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What Is A Subdomain? We Break It Down

UPDATED
June 18, 2024

 

As your business starts to grow, so does your need for a website. You can attract new customers, turn leads into sales, and carry out your business goals.

 

But, things can get pretty messy and a bit more complicated when you try to fit everything into one simple business website. After all, a single website can only do so much, and may not fit all the large ideas you have in mind.

 

Luckily, that’s what subdomains are for. And today, we’re here to let you in on everything you need to know about subdomains.

 

 

What Is a Subdomain?

 

As you navigate through the millions of websites on the internet, you may notice that the URL changes as you click from one site to another.

 

You’d find that a simple URL such as www.examplewebsite.com starts to have words added before the site, and turns into something like www.support.examplewebsite.com.

 

subdomain example

Subdomains are used to differentiate websites. (Credit: Search Engine Journal)

 

The word ‘support’, in this case, is a subdomain used to distinguish the two websites from one another.

 

You can think of a subdomain as a subsection of your primary domain name, which can be very helpful when it comes to organizing different sections of your main website.

 

Depending on how much is allowed by your web hosting service, you can have as many subdomains as you need to get to the different pages of your website.

 

How is a subdomain different from a domain?

 

As mentioned earlier, subdomains are subsections of a domain. The domain name is the web address or location of any website, and it can pretty much exist even without a subdomain.

 

what is a subdomain

Domains are an essential part of any URL. (Credit: one.com)

 

On the other hand, while you can have multiple subdomains, they can’t exist without a domain. This is because subdomains, despite being separate websites, still share the domain name.

 

Another thing included in the URL anatomy is the TLD or Top Level Domain, which you can learn more about in our web hosting series.

 

 

So – What Are Subdomains Used for?

 

Subdomains are used to separate your website into different sections. This helps you organize the content of your website more efficiently.

 

There are many reasons why people would want or need a subdomain, one of the most common reasons being for eCommerce store management. Due to the naturally complex setup of eCommerce stores, companies often separate them into subdomains to handle transactions. This helps in avoiding any transaction failures that could result in a loss of money from both parties.

 

An example of a good eCommerce store subdomain is shop.adele.com. The main domain, Adele.com, already has a complex setup, so adding an eCommerce store on the main page may just cause a lot of technical problems.

 

What’s more, the main domain already has a completely different purpose, which is to introduce the artist. So, adding a subdomain for an eCommerce store is a great move to not confuse any web visitors.

 

creating a Staging path in the subdomain for the staging environment

Staging subdomain websites are used to test updates and plugins. (Credit: Hostinger)

 

Another very common reason why subdomains are used is to create a staging or testing version of a website. Before publishing things on the internet, developers will often test new updates and plugins through the use of subdomain staging sites.

 

There are also times when companies use subdomains for mobile websites. You’ll see this when a URL has an ‘m.’ before the main domain name. For instance, www.m.examplewebsite.com is a mobile website.

 

Companies also make location-specific subdomains and you’ll also see this when URLs have the location before the main domain name. For instance, www.uk.examplewebsite.com and www.jp.examplewebsite.com are location-specific websites.

 

 

How To Create a Subdomain for Your Website

 

Before you can set up a subdomain for your website, you’d first need a main domain. Once you have everything running, you’ll find that many web hosts make it easy to set up multiple subdomains – like Hostinger.

 

Below is a step-by-step process on how to create a subdomain:

 

  1. You first have to log into your account and go to your domains page. In this case, we’ll be using Hostinger as an example.
  2. Hostinger login page

    Login to your Hostinger account.
  3. After logging into your account, you can now create a subdomain through the hPanel dashboard. Just scroll down to the Domains section and click on Subdomains.
  4. Hostinger subdomain in hpanel

    Scroll down to the domains section to find subdomains.
  5. After clicking on Subdomains, all you have to do is enter your intended subdomain and then click Create. You can also set a custom directory by ticking the box beside ‘custom folder for subdomain’.
  6. create new Hostinger subdomain

    Enter your intended subdomain name.
  7. When you’re done with the step above, a pop-up will appear on the top right corner of your screen saying that the subdomain has been created.
  8. For the final step, all you have to do now is install the platform you want to use in your subdomain. Just go to the Website tab on the left menu bar and click on Auto Installer. You can use platforms such as WordPress and WooCommerce.
  9. Hostinger website auto installer

    You install the platform through the ‘Website’ and ‘Auto Installer’ tabs.

 

 

What’s the Difference Between Subdomains And Subdirectories?

 

Subdomains and subdirectories are often interchanged due to how similar they are. However, they’re a lot more different than you think.

 

Below is an example of how the two differ in structure:

 

  • Subdomain: blog.examplewebsite.com
  • Subdirectory: examplewebsite.com/blog

 

To put it simply, subdomains are seen as separate websites. You can completely redesign the whole website and treat it as a totally different website from the main domain.

 

subdirectory vs subdomain

(Credit: Hot Design)

 

On the other hand, subdirectories are organizational folders that are found within the website. You can’t treat them as separate websites and they’re found within the main domain page.

 

The best way to use subdomains is when you want to separate extensive content or a web page that’s distinct from the main domain. An example of this is a unique product, service, or even a dedicated customer support page.

 

You can visit support.zyro.com for an example of what a great subdomain looks like.

 

Subdomains vs subdirectories for SEO

 

As we’ve said, subdomains are treated as different websites while subdirectories are within the main domain. Because of this, search engines such as Google view them differently, which affects your website’s SEO. These search engines will crawl and index each subdomain separately.

 

With this, you should use subdomains only when you have to. This is because you’d have to build page rankings for each subdomain, which will be extremely difficult.

 

A good example of when you can use subdomains is when you want to reach a different location, target a specific market, or even rank for different keywords outside of your main domain.

 

Subdirectories, on the other hand, are files found within the main domain. Because of this, search engines won’t view them differently (as they would with subdomains). SEO will also be shared between your domain and subdirectories.

 

This is useful for startups, bloggers, or even small businesses that have limited time and resources, since you get to rank up your SEO faster with subdirectories.

 

 

Now You Know All About Subdomains

 

Now that you know what subdomains are, you can plan ahead and decide whether you need one for your site.

 

They can help you organize and divide your website into logical parts, but, you also have to keep SEO rankings in mind. Make sure to only use them if you have to, as they sometimes might do more harm than good.

 

 

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