As you may know, a domain is the section of a URL that identifies a website. Typically, the entire infrastructure of a site lives under a domain. However, there are circumstances in which a website section becomes so expansive that it affects your user experience and site performance. In those cases, subdomains can come in handy.
This introduction will explain what a subdomain is, discuss a few subdomain examples and teach you how to create a subdomain.
What is a subdomain?
A subdomain is a prefix added to a domain name to separate a section of your website. Site owners primarily use subdomains to manage extensive sections that require their own content hierarchy, such as online stores, blogs or support platforms.
A subdomain functions as a separate website from its domain. This distinction enables you to develop a section of your website without muddling your site’s overall intent. As a result, you increase your chances to build a niche authority and gain organic traffic.
Regardless of your purpose for creating a subdomain, optimize your string to clearly signal your standalone site’s purpose. Plus, ensure you’re working with an SSL certificate provider that provides subdomain protection.
While choosing a domain name is one of the first steps you’ll make when creating a website, you can create a subdomain at any time. Registering a domain name gives you the rights to unlimited subdomains, including anything from “abc.” to “xyz.”
Subdomains vs. subdirectories
Whereas search engines see a subdomain as separate from its domain, a subdirectory is an organizational folder that nests inside a domain. Separating content under a subdirectory instead of a subdomain shows search engines that it supports the root domain. So, if you have a complex part of your site that complements the whole, a subdirectory would better facilitate your goals than a subdomain.
If a dog adoption agency was doing a special project where they were partnering with a cat adoption agency, they may want to create a subdomain. However, if they were a general pet adoption agency, they may want to create subdirectories for their cat and dog content to signal to Google that these pet adoption types are related.
Now that we’ve answered the question “what is a subdomain,” let’s look at a few examples of when to use a subdomain:
Due to the complexity of online stores, businesses often choose to create a separate site architecture to handle transactions. This distinction allows companies to offer different functionalities than the main site needs or has available. The store.playstation.com subdomain, for example, is a platform where users can purchase games for their consoles.
Online platforms that require an overhaul to perform well on mobile devices usually host their mobile sites under dedicated subdomains. For example, Facebook crafted a distinct interface for its mobile users under m.facebook.com. The company shaped the layout to fit a mobile device’s oblong shape.
Companies providing localized or geo-specific content can easily do so using subdomains. For example, Yahoo curates UK-related news using uk.yahoo.com and US-related news on us.yahoo.com.
Subdomains allow businesses to create unique sites targeting distinct audiences and even password-protect them if needed. While most Lyft users dwell in the ride.lyft.com subdomain, those interested in the company’s self-driving initiative can visit the autonomous.lyft.com subdomain.
Because blogs often target topics and keywords not directly related to the rest of the site, you might consider situating your blog on a subdomain. The Library of Congress massive site caters to a different audience than its blogs. So, blogs.loc.gov hosts hundreds of articles on a different interface where readers can browse and search for their desired content.
When Frequently Asked Question pages don’t thoroughly answer all customer questions, site owners can create a dedicated support platform under a subdomain. This organization can make the platform easy to navigate and better optimized for search engines.
A quick glance at support.apple.com shows that the platform’s subdomain has a unique, carefully-designed and complex structure that addresses users in need of assistance.
Sites that craft extensive, highly-branded content for certain subjects often choose to work with dedicated subdomains. Products, films, teams and publications with divergent content might use subdomains to distinguish their brands from the umbrella organizations.
As one would expect, the content found on The New York Times (nytimes.com)looks and functions drastically different from the content found on NYT Cooking (cooking.nytimes.com). Separating the content allows each brand to signal its own authority to search engines.
Creating independent subdomains for each language enables organizations to keep their web addresses clear and cohesive. For example, Wikipedia has a separate subdomain for each language. Interestingly, the es.wikipedia.org homepage differs not only in language from the en.wikipedia.org homepage but also in content.
Due to the intricacy of online community building, forum creators commonly use dedicated subdomains. Take wordreference.com: the root domain stands as a bilingual dictionary. However forum.wordreference.com is a place for users to ask questions and discuss the meaning and proper use of terms and phrases that have yet to make it into the root dictionary.
Amazon created a subdomain for their AmazonSmile initiative. Whenever a user shops on smile.amazon.com, Amazon donates 0.5% of eligible purchases to the charity of the user’s choice.
How to create a subdomain
Before you set up your subdomain, you’ll need to register a domain name. If you already have one, follow the steps below:
Go to the Domains page.
Click Connect a domain you already own.
Select the site you want to connect, then click Next.
Click “connect a subdomain” at the bottom of your screen.
Enter the subdomain you want to connect (e.g. blog.mystunningwebsite.com).
By Emily Shwake
Wix Blog Writer