Matt Cutts of Google said at PubCon that Google will be treating sub domains similar to how they treat folders on a site. I reported this at the Search Engine Roundtable on a post by Tedster at WebmasterWorld, where Tedster said:
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.
This is a significant change, if it happens. For example, a search on google at Google returns ten results from Google, nine of them from google.com and one from google.org. Here is what I see right now:
(1) www.google.com (2) video.google.com (3) maps.google.com (4) groups.google.com (5) news.google.com (6) www.google.org (7) images.google.com (8) earth.google.com (9) code.google.com (10) directory.google.com
Now, if this rule is applied to everyone (with the exception of hosting sites such as blogspot and similar sites where it wouldn’t make sense to apply the rule to), then Google will be limited to two results per search. Honestly, I doubt Google would apply it to a search for google. But what about a search for search engine roundtable?
I would lose one of the top three results for a search on my site’s name.
The implications can be huge for companies. Besides the traffic implications, companies need to also worry about reputation management issues.
If Google is going to implement this change, will it be included for navigational like queries? If so, then I have nothing to worry about when it comes to a search for my site’s name. Google wouldn’t have to worry either. I wonder what approach Google will take with those types of queries.
Let’s look at a search for an Apple macbook.
Notice how the first two results are from apple.com, and yes, the second result is indented. The third result is from Wikipedia, but the fourth result is from store.apple.com, an Apple sub domain. This is where I see this coming into play.
Right now it is all speculation on how exactly Google will handle these types of queries. But one thing I will bet on, if Google changes how they handle sub domains, I am sure SEOs will be buzzing about it the second it happens.
There is a Sphinn discussion taking place right now.
Postscript: As clarified in Google Tweaks “Host Crowding” Algorithm To Reduce Results From Same Domain For Search, the two-URL limit per each set of 10 results that applies to domains will not be applied to subdomains. Rather, the ranking algorithms have been tweaked to make it more difficult for URLs from multiple subdomains from one domain to be listed. However, when multiple URLs are relevant for the query, they will still be shown. Matt Cutts has explained that this change has been in place for several weeks, so the above examples take the new ranking tweaks into account.