What is a Subdomain and How Does it Work

Updated on Apr 21, 2021

If you need to set up multiple websites, you may use subdomains to create parallel websites under the same domain. In this post, we are going to shed some light on subdomains and some of the reasons you should use them. Additionally, we will explain the differences between a subdomain and a subdirectory.

In this Post:

What Is A Subdomain?

In short, a subdomain is an extra part added to your domain name. The primary use of subdomains is to navigate to various sections of your website, making them appear as a different website. You have the option to create multiple subdomains (or child domains) on your primary domain.

Take this subdomain as an example - gallery.example.com

Here, gallery is the subdomain, example is the primary domain, and .com is the top-level domain (TLD). You can use any text as your subdomain, but you should make sure it’s easy for people to type and remember.

Subdomain vs. Subdirectory

Subdomains are a lot similar to subdirectories (subfolders), but there are also some differences. For starters, both are file locations of the server’s Home directory structure, which in this case, is a URL. 

Subfolders are ‘child directories’ (a folder beneath a different folder) that live under a parent directory (home). The situation is the same with Subdomains.

Okay, now the differences.

While in both cases you get content repositories, subdomains work as a separate website and URL (subdomain.example.com). With subdirectories, you have an extension of your original URL (www.example.com/subdirectory).

This is the difference that affects your site and its ability to gather keywords and rank them.

Let’s dive further into that difference, so you understand what it means for content indexing and its impact on SEO for your domain.

Why You May Need a Subdomain (Use Cases)

There are various reasons you might need a subdomain. Some of the cases are: 

  • For a testing or staging environment of a website. You can choose to install WordPress on your subdomain. It will work as a separate installation from your primary website. Developers often test their new plugins or updates on a subdomain staging website before they proceed with publishing changes on the live site;
  • For users on your website (user123.example.com). These are subdomains that use your hosting space. This is the way sites like WordPress.com, Blogger.com, and others provide custom websites to their users;
  • For an e-commerce store. Companies often separate their store from their main domain name in order to maintain transactions. That’s because e-commerce sites usually need more complex configurations;
  • For a mobile version of a website - m.example.com;
  • For location-specific websites (different language versions of the same website) - en-us.example.com (English), de.example.com (German);
  • For sub-sections of a site - forum.example.com.

Subdomains can be incredibly useful if you want to organize the content of your website more effectively. The right use of a subdomain would not affect your site SEO. However, what we recommend is to keep everything on the same domain name without using subdomains for public websites.

Subdomains and Their Impact on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

A subdomain will be treated as an entirely separate website in the eyes of Google. This is why you can create unique authority for every subdomain you are using. Subdomains can sometimes be beneficial to your SEO efforts. Let’s go into some of the reasons.

Subdomains Can Insert Keywords Into URL

There are times when it simply does not make sense for you to fit specific keywords into your main URL. However, with the help of subdomains, you have a chance to insert hard-to-rank keywords into your domain. For specific cases, this will be very beneficial for your overall ranking.

Subdomains Improve User Experience (UX)

If your site is large, confusing, or hard to navigate (or all of those), then you are providing a poor user experience. Such user experience leads to people spending less time on your website, which leads to a high bounce rate and lower SEO ranking.

Subdomains Help with Growing your Niche Authority

Building your large-scale authority requires hard work. With that said, keep in mind that in niche markets, ranking can take much less time and energy. The authority you build by ranking and creating smaller markets will help with reinforcing your main domain name authority overall.

How Many Subdomains Can I Create for my Main Domain Name?

The number of subdomains that you can create with your domain name depends on your domain registrar. With FastComet, you get an UNLIMITED amount of subdomains with every hosting plan, even for our shared hosting solutions. You will be able to create as many as you like, without any additional costs.

How to Create a Subdomain

To create a subdomain, access your cPanel account  Subdomains icon located in the Domains section:

Find Subdomains in cPanel

For more detailed information on that, you can review our tutorial on how to manage subdomains in cPanel.

Should I Use Subdomains?

Since domains can have an infinite number of subdomains, they are often used to avoid confusing the user and maintain the main online brand. All this in addition to cutting costs, because a new domain name costs money.

Using a subdomain is a matter of perspective and personal choice. Do it when you want to provide different resources within the same domain name.

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