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I have seen a bunch of answers regarding URL structure and SEO. However, I would like to know does URL structure really matter to users?

For example, if I have:
Parentsite.com/brand1
Parentsite.com/brand2

Vs

Brand1.com
Brand2.com

Do users really care if I point them to parentsite.com/brand1 vs brand1.com if the brands are all somewhat related?

By looking at larger sites like Google or Amazon, it doesn't seem like URLs matter as long as you have a decent navigation and search capability. For example, a lot of google websites are just google.com/site_name. However, I have also seen a lot of articles that imply a structure like that isn't standard if you have different brands.

6

It's really a matter of how you want to market and image the parent and the brands to consumers.

Are you trying to make the brands be their own very standalone product? Then have brand.com as the website. Gatorade is an example of this. It's owned by Pepsi, but you don't see "Pepsi" on the Gatorade website.

Do you want them standalone, but still associated with the parent? Then use brand.com with prominent featuring of the parent.

And if the parent is most important, then use parent.com/brand. A hybrid would be for parent.com/brand to be a smaller info page, with links then to brand.com.

2

It can matter from a trust and safety perspective. If I do my online grocery shopping at tesco.com, I build up trust that it's reliably owned and operated by Tesco plc.

  1. When I then hear that I could get my phone from Tesco Mobile and do a search, I land on tesco.com/phones — I'm clearly on the same website, so I can shop with confidence.

  2. If I'm thinking of opening a new current account and search for Tesco Bank, I arrive at tescobank.com

    • is this a convincing phishing site, or is it really owned by the same company?

The only way to be certain for #2 is to go to the main brand website & then try to manually navigate back to the sub-brand again (i.e. to make sure they are 'endorsing' this new domain you've never heard of and marking it as legitimate).

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    I hadn't thought about this perspective. Thank you for bringing it up. – JustBlossom Feb 24 at 23:33
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    @JustBlossom sure! :) Often, we end up talk about UX and security as a spectrum or a trade-off, where making something 'more secure' actually makes it harder for users to use e.g. password requirements (1 special character, not same password, change every three months etc) may make a site less hackable but make password choice more frustrating. But if the users themselves have a security concern, (and they may for eCommerce or personal data) I think the two actually start to align — it's just another (latent) user requirement. (Would be an interesting one to ask in a user research session!) – anotherdave Feb 25 at 9:39
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If you want users to notice the domain switch, then switch the domain. If you don't want them to notice they are on a different domain, then don't.

Users most likely WILL notice. (At least in Europe you will be asked for cookie consent on probably each new domain you visit.)

Does the design change significantly? Is there a completely different navigation structure? Change the domain. Is it just another content page? Don't.

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