Dominate Branded Search Results
One of the easiest search terms to obtain a top ranking for is your brand. If your brand and website have been around for a while (1+ years), there's a good chance that you'll hold the number 1 spot in all the search engines without having to engage in any search engine optimization (SEO) tasks. But surely there's more you can do, right?
Yes, there is. You may feel good about holding the number one spot, but wouldn't you feel even better holding all 5 or even 10 top spots? And wouldn't it be great if you could achieve this without tricks while at the same time improving usability for your users? That's where sub-domains come in.
A sub-domain can be thought of as a variation on your website's URL. Consider my site's current URL www.mariosalexandrou.com. If I also set up blog.mariosalexandrou.com and forum.mariosalexandrou.com then I would now have 2 additional sub-domains. Technically speaking, even the www variation is a sub-domain. The idea behind sub-domains is to offer unique content with each and to make it easier for your users to find that content.
Some real-world examples include Craigslist which uses newyork.craigslist.com, boston.craigslist.com, and miami.craigslist.com along with All Recipes which uses shop.allrecipes.com, members.allrecipes.com, and cookies.allrecipes.com. As you can see, these sub-domains make sense. If you're a regular user, you're going to eventually learn that you can bypass a lot of content you're not interested in by going directly to the sub-domain. I do just that all the time with the New York edition of Craigslist.
From Google's perspective, each sub-domain is treated like a different site. The downside of this is that you need to perform off-page SEO (e.g. link building) for all of the sub-domains and not just the primary one if you want them to rank well. You'll also need to make sure that each sub-domain has a lot of unique content and not just a few pages. The upside is that if you do things correctly, you can have your sub-domains claim many of the top spots for branded searches compared to the normal max of 2 that a site can get. An example of this can be seen when searching for Nordstrom. Six out of the 8 top spots are held by Nordstrom sub-domains. An even better example is iVillage which holds closer to 18 of the top 20 results. Wow!
A clever company can make sure that the message a user first receives is one that they control. That same clever company can also guide searchers to the most relevant page by making the sub-domain meaningful and reduce the risk of losing a visitor because they couldn't find what they wanted.