When you join the HubSpot ecosystem, you’re presented with a choice: Should you move the company blog to a new HubSpot blog subdomain, or to keep it on its current domain (often the one for the primary website)? This begs other questions. Do redirects hurt SEO? Is a HubSpot domain really an advantage? Read on to find out.
To move your blog or not to move your blog? That is the question.
Proponents of the “don’t move it” camp will argue that any adjustment to your blog domain can harm your SEO, lower SERP rankings, and slow down lead generation (at least in the short term). On the other hand, moving your blog onto a HubSpot subdomain can offer distinct advantages, and there’s also good reason to believe that the demise of your SEO has been greatly exaggerated.
Let’s walk through how subdomains work, the possible — but often overstated — effects of moving your blog, and why a new subdomain can actually be the optimal choice.
Top-Level Domain vs. Subdomain
A website's main page typically lives at a base URL address (the top-level “domain,” such as www.hubspot.com). You can extend this URL address with additional text, following a “/” (such as www.hubspot.com/why-go-hubspot), to direct visitors to another page or directory that’s also contained within that same top-level domain.
When you move your blog to a subdomain, it may resemble the main domain, but it’s actually functionally a separate website because the core URL address is different (for example, blog.hubspot.com). It’s called a “subdomain” because, in practice, it’s a sub-website of your main website. Think of it as part of the family and under your umbrella, but separate. Sort of like your website’s pet puppy.
This means that when you migrate your blog to the subdomain, all of the individual URLs of the blog posts must also change. Some folks will throw red flags here, because any links pointing to the original blog pages will now be wrong and “broken,” potentially impacting traffic, SEO, and the user experience. However, this pitfall can be seamlessly solved through URL redirection.
How URL Redirection Works
It’s actually easy to set up what’s called a “301 URL redirect” at each of the old URL addresses. This is kind of like a road sign that points the old links to the new links on your fresh subdomain. With 301 URL redirects in place, you can absolutely migrate your blog onto a subdomain without creating a single broken link.
Do Redirects Hurt SEO?
A link redirect will not impact SEO negatively. In fact, it helps you preserve SEO by carrying interested traffic from the old link forward to the new URL address.
However, there is the possibility that you will experience some lag in search rankings immediately following a move to a brand new subdomain. This is not due to the redirects themselves, but because the subdomain may not carry over any built-up “authority” from the main site.
If your top-level website domain has been around for a while and grown its traffic, search engines can recognize this and may reward it in ranking algorithms. That won’t necessarily help your subdomain, which is basically a separate website. A subdomain can build up authority on its own.
However, in almost all cases you’ll be able to regain any lost blog traction within a matter of months. Moving your blog to a new subdomain is not about a quick boost in traffic — it’s a long-term strategy with substantial benefits over the lifetime of your blog.
Benefits of Moving to a Blog Subdomain (in General)
A subdomain is still a part of your main website domain, even though search engines will treat it like a unique site. This provides several advantages vs. hosting the blog on a completely separate website.
- Subdomains are free. Make as many as you need. Once you’ve bought the primary domain, you can generally add subdomains at no additional cost.
- The subdomain is a fresh chance to get indexed. It’s possible on a large website that search engines aren’t digging deep enough to index and rank every page on your main site. However, since a subdomain is a unique site, it is first in line to get indexed as a new and separate entity.
- Subdomains are good for organization. The keyword that kicks off your subdomain, and the organized nature of grouping content in a subdomain in general, makes your purpose clear and improves the user experience. Consider mail.google com, which describes its purpose in the first word.
- Google knows subdomains are related to the main site. Google's John Mueller is on record saying that Google does a pretty good job figuring out what you are trying to do and it doesn't matter much whether you’re using a subdomain or the main domain, in terms of SEO and overall authority.
The final point is perhaps the most important. At one point in the live interview linked above, Mueller says, “in the long run, if you have a subdomain that we see as a part of your website, then that’s kind of the same thing as a sub-directory” [of the main domain]. He also says that when Google sees subdomains as related, “if you move things around within that site, essentially from a sub-domain to a sub-directory, you’re not gonna see a lot of changes.” Translation? Moving to a blog subdomain may not hurt SEO at all, and it can actually still help your main website and vice versa.
Benefits of Moving to a HubSpot Domain
This is where the juice really starts. Most companies that are moving into HubSpot must carefully consider whether to move any existing web content onto a HubSpot domain or subdomain, especially if they are interested in powerful attribution and ROI reporting.
Only a HubSpot domain can seamlessly link your pages into the robust, automated analytics and insights that power the HubSpot ecosystem. When you migrate a blog onto a HubSpot subdomain, you’ll reap the full benefits of your investment in HubSpot, including:
- Improved depth of campaign reporting, CTA and link tracking, and tagging
- Easier and convenient blog publishing on a user-friendly interface
- Seamless creation of multiple subdomains for different content types (Case studies, blogs, press releases, etc)
- Powerful SEO tools like Topic Clusters that make topic rankings much easier and much more impactful
Not everyone will want to migrate the entire website onto a new HubSpot domain. This is where a HubSpot subdomain specifically for a regularly-updated content library can help the most. You might leave your main website on its current hosting platform (perhaps it’s a Wordpress domain, for example), then create a new subdomain for your blog on the HubSpot platform and use 301 redirects to update all existing blog links to the new subdomain.
The subdomain can retain the exact same navigation, aesthetics, and functionality as the main site. Visitors can bounce back and forth between the main domain and the subdomain seamlessly as they click buttons in the navigation, in all likelihood without noticing. The only difference for the user would be the beginning of the URL that appears at the top of the page.
Companies sometimes opt to create subdomains for organizational reasons, but there may not be a whole lot of difference for SEO one way or another. The real benefit of a blog subdomain comes with the platform that’s hosting it. The HubSpot suite of analytics and attribution tools can only be fully deployed through a HubSpot domain or subdomain. In most cases, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
The only way this could impact SEO would be in cases where Google or other search engines are still learning that the new subdomain is related to your primary site — and the dip would be temporary. Meanwhile, the long-term benefits of actionable data insights on user behavior, session origins, and more will follow your organization well into the future.