This question seems to pop up in discussion groups at least a few times a year. It’s usually followed by a volley of absolutist answers — Oh, yes, it must! Of course not, how absurd! — and, a handful of measured responses — well, it depends.
I think the answer is quite simple really — are you trying to drive traffic to your firm’s website or to your blog? I could probably end the post right there, but what fun would that be!
To go on the record, I generally believe your blog should be part of your firm’s website, but there are some situations where a subdomain makes sense. To keep it simple, I’m going to offer a short list of situations where each model makes sense — feel free to “self-diagnose” your situation and carve a path forward.
3 Good Reasons to Have Your Blog on a Subdomain:
- It’s a Beta Program — It’s generally a lot quicker (and easier…and less expensive) to launch a separate blog on a subdomain than it is to fit one into an existing website. If your firm is just taking “content marketing for a test drive” a subdomain might make a lot of sense. It offers a reasonably inexpensive way to get a content program up and running to learn how difficult it’s going to be to sustain the content development effort.
- You’re Targeting a Specialist Niche within a Diversified Firm — In my experience about 85% of firms operate in a fairly diverse set of markets with a broad set of services (often too broad and too diverse in my opinion, but that’s a tale for a different post). Yet, content marketing tends to be much more effective when content is tailored to a fairly well defined audience with a very specific set of needs. Placing a blog on a subdomain or even a separate URL can help the niche content perform more successfully, quickly in search. Also, it enables you to separate the niche message from the firm’s broader marketing message.
- It’s a Culture, Safety, or Leadership Blog — These are pretty common blog topics in an A/E firm, and they all work quite well on a subdomain. Again, the subdomain allows you to create a place for a specific topic that’s important to one defined audience of your firm (employees or subcontractors, for instance) without creating unneeded additional noise for other audiences.
3 Good Reasons to Have Your Blog on Your Website:
- Keep Your Audience in One Place — As I noted at the outset of this article, when your blog is part of your website you’re driving all your traffic to a single place. So, all the organic search momentum you’re creating from producing content will spill over more effectively to your firm’s website. If you were a retailer, would you want to drive traffic to your store or to a window across the street that tells people about what’s inside your store? I think the answer’s quite clear.
- Connect Your Expertise with Your Experience — This is actually, the single most compelling reason to have your blog as part of your website. When a blog exists on a subdomain it disconnects the act of learning how to solve a problem with the act of learning how your firm solved it. When your blog’s on your website it’s much easier to connect your educational content with your case studies, leadership bios and service lines. Potential clients can read your thoughts on a topic that’s important to them and easily transition to examples of how you’ve solved that problem successfully in the past or learn more about the people who involved in solving it. This is a critical aspect of making your blog work to help you generate both marketable leads and sales-ready leads — guiding people through the buying process.
- Permanency — There’s something transient about a blog that’s not part of your website. “We’re not really sure about this content thing, but we’re going to give it a try.” When you commit the time, money and resources to make your blog part of your firm’s website and you make a concerted effort to ensure that it fits into the site architecture intelligently, you’re much more likely to follow through with the commitment of additional resources to produce a steady flow of content. Think of it like this — when you put your blog on a subdomain it’s like drafting a QB in the 30th round. We’ll give this guy a look, but we’re not going to put a whole lot of money or effort into him. Building your blog into your website is like drafting that same guy in the 1st round. You’ve got more at stake. As a result, you’re going to work a whole lot harder to make sure you get all you hoped from the investment.
So, there you have it. Looking ahead, I think you’re going to see a lot more firms migrating their blogs into their main websites to get all their messages in one place, drive more search traffic, and connect what they know to what they sell and what they’ve done.