Pros and Cons of Putting a Blog in a Subdirectory / Folder

Advantages / Disadvantages of Using a Sub-folder for your Blog or CMS


Pros and Cons of Putting a Blog in a Subdirectory / Folder

by Christopher Heng, thesitewizard.com

When you first install a blog on your site, you are faced with the decision of whether to put your blog into a subdirectory (folder), like http://www.example.com/blog/, or just let your blog be accessed from your main URL, like http://www.example.com. No one answer fits all, since there are advantages and disadvantages to either of these options. This article gives you the good points and downsides of both alternative so that you can evaluate what is best for your site.

Advantage of Putting Your Blog in a Folder / Sub-directory

  1. Multiple Purpose Websites

    If you intend your website to be more than a blog, for example, if you intend to sell goods or services from your site, putting your blog into a folder or sub-directory has certain advantages. In particular, your main page can then be freed to advertise your products or services and link to your shopping cart. From that page, you can still have a link to your blog.

    When your site serves different purposes, putting your blog on the main page has the potential to decrease your sales, cause confusion among your customers and make your site look unprofessional. Think about it. What do all blogs look like? No matter how you change the theme or appearance, all blogs have certain visual features in common. They typically have a series of posts on their main pages, linking to the actual articles. Except for a slogan underneath the name of the blog, all the other content on the page usually move off the page as new posts are made.

    This works against you since the expectations of people wanting to buy things is that they can immediately see either a list of products on your main page or information about your company and the kind of things it sells. From there, they can navigate to the price lists or product description pages, and so on. Having a blog front page may lose you some visitors who, unaccustomed to your unusual layout, may not be able to find what they are there to do, or think that they have arrived at the wrong site.

  2. Your Non-Blog Pages are not Dynamic or Database-Server-Dependant

    As mentioned in one of my other articles, most blog software create pages dynamically (except possibly Movable Type which has the option of creating static pages). They depend on a chain of facilities, from scripts (programs) running on the web server to database servers supplying data, to deliver a single page to your visitors. A failure at any point in that chain, such as the database server being too bogged down to reply to additional requests, means that your web page can no longer be delivered.

    In view of this, separating your non-blog pages like your product pages and ordering pages from your database-dependent blog system is probably wise. While your blog may be the apple of your eye, since you invested so much time writing for it, its "down" time will probably not cost you as much as your product and ordering pages being unavailable. You will want the latter pages to be static pages, dependent only on the web server.

  3. Conflicting Web Addresses (URLs)

    On some web hosts, the root directory of your website contains links to a variety of built-in facilities provided by the host. For example, they may place links to your control panel or to your web statistics, accessible by browser using a URL like http://www.example.com/name-of-facility.

    Installing a blog into the main directory of your site causes problems on these hosts. Many of the sophisticated blog software or CMS software completely take over the directory it is installed in as well as its subfolders. Try to access a folder that is not recognised by the blog software (as your control panel or web statistics will definitely not be), and you get a File Not Found error issued by the blog. You would have effectively lost access to that facility provided by your web host. Don't blow this out of proportion, though. It is still possible to circumvent the blog software by using a bit of .htaccess magic, if your site is hosted on an Apache server.

    Of course, if you install your blog into a subfolder, this problem disappears, since your root folder is not managed by the software.

Disadvantages of Putting Your Blog in a Sub-folder

Before you all rush out to put your blog into a subdirectory, there are also disadvantages to doing so. If you are not careful, you will encounter all of these downsides.

  1. Set-up and Maintenance Time is Increased

    When you set up your blog in the main web folder, so that your blog appears when you type your domain name alone, your setup work is mostly complete when you finish installing and configuring the blog.

    If you install your blog in a subdirectory, you still have to create a main page for your site, since the blog software will no longer take care of that for you. You will have to figure out how to design that main page, and how you should link to your blog. Since people arriving at your site will now see that static page instead of your blog posts, you will no longer have the convenience of the blog software automatically promoting your latest article on that page. If you want your latest article highlighted somehow, you will have to either manually do it, or write a script to insert it for you. All these increase the time it takes for you to set up and maintain your site.

    In view of this, if your site is intended to be purely a blog, putting the software in a sub-folder is probably unnecessary. There's too much extra labour for little gain.

  2. Link Dilution: Links to Your Blog will be Divided

    When your blog is in a sub-folder, some webmasters will link to the blog in that sub-folder, while others will link to your main page. This reduces the number of links going to any particular page on your site. As mentioned in my other article on How to Create a Search Engine Friendly Website, you don't want this to happen since it may reduce the importance of your page in the eyes of the search engines.

    This is not a big issue if your site is truly intended to sell things (or some other purpose), with the blog serving as a sort of side-endeavour, intended to supplement your main purpose. People who want to link to the product will probably link to your main site or the product page (which is good), while others who are only interested in your philosophical ruminations will link to your blog. You win here, since your site will have gained links (to your blog) that it would never have got had you not maintained a blog. And since those links have different link texts, there's no real issue. The search engines will see that "Widget XYZ" can be found at http://www.example.com, but "ABC Blog" is be found at http://www.example.com/blog.

    The problem comes only if your site is primarily a blog, but has the blog software installed in a folder. Your main page, in such a case, probably doesn't do much other than point to your blog. As a result, some sites will link to your main page since that's the easiest thing to do, while other sites, figuring out that your main page has nothing of use to their readers, will just link directly to your blog folder. By way of example, http://www.example.com will, in such a case, have X number of links for the term "Mary's Blog" in the search engines while http://www.example.com/blog/ will have Y number of links for the same term, instead of one page having a total of X+Y links. If another site with "Mary's Blog" can be found on the Internet with more links than your X or Y links, that site may be counted as being more important than your site for that term.

    Admittedly, there's more to the search engines' link algorithm than this, and my search term "Mary's Blog" is sort of contrived. However, the general principle of link dilution still applies.

Is It Possible to Get the Best of Both Worlds?

I'm not sure if there's a 100% satisfactory way to solve all the issues in an easy way.

  1. If yours is a purely blog site, and you see nothing in the future for that site other than it being a blog, by all means, install the software directly in the root web directly. If ever you want to sell something in the future, you can always buy another domain for the product, preferably with the name of the product as the domain name as well.

    Alternatively, if you want to build on the link reputation your blog has garnered over the years, it is still possible to re-purpose and redesign the existing site. As mentioned in my article on changing a site's design, if a website lasts a certain amount of time, it is likely to get redesigned anyway, so it's not as though you're saving yourself some labour by meticulously planning umpteen years into the distant (foggy) future. However, when you do so, you will want to find some way to preserve the URLs of your existing blog posts. Otherwise your link reputation will be lost when all the existing links to your blog articles are broken. The way to do this is to start preparing ahead now by forming future-proof URLs for your blog posts so that you have fewer problems in the future.

  2. If you want your site to both sell things and be a blog, but don't really want to spend time creating web pages for your main directory with a web editor like DreamWeaver or Nvu, it may be better to get a full fledged content management software (CMS) like Expression Engine or Drupal than to use software like WordPress which is primarily a blogging program.

    CMS software allow you to create non-blog pages like the sort you need for a typical website selling products and services. If you get one that supports blogs as well, then you have the all the facility you need in one package for your site. Installed in the root web directory of your site, you can have both normal pages as well as blog pages. You still won't solve the issue of database dependence though, but you will have reduced your setup and maintenance time. As your income increases from your site, you can always move your site to a dedicated server, so that your site will have exclusive use of the database server (among other things).

Conclusion

When planning for your website or blog, it is important to consider all the issues involved in putting your blog or CMS software in the main web directory or a sub-folder of your site. In both cases, there are pros and cons, and a clear understanding of all that is involved will help you plan what is best for your particular situation.

Copyright © 2007 by Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
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