Google to Begin Treating Subdomains as Folders: Max 2 Results Per Search

Dec 7, 2007 • 7:40 am | comments (28) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

WebmasterWorld administrator tedster has informed us that Google will be treating subdomains like they treat folders on a site. In short, he said, Matt Cutts said Google will roll out in a few weeks a new filter to make sure only two results of a domain (no matter subdomain or folder) will show up for a search. Here is tedster's exact quote from a WebmasterWorld thread:

News flash from Las Vegas PubCon. Matt Cutts informed us that Google will very soon begin treating subdomains and subdirectories the same in this fashion: there will be only 2 total urls from a domain in any set of search results, so no more getting 3, 4 or however many spots via subdomains. We didn't get any more information than just that basic heads-up.

Of course you can expect exceptions to this rule. For example, sub-domains one would think would fall under this exception to the rule. But overall, if this change happens, it can be a pain in the neck for some SEOs. It will make it a bit harder for one site to "own the search results." Plus it may make some search engine reputation management companies change their strategies.

In an other WebmasterWorld thread tedster gives us a bit more detail on how this may work, bolding for emphasis:

Here's what happens now. The first step of results retrieval for any single search still has no limit on how many urls can be returned from a domain. In the early days of Google, a domain could even have all 10 first page spots and still keep on going. It could even be embarrassing!

Today, the preliminary, raw retrieval of roughly 1,000 results still puts no limit on how many urls can be returned from a given domain. But there's a further processing step - a filter kicks in. That filter is supposed to ensure that only 2 urls maximum from any domain will actually be shown.

If those two urls happen to be on the same page, then they will cluster together on that page rather than show at their "true" algorithmically determined position. But through all the total pages of any search result, any single domain is supposed to show up a maximum of 2 times.

Now here's where we've been able to game the current situation. Subdomains are treated like a separate domain, and so you can get two results for, two more for, two more for, and so on.

Matt Cutts mentioned that Google is working on code to eliminate that possibility for most domains. That is, Google plans to treat most subdomains essentially like any other url on the main domain, and they will limit that domain, INCLUDING all its subdomains, to two positions total on any given search.

At that point, the whole subdomain vs. subdirectory decision will lose most of its importance - and your wwww urls will not show up, even though they may still be causing you trouble behind the scenes.

For a practical example, here is a search on search engine roundtable, our site, that shows the top three listings from this domain:

Search Engine Roundtable search in Google

The top two listings are from the and the third listing is from the subdomain, If Google makes this change, I will loose the second www result or loose the forum result. For relevancy, does this matter much?

Honestly, with the introduction of Sitelinks on this particular site and for this particular search, no it won't impact relevancy, because the searcher can use those Sitelinks. But for sites that do not have Sitelinks, it may make a big difference to the searcher.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Update: See update to this post over here.

Previous story: Live Search Testing Automatic Local Search Results in Australia?



12/08/2007 02:07 am

I am all for the change and I think it makes sense. It will lend for a better user experience in search and make Google's search engine that much more powerful.


12/08/2007 01:24 pm

Any method that reduces spam is good, the only people who dislike this move, will be people who have spam sites or blogs, well done Google

Gab Goldenberg

12/09/2007 09:58 pm

Pfft, Matt copy-pasted his comment from Sphinn. Comment spammer! :P lol. Anyways, Barry, great points about the reputation management business. That said, the cost of domains and hosting are still so cheap that you could achieve the same result with some extra domains (think country codes). I can see and being given more importance now, for instance. ( is already top 10-20, last I checked.)

Matt Cutts

12/10/2007 06:20 pm

Hey, I was in the middle of heading out to PubCon, Gab. :) Barry, could you update the headline or text of your post to point to the clarification you did at ? Thanks!

יחסי ציבור

03/10/2008 11:25 pm

I wonder If it's truth, becuse the reality shows other things


05/13/2008 06:14 am

I am planning to add a wordpress blog in my site. The blog will be under a subdirectory ( Will this affect my site by any means?


07/14/2008 08:39 pm

My question is that does inbound links to a particular subdomain also give value to the TLD or www domain? So would a bunch of inbound links to contribute to the ranking of and Any ideas?

No Name

08/19/2008 09:22 pm

I asume I lost lot's of traffic :(

No Name

08/19/2008 09:24 pm

subdomain isnt the most atractive thning to do right now

mike dancy

08/25/2008 12:18 am

I've never gotten into putting subdomains into my sites. I just buy new domain names for different topics. Iwonder if subdomains may be the new way to hide files like graphics and other files that you don't want found.

No Name

08/28/2008 11:11 am

i m not into subdomain. its not that effective

No Name

08/28/2008 02:31 pm

if the site has diff topics, isn't it advisable to still use subdomains?

b rzck

12/20/2008 08:25 pm

well, this is not that good a news. But subdomains with a different topic must be considered seperate. There must be some distintivness.


12/27/2008 04:18 pm

I never use subdomains. prefer a new url

No Name

02/27/2009 06:42 pm

what they mean by treating them the same its about page rank?

No Name

03/01/2009 07:56 pm

it's about time!


03/02/2009 08:36 am

Has Google rolled it out yet? I don't see the change. Type Google, Yahoo, Amazon shows the subdomains. Are they exceptional like blogspot?

No Name

03/05/2009 08:55 am

Haven't seen the changes myself...

No Name

03/09/2009 03:51 pm

Are you sure about this ?

No Name

03/17/2009 06:36 am

not happening in ...

No Name

03/28/2009 06:10 am

What I was trying to say is that in some circumstances, Google may move closer to treating subdomains as we do with subdirectories.


04/06/2009 07:28 am

That said, the cost of domains and hosting are still so cheap that you could achieve the same result with some extra domains (think country codes).


08/09/2009 10:13 am

Subdomains being filtered out of SERPs is the one thing, but what is about passing PR? Will a link from the subdomain to the maindomain count as internal link or as external link?

No Name

09/24/2009 07:37 pm

Well, I hope that the results do not get filtered out (being subdomains). I own a website that has to do with pc gaming and pc hardware, and I have a subdomain that has to do with tech tips. If it totally filters out the subdomain out of the resutlts, then there goes all my efforts on building a pc tech tips subsite on my main domain. I think if that is how it's going to be, then that sucks, especially for legit non-spammers..

No Name

10/24/2009 10:23 am

they are fiktering subdomains

SEO Companies

06/28/2011 10:28 pm

This would really affect the entire industry! As,everyone knows that there are also much Sub Domains out there. Well,hopefully it will work out! 


10/29/2011 05:00 pm

This is an interesting puzzle.  I have a domain that I use for fun, non-professional blogging on football, space aliens, etc.  I am experimenting with subdomains that are optimized for local business searches, and I can tell you that Google has not even listed the business-site subdomain that I created this week.  That is a concern because Google tends to rank my property quickly, usually within a minute or two on some sites, and always within a few days on others.  The fact that my week-old subdomain, strongly optimized for a local business-type search is NOT listed in the first four google pages that I checked for my key three-word phrase concerns me.  Google might ignore subdomains if they are not key-word related to the primary domain content/keywords (and my subdomain content is cut-and-pasted identical to the content in an article I published on my domain blog, which is on page one of goog). Google is not likely to favorably weight subdomains for primary search results, because otherwise there could be 10,000 'cocacola.domain.coms.  The root domain might be the primary focus of the search algorithm, and if the root is not strong enough to climb onto page one, I doubt the subdomain will even see the light of day. Any thoughts?


11/05/2011 01:58 pm

 "..and my subdomain content is cut-and-pasted identical to the content in an article I published on my domain blog.." Google don't like copy-paste

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