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What is a Subdomain: Definition, Use Cases & Examples

Subdomains are sub-sections of a domain, allowing you to create different sections of your site that are still part of the same overarching website. Subdomains can be helpful for many things, such as creating separate blog sections or marketing pages. This segregation helps better organize your website.

Here we'll be covering everything about subdomains. By the end of the article, you should understand the advantages and disadvantages of using them, when they may come in handy, and how to create and use them.

What is a Subdomain?

A subdomain is a part of a domain name. Website owners use them to separate different parts of a website. For example, if you own a domain name called “mybusiness.com,” you may like to create a subdomain called “blog.mybusiness.com” to distinguish your creative content from business materials.

However, this organization goes beyond cosmetics. Because subdomains are independent addresses, you can run them using standalone applications. Using the same example above, you may create “mybusiness.com” in custom code while running “blog.mybusiness.com” on WordPress.

When Should You Use Subdomains?

If you have a lot of content organized by topic or category, you may want to use subdomains. These are good for sites with many different types of content and want to manage them separately. 

For example, if your company serves a global market and offers unique content to different sectors, using a separate subdomain for each market makes sense. 

You can also use subdomains if you need to meet the needs of international customers. Many might require different languages, and a subdomain keeps translated content from the parent domain more modular.

Examples of Subdomains

We now know that website owners often use subdomains to divide content into categories. However, this can be made more explicit with a few specific examples. 

Steam Web Store

Steam is using a sudomain to operate its web store

Subdomain name: store.steampowered.com

Steam, the video game digital distributor, operates its web store as a subdomain of the company's main website. This segregation helps it distinguish corporate content from the purchases that consumers mainly want to find.

Google Maps

Subdomain name: translate.google.com

Google is one of the most prolific subdomain name users since it operates many services. Each subdomain can represent an entire product line while maintaining the product's association with the leading brand. 

Aside from maps, other Google subdomains are available for Google Translate, Google Play, Google Support, Google Pay, Google News, and many more.

Shopify Subdomains

Shopify is using subdomain for the trial account

Subdomain name: yourshopname.myshopify.com

The trial account doesn't allow you to connect a custom domain name when you sign up for the Shopify website builder. Instead, it provides a temporary URL that's a subdomain of myshopify.com. This creative use of subdomains allows Shopify to meet customer and business needs concurrently.

How to Create a Subdomain

A subdomain can't exist without ownership of a top-level domain (TLD) name. Once you have your top-level domain name, you can typically create as many subdomains as you want using your web hosting control panel.

1. Create the Subdomain

create subdomain
Pay attention to what you fill in when creating your subdomain.

From your web hosting control panel, search for the subdomain option. In some cases, you may find this under the domain name option. There are three main areas of note when creating your subdomain;

  1. Fill in your subdomain name. It must be unique.
  2. Select the TLD under which you wish the subdomain created.
  3. Specify the file path where you will place content for your subdomain.

2. Modify DNS Settings

Creating the subdomain only means it exists. You must also let your DNS manager know when to access that content. To do this, access your DNS manager. If you bought your domain name from your web host, the DNS manager would be in your web hosting control panel.

If you've bought your domain name elsewhere, access that DNS manager instead. Modifying the DNS record involves adding a single CNAME record. How you configure the CNAME will depend on where to subdomain points. 

This “direction” can be;

  • An IP address
  • A specific link
  • A server name
  • A wildcard subdomain

Benefits and Drawbacks of Using a Subdomain

The Advantages of Using Subdomains

Subdomains generally help separate content specific to an area of your site. This solid organizational bonus allows several distinct advantages. 

Increased Organization

Subdomains help you organize your site more efficiently by creating separate sections for each subdomain. This way, you can better manage the organization of your content and pages within each section.

Easier Management

Managing content across multiple websites becomes easier when everything exists under one umbrella rather than spread over several domains or subdomains. The segmentation also helps make any reorganization more efficient.

Better Branding Capabilities

You can use a subdomain to create a unique branding or identity for each site within your overall brand umbrella, which is especially useful if you have many websites that serve varying purposes (for example, sales, support, etc.).

Greater Convenience

Easy to set up and maintain. Setting up a subdomain is relatively easy compared to setting up an entirely new website and domain name. All you need is to add a CNAME record in the DNS manager so that it directs visitors along the right path.

The Disadvantages of Using Subdomains

Given how helpful subdomains are, everyone must be using them, right? Unfortunately, subdomains also have their drawbacks, and you should weigh the pros and cons before going wild creating your subdomains.

Possibly Problematic to Manage

Earlier, there was a mention of subdomains making management more effortless. However, there are caveats. Various subdomain-based sites could make it harder for you to update or change elements across all of them at once. 

Suppose you have a website with multiple subpages (technically also subdomains). In that case, every page needs to be updated when something changes in one section of content or design—you don't have the luxury of making updates across all pages simultaneously as you do with traditional domains.

Linking Complexity

Subdomains can be more challenging to remember and link from other websites because there are so many options for how people end up on those pages. For example, visitors may enter URLs directly, bookmark them, or come from a search engine.

Visitors who simply want information may get lost in your web of subdomains, possibly resulting in fewer overall visits.

Conclusion: Are Subdomains A Good Idea?

Subdomains can be a great addition to any website. They help you organize your content and make it easier for visitors to find what they want. However, there are also some drawbacks that you should consider before deciding whether or not subdomains will work for your business.

The essential thing when using subdomains is to use them with clear distinction. Otherwise, they merely add an unnecessary layer of compilation to your management and the user experience of your website.

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Article by Jerry Low

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