Consolidate Your Website’s SEO Value With Subfolders

Matt NeSmithSEO3 Comments

iStock_000020666912XSmall

Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Doctor Gachet sold for $82.5 million at Christie’s New York in 1990. A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO was purchased for the sum of $35 million by a car collector in the United States. What do these two items have in common? Nothing. However, they are both objects that hold a lot of value.

The same can be said for your company’s website. Consumers spend a lot of time on the internet browsing, shopping and researching. By having a website you are able to put yourself in their home or office without them ever having to step into your business. And further optimizing your site through content development and the addition of backlinks only increases the value of your internet real estate.

But what if you took that Ferrari apart, put all of the pieces in boxes and then tried to sell it for $35 million? It most likely wouldn’t work. The same can be said for a van Gogh painting. It’s value greatly depreciates when it is in shards. And even if those little pieces were in a nice neat pile, the value of the frayed slivers of canvas will never be as great as the whole.

Here’s where I get to the point. If you want your website to hold as much value as possible, you want to keep it in one place and in one piece. Most websites have the first part covered – I have yet to see half of a website’s homepage on a different URL – but many sites are split apart into virtual pieces. All of these pieces sit under one roof, but they exist as subdomains. In the eyes of the site user, your website exists as one piece, but to the search engines, it is looking at the box of car parts. Each individual piece may have it’s own value, but it is much harder to tie them together, and as a whole, the pieces will not add up to a $35 million GTO.

Subdomain vs. Subfolder

When it comes to websites, there are typically two structure types – subfolders and subdomains. A site that uses a subfolder structure has URLs that look like this: www.site.com/subfolder. A site that uses subdomains looks like this: subdomain.site.com. When using a subfolder structure, every page besides the homepage lives underneath your top-level URL. It is much like your document folder on your hard drive. You can place additional folders within it, but they are all aggregated under My Documents. Subdomains on the other hand would be like having multiple My Documents folders. Even though they are all My Documents, the folders are spread out so that if you saved a picture to one folder, the used disk space for that particular folder would increase and the others would stay the same.

By having your website set up with a subdomain structure, it is hard to consolidate value in one place and often times a subdomain receives no value from the root domain that it exists on. For example, if you were to build a WordPress blog, your blog would not receive any value from the root domain *wordpress.com, even though www.wordpress.com has a domain authority of 100 and page authority of 97. Case in point, the wordpress site linuxinfoorg.wordpress.com has a page authority of 29. If we were doing this comparison using subfolders and another high authority site, we find that deeper level pages still hold a lot of authority regardless of how deep down in the folder structure they are. Amazon.com has a domain authority of 100 and page authority of 97. Jack Kerouac’s book, ‘On the Road’, is located at http://www.amazon.com/On-Road-Jack-Kerouac/dp/0140042598 and has a page authority of 75. Even though the page exists under two levels of subfolders, it still has much more authority than a top-level subdomain URL connected with a high authority root domain.

Migrating to a Subfolder Structure

If your site already uses a subdirectory structure (www.site.com/subdirectory), you can breath easy. Any value your site already has, or receives through backlinks, can be spread around and shared amongst all pages. However, if your site uses a subdomain structure (subdomain.site.com), we recommend migrating your site into a subfolder structure. While the exact method of migration depends on your CMS or developer’s capabilities, there are a few things you will want to do to ensure that any authority your existing pages have is transferred properly to the new pages living in the subfolder structure.

The best way to ensure that any authority your original pages have can be transferred to your pages in the new structure is to use a 301 redirect; the following steps show you how to easily map these redirects out.

1. The first step is to crawl your site so you can identify all of your existing pages. We love to use a tool called Screaming Frog. With the free version you can crawl up to 500 pages, or if your site is bigger, they have a paid version. Once you’ve downloaded the program, type your URL into the field and select start.

2. When it is done crawling, select Export, and save the file. Then open it in Excel.

3. Once it is open, you will want to highlight all of the column headers, and apply a filter to them using the icon pictured.

4. Click the small drop-down on the content column header and filter out the text/html files. This will make it so that it will only display all assets except text/html files.

5. Select everything in row 2 and below, and delete it.

6. Click the drop-down on the content column again and this time click Clear Filter at the bottom of the pop-up. The list will re-populate, but this time it is only showing your HTML files and it has cleared out any image or css files. This gives you a list of all of the pages that currently exist on your site!

7. The only column we really need at this point is the Address column (column A). All of the others can be deleted or hidden.

8. In column B, you will want to create a Subfolder URL header. This is the column you will place all of your new URLs in.

9. Now it is just a matter of matching up your old URL to the new URL. Depending on how large the site is, this can be somewhat time intensive, but working through sections at a time will be much easier.

10. With everything mapped out, you can then begin adding these to your htaccess file to set up the 301 redirects!

Remember, you can polish the Ferrari GTO’s fender until your hands go numb, but without the the rest of the car, it is just a fender in a box.

3 Comments on “Consolidate Your Website’s SEO Value With Subfolders”

    1. Hi Ashwin!
      Because you are using a 301 redirect, I can’t imagine it causing any glaring issues with your SEO efforts. However, we typically recommend avoiding any sort of subfolder or /index.html structure for the homepage. The best bet is always putting the homepage on the root domain (http://www.domain.com). I’d be curious to know – was this done for testing? Or migrating a new site onto the domain? Also, how long has this been in place (I’d like to know how Google is showing your page in the SERPs based on if the root domain or subfolder homepage has been indexed)?

      If you can, I’d say move the homepage up to the root domain just to be sure, but if you can’t, keep that 301 in place and monitor your page/domain authority and homepage ranking (through branded terms) over time. Keep us posted!

      1. Thanks for your reply Matt.
        We are trying to organize multiple sections of our website under subfolders and these are actually routed to respective webhost cluster using reverse proxy (i..e /site , /blog /publisher /newsletters etc routed to different clusters). We did this to build a common scalable platform with reverse proxys having very simple routing rules.
        It is not impossible for us to change this, we can but before I do that I really wanted to be 100 percent sure on this. How can I check if subfolder is impacting my ranking? When I search my site with 4-5 keywords it does show up on 1st page. Link shown in google result though is https://domain.com/ and not https://www.domain.com/site.

        Thanks,
        Ashwin Ambekar
        http://www.qponcloud.com

Leave a Reply