If you’ve used a website builder, purchased a domain, or signed up to a web hosting service, you’ve likely heard of the term subdomain. There’s a lot of terminology that gets bounced around the technology sector, especially in the web hosting world which can be confusing.
In order to help you gain an understanding of what a subdomain is and when you should use one, we’ve put together this helpful guide to eliminate any questions or concerns you might have.
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What Are Subdomains?
A subdomain forms part of a domain and domain extension (or TLD). For example, www.webhostingprof.com is a domain that is used for this website. A subdomain would look something like this: blog.yourwebsite.com
Let’s take a look at URLs, domains, and subdomains in more detail using https://webhostingprof.com as the example:
- The first part of a URL is known as a protocol. A protocol can either be https: or http: (the ‘s’ denoting that the website is secured using an SSL)
- The second part of a URL is known as the second level domain (SLD) which is the domain you purchase from a domain registrar (in this case it’s webhostingprof)
- The final part of a URL is known as a top level domain (TLD) which is the domain extension, e.g. .com, .co.uk, .org
Why Do You Need A Subdomain?
A subdomain generally focuses on ordering or logically organizing your website into separate sections. For example you might want to use a subdomain for the following sections of a website:
However, subdomains are not really recommended for permanent solutions. If you want your website to rank well on search engines like Google, pages added to your subdomain will not add to your indexed pages. Any inbound links you receive on your subdomain won’t add any value to your domain authority, so there’s really no benefit for your website’s SEO.
Subdomains, on the other hand, are ideal for developers to use if they are making changes to your website. A developer can copy your website across to a subdomain that isn’t indexed or is password protected, so they can show you changes as they happen without impacting your live site, until you’re ready for the changes to go live.
It’s also useful to have a subdomain if you’re running a one-time event or promotion, or if you want to offer content to a segmented audience. For example, Wikipedia uses subdomains to provide information in the native language of where you’re based (en.wikipedia.com for English-speaking countries).
How To Create A Subdomain
In order to create a subdomain you will first need a main domain. You can purchase a domain name from a domain registrar like Namecheap, or get a domain name for free via free registrars, with your hosting provider, or when you sign up to some website builders.
Once you’ve purchased a domain name you’ll own the rights to your domain as well as any subdomains you create.
You’ll need to enter your subdomain as a record via your DNS settings. If you’re not sure how to do this, you should speak to your domain registrar for support. Companies like BlueHost, GoDaddy, and SiteGround have plenty of support material on how to set up and redirect to the server that hosts your subdomain.
Free Services That Offer Subdomains
One of the scenarios where you may have encountered a subdomain before is if you’ve used a free service or signed up to a free plan using a website builder.
Let’s take Weebly for example. Weebly offer a free plan so that you can build your own website from scratch or from pre-made templates, for free. Their free plan includes a free SSL certificate and a Weebly-branded domain (also known as a subdomain). You’ll choose a name for your free Weebly website e.g. myfirstwebsite but instead of it being a main domain like www.myfirstwebsite.com it will sit on a Weebly subdomain so will look like www.myfirstwebsite.weebly.com
Although this eliminates the need for a domain name, it also means your website won’t look very professional, nor will you be able to rank well on search engines. Many website builders offer free plans with subdomains, and some free web hosting companies do this too, however, there’s usually a premium plan you can upgrade to that will allow you to connect a custom domain.
Connecting a custom domain means you can attach your existing or newly-purchased domain name to your website that you’ve built with Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace, etc. It removes the subdomain and makes your website look far more professional.
Subdomains are useful in some circumstances. Lots of big companies and popular websites use them, however, they use them wisely and only when required.
If you plan to get your website or brand out there and reach lots of new potential customers and website visitors, you’ll want to focus on your main domain. You need to understand that the content on your subdomain won’t be indexed by search engines like Google, so you shouldn’t focus your efforts on building links or authorative content on these pages.
Subdomains can be a useful tool for web developers, creating sections of your website for specified purposes, or even for localized content. However, as a rule of thumb I would avoid using subdomains where possible. Content management systems like WordPress make it easy to structure your website logically, allowing you to create sections for your blog, forum, online store, etc.