and they’re unlikely to be as concerned by cross linking between portals – another real SEO boost. It’s surprisingly affordable to launch and maintain more than one website; our fictional piano tutor could register the pianoplayingguru.com and guitarplayingguru.com domains through WestHost for just $8.99 a year each.
- Drawbacks. Launching a second website involves building and designing a new site structure, or replicating an existing one before changing all the content to avoid being downgraded for plagiarism. Separate domains bring multiple email addresses, which can involve several software packages or endlessly cycling between accounts. Uploading blogs or maintaining about us pages also has to be undertaken for each separate site, which quickly becomes time-consuming.