Pros & Cons of Standalone Domains, Subdirectories, & Subdomains

Over recent years, Google has been increasing the value of local search results. In marketing speak, Google has been giving preference to what we call “local relevance.”


So, if you’re a multi-location business, what are some of best (and worst) strategies to create various web presences for consumers in your local market?


The first helpful thing you can do when trying to tackle this approach is to think of there being three three broad kinds of technical structures that lay the foundation for a company’s or a network’s web presences.


Here are three kinds of web presences that your business could create, each with examples:


(1) Subdirectories.


With this approach, you’ll use one main domain, with one subdirectory (aka subfolder) for each location. Examples:


ACMEwidgets.com/dallas

ACMEwidgets.com/chicago

ACMEwidgets.com/brooklyn


(2) Standalone domains.


With this approach, you’ll have an individual domain for each location. Examples:


ACMEwidgetsDallas.com

ACMEwidgetsChicago.com

ACMEwidgetsBrooklyn.com


(3) Subdomains.


With this approach, you’ll use one main website, with one subdirectory for each location. Examples:


dallas.ACMEwidgets.com

chicago.ACMEwidgets.com

brooklyn.ACMEwidgets.com


We talked about the advantages and disadvantages for each use case above on a recent podcast with guest Kevin Mullett, who is MarketSnare’s Vice President of Program Services. Kevin, along with podcast hosts, Matt Nickols and Elliot Olson, discussed:


  • The branding and SEO implications of each strategy. (Google treats each strategy a little bit differently.)

  • The technical implementations and costs of each strategy. (For example, if you have 100 locations and want to register 100 standalone domains, that strategy comes with a substantial cost commitment.)

  • The trade-offs of each strategy. (For example, if you follow the subdirectory model, that might be less confusing to consumers, but are you really going to list each and every product and service of each and every location of your business in various subdirectories?)

  • Which option is best for various kinds of multi-location businesses.


Be sure to check out our episode with Kevin Mullett!