Multilingual SEO (3) Domain Strategy – Subfolder VS Subdomain

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In a previous article, we talked about why we shouldn’t use ccTLD unless with a specific reason because it is likely to be costly and time-consuming. So what domain strategy should we choose? We can choose a sub-folder method or a sub-domain method.

■ Subfolder? Subdomain? What is it?

Subfolder method refers to the method consisting of a subfolder in the URL. It’s easy to think about the Windows folder path, also known as a subdirectory.

In this blog, you can see the “marketing” related articles when you enter https://lucy-the-marketer.kr/growth/marketing/. After .kr, you can see the “growth” and “marketing” which is divided by “/”. Each “growth” and “marketing” is the so-called subfolder.

For example, for multilingual sites, the Korean page consists of example.com/kr, and the German page consists of example.com/de.

Subdomain refers to the preceding part of a domain. If you configure a German page, you can name the country name in front of your domain(example.com) like de.example.com.

Subfolders and subdomains are very different in terms of SEO, so you should choose them with a strategy. The biggest difference is that in the case of subdomains search engines think each subdomain site as separate sites.

In other words, Google thinks de.example.com and example.com differently. Therefore any SEO score accumulated from example.com does not apply to de.example.com.

This means you have to re-do the whole SEO thing again if you want to expand your multilingual sites to another country.

■ Pros and Cons of subfolder system (example.com/kr)

From the bottom line, the subfolder method is more appropriate for organizing multilingual sites.

>> Advantages<<

(1) SEO score (Authority) is easy to transfer.

SEO score of the current domain, namely example.com, can be easily distributed to new multilingual sites, and it is win-win because each multilingual site helps the main domain example.com.

(2) There is no need to add domain hosting.

If you choose either ccTLD or sub-domain, you should buy a new domain address. The subfolder method, on the other hand, does not cost any additional cost because it only creates a folder under your existing domain.

(3) It is easy to maintain.

Compared to other options of domain strategies, subfolder is much easier in terms of maintenance.

>>Disadvantages<<

(1) There are limits on country/language targeting.

As mentioned earlier articles, the strongest regional targeting is ccTLD. If you use a subfolder method, search engines may not be able to show the ‘correct’ sites according to the viewer’s language or country.

Have you ever reached a page in another language when you clicked on the results you searched in your language? For example, if you click on a search result in Korean and Google guides you to the English page of the site.

But it is too early to be disappointed. Thanks to technical SEO, these limitations can be overcome. Planting so-called a hreflang tag is key to prevent this kind of error, which we’ll continue to cover in this series.

(2) The URL structure becomes somewhat complicated.

Sites are usually divided into several categories. When ‘country’ folders are added to ‘category’ folders, the URL is bound to be longer.

Let’s say our site url is example.com/korean/category-name-1/post-name-1.

As you have added ‘korean’ to show the language of this article, the latter part of the address will not be shown, most likely.

Pros and Cons of subdomain (kr.example.com)

Subdomain is the address before the domain, replacing www. (Not all subdomains are preceded to a domain. In the case of www.excample.co.kr, “co” is a subdomain of the TLD called kr.)

>> Advantages<<

(1) You can use a local server and IP address.

You can provide your service faster if you have a server in the country you’re targeting. (Although this doesn’t matter if you’re using a cloud server.) (Low cost as well!) But this doesn’t matter if you’re using a cloud server.

(2) Useful when the target target is completely different.

Select a subdomain when providing a completely different service. Multilingual SEO is the purpose of providing the same content in multiple languages so it is not good to use Subdomain. But if you have a number of services, such as Google, a subdomain format is good to go.

– Google Drive: drive.google.com
– Gmail: mail.google.com
– Translation: Translate.google.com

If people who use the translation service and people who use the mail service have different behaviors, operating the site separately is more helpful in terms of SEO.

>> Disadvantages<<

(1) SEO score cannot be transfered.

(2) The cost of hosting is added.

(3) URL structure design is difficult.

■ Conclusion! Let’s organize a multilingual site into subfolders.

In the next article, i’ll summarize what you might want to think about when designing a multilingual site URL.


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