The widely held belief among the SEO community that subdomains are great for boosting optimization could be changing. I work for Frames Direct ( http://www.framesdirect.com ), an online retailer selling eyeglasses, sunglasses, contact lenses and goggles online. Like most, we were rolling merrily along with many of our various brands set up in subdomains (rayban.framesdirect.com) and so forth. About six months ago, our pages started falling out of Yahoo. As usual, Yahoo provided a canned response that gave a list of their guidelines in general. We didn’t have a clue what it was they objected to, so we started going through our 40,000+ page site trying to clean up anything and everything that might be a problem.
After weeks of doing away with old pages that had long been forgotten, many old sitemaps, duplicates and doing 301 redirects left and right, we requested reinclusion and got the same canned response that we weren’t in compliance with Yahoo guidelines.
As we continued to search for the reason, we finally managed to get in touch with a couple of Yahoo search engineers. One responded with a cryptic, terse “why are you playing games?” e-mail that didn’t help at all. We didn’t have a clue WHAT they wanted and they refused to tell us what the problem was. There are two SEO analysts on our team and neither one of us could have guessed what the problem eventually turned out to be.
The other, bless his heart, actually gave us some guidance. Big on his list – getting rid of the subdomains.
That floored us. As far as we were concerned as SEOs, there was absolutely nothing wrong with our use of subdomains. But, when the Yahoo Gods talk, you pretty much have to listen. We converted the subdomains to subdirectories and did 301 redirects to the subdirectories. While we were at it, we created some new content for all of the pages involved so that there would be no questions regarding any duplicate content.
Yahoo started respidering us in January and our pages are beginning to show up in the index again. Whew!
I write this in response to an article by Rob Sullivan, suggesting a combination of subdomains and subdirectories make for good SEO ( http://www.textlinkbrokers.com/blogs/comments/330_0_1_0_C/ ).
I’d be VERY careful about using subdomains these days. In addition to the Yahoo problems we had, I heard Matt Cutts comment recently that subdomains are among his next spam targets over at Google.