What Is a Subdomain and How Does It Work?
In spite of its low entry barrier, the internet is a mighty complex territory filled with technical jargon that at times may sound eerily similar to Klingon. Building a strong online presence starts in a fairly straightforward manner - simply create a website and purchase a domain name. However, things get more complicated once you want to grow your site, improve your performance and come across new terms such as subdomain.
While you may have a general idea of what a subdomain is based on the obviousness of its name, there are several technical layers you’ll need to take into account in order to decide whether you want to use one on your site. This introductory guide will allow you to understand not only what is a subdomain, but also when it makes sense to create one and how it impacts your site’s performance.
What is a subdomain?
Subdomains are a prefix added to your domain name in order to help navigate and organize sections of your website. They are primarily used to manage site areas that are extensive enough to require their own hierarchy, such as online stores, blogs or support platforms.
Unlike subdirectories, subdomains operate as entirely different websites. This allows you to target specific content types that are different from those of your root domain. As a result, your chances to build a niche authority and organic traffic increase.. Furthermore, you can also provide backlinks to your primary domain to strengthen its presence.
While many consider “www” to be a default part of any domain name, these three characters are just like any other subdomain on the Domain Name System protocol. Whilst you need to decide on a top-level domain when you choose a domain name, subdomains can be chosen at any point with minimal hassle. Registering a domain name actually gives you the rights to unlimited subdomains, including anything from “www.” to “abcxyz.”
An entire book could be written about the definition of subdomain, its differentiating factors and nuances, but as they say: an image is worth a thousand words. Take a look at the picture below to visualize the position of subdomains within the anatomy of a URL and how they compare with the other parts:
Lengthy explanations and visual aids are a great way to understand the theory behind subdomains, but when it comes to creating your own you might need a little inspiration from websites that are successfully using subdomains.
The clearest subdomain example located on the wix.com domain is the Wix Help Center: https://support.wix.com. A quick glance at its URL shows that this platform exists as a separate entity from the rest of the website, which enables it to have a unique, complex structure focusing solely on addressing users in need of assistance.
When to use a subdomain
Now that we’ve answered the question “what is a subdomain” and have seen how it works and compares to other types of subsections, let’s take a look at the most common uses of this practice and existing subdomain examples:
eCommerce: Due to the complexity of online stores, businesses often choose to create a separate architecture to handle transactions. For example: store.playstation.com.
Mobile website: Online platforms that require a significant overhaul to achieve a strong performance on mobile devices are usually hosted under a dedicated subdomain. For example: m.facebook.com.
Location-specific site: Companies providing widely different content depending on the visitor’s location can easily do so using subdomains. For example: uk.yahoo.com.
Specific audience: Subdomains allow businesses targeting distinct audiences to create unique sites for their needs, and even password-protect them if needed. For example: drivers.uber.com.
Blog: Because blogs often target topics and keywords not directly related to an organization’s core objective. For example: blog.usa.gov.
Support: When FAQ pages are simply not enough to answer customer questions, a dedicated support site is usually created under a subdomain. For example: support.wix.com.
Products/Films/Teams: Sites that craft extensive, highly-branded content for certain subjects often choose to work with dedicated subdomains. For example: cars.disney.com.
Different languages: Creating independent subdomains for each language enables organizations to keep their web addresses clear and cohesive. For example: es.wikipedia.org.
Forum: Due to the intricacy of building a platform for a thriving online community, forums are rarely created without a dedicated subdomain. For example: forum.wordreference.com
Regardless of your purpose for creating a subdomain, optimize your string to ensure visitors can easily understand the purpose of this stand-alone site and ensure that you’re working with one of the SSL certificate providers that provide subdomain protection.
How to create a subdomain
Before you can set up your subdomain, you’ll need to buy 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 and 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 Judit Ruiz Ricart
Blog Content Expert