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Google Scrubs SubDomains

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I had a chance to catch up with Matt Cutts and Vanessa Fox last week at the Las Vegas Pubcon. We talked about a variety of things – from the hacking of someone’s out of version WordPress blog to the recent PageRank updates at Google. One of the more recent and perhaps lesser-publicized changes we discussed however was Google’s recent decision to change the way they handle content on subdomains. You can find our video interview on the WebProNews Video blog incidentally.

Google Scrubs SubDomains
Google Scrubs SubDomains

A couple of weeks ago, Google made a change in their algorithm. Prior to the change, a subdomain was considered more or less like a separate URL. Matt explained the reason that presented a problem was due to the fact that multiple subdomains and main domains had a tendency to dominate search listings for some queries – specifically, for example, elaborate long tail query strings.

"We did hear complaints that for some types of searches (e.g. esoteric or long-tail searches), Google could return a search page with lots of results all from one domain. In the last few weeks we changed our algorithms to make that less likely to happen." – Matt Cutts

Matt described the changes as not something anyone should get too worked up over. Google will still return multiple results from a single domain where appropriate. However, you should no longer find whole pages of results totally dominated by one site and 5 or 6 of its subdomains.

We asked Matt if there was a preference or order of importance ascribed to domains vs. subdomains – in other words would Google tend to return one over the other in the results. He told us plainly that there is no algorithmic preference to subdomains vs. domains, so they are treated as equally relevant. Matt’s personal preference in this regard would be subdirectories over subdomains because he finds them more "convenient". Subdomains however, are useful he admits for separating dramatically different sections of a site — for example, mail.google.com or videos.webpronews.com.

At the end of the day, based on our conversation with Matt at Pubcon and from the comments he has made on his blog, this doesn’t sound like it’s going to have any huge impact on very many sites. If you had high results for a query on your subdomains, from what I gather, you can probably expect to retain those. If you had 8 out of the top 10 listings, you can probably look for some of those to drop out – though not necessarily lose your high positions for the ones that remain.

When Matt brought this up at the Pubcon in Las Vegas last week there was a significant amount of murmuring and buzz. That’s pretty much to be expected when you have Matt Cutts talking about an algorithmic change to Google at a conference full of webmasters.

In this case though, it doesn’t appear to be anything most of us need to be fretting over. After all, as Matt said on his blog, the change was actually implemented a couple of weeks ago and there haven’t been any frantic comments on his blog and I haven’t heard a peep about it in WebProWorld – or anywhere else for that matter. So, yes, there was an algo tweak concerning subdomains, but no, there probably isn’t any cause for panic.

Google Scrubs SubDomains
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  • http://www.buygumbo.com/B000LB41BM/3Dconnexion-SpaceNavigator-PE-Personal-Edition-3D-Navigation-Device-USB-3DX-700029-.html 3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator

    I’ve learned that it is much harder to get many subdomains indexed in google than many subdirectories. 

  • http://www.bulgariasfinest.com Jim

    Notice how many indexed pages dropped when this was invoked, well done Mr G

  • http://www.foxtech.org Technology News

    It’s not a subdomain. Get inside Google Webmaster tools and set up the preffered domain. The one with the www or the other. Be carefull to build your link campain on the same syntax.

  • http://wc-chicago.com/ Brad B

    Mike —
    I just want to say that I appreciate all the added insight provided by yourself and the team at WebProNews covering all the conferences and the main events for casual interviews with the leading SEO gurus and big G insiders like Matt Cutts. It provides me with advance directives for site building and a far greater opportunity for understanding what important people think really is important.

    You guys are an invaluable resource. Keep up the good work–BEB

  • http://financieeladvies.eenpunt.nl Financieel advies

    @prasanth: as far as I understand this topic, the answer to your question is: www .yourwebsite.com is your main domain. anothertopic.yourwebsite.com would be a subdomain (and not a new main domain). Regards Jan.

  • http://www.geekmom.net Geekmom

    www would technically be a subdomain of swingwind.com because the dns (domain name service) looks at swingwind.com as the domain. Anything with information before the dot is a subdomain. Whether or not Google treats it this way is different.

  • http://www.shellmedia.net Shellmedia

    Best to just 301 the www to the non www, so all of the “link love” goes to your main page regardless of which way your backlinks are built.

  • http://www.seonotion.com Avkash

    I also confusing that use of subdomain is seo friendly or not??
    I have 6 subdomain for may website.. i am planing these for improve my ranking.. is it good idea??