What Is a Subdomain?

“Subdomain” may sound like a technical term, but understanding what a subdomain is and how to use one can make a big difference, especially for business websites.

What is a subdomain, and how is it different from a domain?

A domain is the web address that you type into your browser to direct you to a given website. An example is WordPress.com. When another word appears before the primary site name (like in support.WordPress.com), that extra word is referred to as the subdomain.

A subdomain can be used in different ways:

  • It can be a secondary part of a website name, dedicated to a specific product or service. For example, analytics.google.com users can go to this Google subdomain to monitor their website metrics.
  • It can be an important component of a business that needs to be distinguished by a dedicated name and address. That’s why Amazon created music.amazon.com to host its music-streaming service.
  • It can be a version of a given website in another language, like es.WordPress.com, ja.WordPress.com, and so on.
  • It can be a microsite, forum, blog, or anything related to the main domain name, but is deserving of its own distinct name, such as community.airbnb.com.

Why use a subdomain?

There are many scenarios in which a subdomain may be an advantageous option.

User Experience

If you’re using a subdomain to host a microsite dedicated to a single product, you probably want a different layout that is also focused on that product. Your visitors will expect to access this site and experience the product without distractions, and you can achieve this in a dedicated environment within a subdomain.

Search Improvements

Search engine optimization (SEO) is probably the most important advantage of subdomains. Search engines will recognize a subdomain as a separate website and index it independently from the main site. So, if you’re targeting a specific keyword, you can create a subdomain using that keyword.

Flexibility

On a subdomain, you can install software that is completely independent of the software used on your main site. So, if you need different plugins, themes, or a specific feature set, you have the freedom to set them up on a subdomain without impacting your main website.

Subdomains vs subfolders

You may notice that some websites use a structure like “sitename.com/topic” as opposed to “topic.sitename.com.” The former is known as a subfolder structure and works differently from a subdomain.

When to use subfolders

While subdomains are independent entities, subfolders are parts of the main website. This means that they inherit the authority of the main domain, which is a good thing if you’re working with related content.

When to use subdomains

If your goal is to build something focused on another business area or service, a subdomain will provide more flexibility. Being a different site, your SEO efforts will start from square one, but this lets you strategize specifically without impacting your main site.

So, what is a subdomain? Subdomains are powerful tools that can add to your user experience and expand your business offerings by creating dedicated site areas for particular products and audiences.

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