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Subdomain Usage: Making Sites More Relevant? Well Kinda...
Friday, July 15, 2011
So the other day, as many of you might be aware, there were a series of stories based on an article over at WSJ.com about HubPages. The article mentions that the use of sub-domains is helping their content work its way back up in Google search results after they were hit hard by Google Panda updates earlier in the year.  Subdomains really?

Let's discuss why this makes sense.  Let's assume that a site was "penalized" by the Panda Update for the simple reason that their site featured a significant amount of low quality content.  In order to improve their visibility in Google, Google has hinted that you need to improve the quality of your content, or if we read between the lines, reduce the amount of poor quality on your website.  This does makes sense, but how do you define what is high quality or low quality?  Well there are a number of identifiers that communicate that a site is of poorer quality.  Items such as:
  • ad to copy ratio.  Does your page simply feature too much advertising and not enough substance?  Is Google AdSense dominating your page?
  • is your page a placeholder page that serves little or no purpose to your user?
  • link to copy ratio.  Are there simply too many links on the page resulting in a poor user experience?  All of you directory-type sites out there know what I ma talking about.
  • is your content stolen, syndicated or a duplicate of content that is already on the Web
  • is the content simply poorly written or conversely is it written by a "professional writer" and at too high of a reading level?
  • are there spelling and grammatical errors?
  • is the site over-SEO'd?  Keyword spammed?
Chris Crum over at Web Pro News included some of the questions Google recommends when reviewing your content to determine if it is of high quality or not.  While directed at articles, these questions can be asked of your regular content as well and include:
  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
So getting back to the idea of subdomains.  Fact:  Subdomains are treated like a site unto themselves.  Thereby removing low quality content from your main site and placing it on a subdomain would in fact improve the quality of your main site.  (the quality of your new subdomain would be in question).  Are you still with me?  So in this sense the idea of moving low quality content to a subdomain will enhance the content of your main site.  This strategy may accomplish two things:
  1.  Forces the search engines (namely Google) to reassess your content both on your main domain and on your new subdomain.  We should mention that you may not see a change right away.  The nature of algorithm updates suggests that you have to wait until the next version of the update is rolled out or at least the next major crawl of your site is completed to see significant changes.  This can take weeks or months.  You need to be patient as propagation takes time.
  2. "Untrips" any Filters - perhaps enough change will be enough for Google's algorithm to realize that your site should "escape penalty"
Hubpages who were apparently acting on advice from Google to go the subdomain route have regained some of their visibility in Google search results.  However this rebound was not over night.  Chances are that they were hit with the original updates in February (February 25th) and began making their changes shortly thereafter.  In fact as Barry Schwartz reports in his excellent article,
The HubPages subdomain testing began in late June and already has shown positive results. Edmondson’s own articles on HubPages, which saw a 50% drop in page views after Google’s Panda updates, have returned to pre-Panda levels in the first three weeks since he activated subdomains for himself and several other authors. The other authors saw significant, if not full, recoveries of Web traffic.
Just because this worked for HubPages does not mean it will work for you.  Especially if your site has other issues with it.  There is a time and a place for using subdomains.

When to Use Sub-Domains vs. Sub Folders

This is an age old question that I have been asked a number of times.  It totally depends.  My feeling is this, if you’d like to build the equity of one web site or entity, I suggest using a sub folder structure. This can help build greater authority over the long term.  If you’d like to build an entire new entity with its own equity, launch a sub-domain.  It now appears that if you want to escape the impact of Google Panda you may also want to use a sub-domain approach.  However, I would warn all of those site owners out there to really take a deep dive into their site's content.  If you are sure that you have been "penalized" by Panda and you have tried to improve your content, take another look.  Does your site still feature low quality content?

Keep in mind what Google has shared regarding the use of sub-domains:
Subdomains can be useful to separate out content that is completely different from the rest of a site — for example, on domains such as wordpress.com. However, site owners should not expect that simply adding a new subdomain on a site will trigger a boost in ranking.

Do not go out and try to game the search engines with a sub-domain strategy.  Work on creating exceptional content that will become an authority.  Move away from mass production of content, and spammy article marketing.  Understand the needs of your audience and provide them with engaging content.

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posted by Jody @ 5:33 AM  
  • At 5:51 AM, Blogger Social Network said…

    Hey Nice information and vast thing within this.......Thank You..........

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