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What Is a Subdomain? [How It Works & Examples]

Written by, Alex Bosnjak

Updated April, 17, 2022

Did you know that a domain name can have up to 500 subdomains?

If you spend your days like me — browsing through hundreds of websites, you’ve probably noticed the URL changes in your browser, depending on your location or the web page you’re viewing. So, what is a subdomain? It’s the URL part that changes. 

Let’s start with the basics and explore every aspect of a subdomain to learn more.

What Is a Domain Name?

Simply put, a domain name is your website’s address. That’s what you type in a browser to visit a site like Google.com or Facebook.com. 

When it comes to subdomain vs domain, the latter was invented to solve a growing problem. The internet is a complex computer network identified by IP addresses. A typical IP address looks like this: 66.348.66.1. Now, imagine remembering such long strings of numbers to access any site. Luckily, domain names solve that problem.

When you enter a domain name in the search bar, it first sends a request to a global network of servers, forming what we call the Domain Name System (DNS). The servers’ purpose is to find the domain name servers managed by hosting companies like Bluehost and forward the request to grant you access to the site. Also, you can purchase domain names via website builders. For example, you can check the Gator’s pricing plan to see how much it costs.

What Is a Subdomain?

Subdomains are essentially domain name extensions that help navigate or organize different website sections. Most site owners use them to divert traffic to a different address of the same site, like blogs, forums, or support pages. 

Suppose you own a website that sells books — isellbooks.com. To understand subdomains, you should first know about the URL anatomy

https://isellbooks.com contains three parts:

  • HTTPS protocol (https://) — A set of guidelines browsers use to send requests to name servers.
  • Top Level Domain (TLD) (.com) — The extensions can vary depending on the location or availability.
  • Second Level Domain (SLD) (isellbooks) The name you buy from a domain registrar or builders, like Godaddy or Wix.

A subdomain contains a name before the SLD. For instance, you can create blog.isellbooks.com to share tips and guides for your subscribers or forum.isellbooks.com to build a reading community.

How Do Subdomains Work?

Subdomains work similarly to domains. The only difference is that subdomains separate a website logically into sections or for location-based access. When we enter a URL into a browser, the DNS translates the subdomain’s name to its IP address to locate its name server and eventually loads the particular website section on your screen.

Who Uses Subdomains?

Subdomains are typically used by:

Developers

Developers use subdomains to make a staging or testing version of websites to try out new plugins and updates before deploying any changes on the main site. It’s a smart way to minimize downtime and proactively test performance.

Organizations

What is a subdomain used for by organizations? Perhaps, the most popular use is to help online businesses and ecommerce stores organize their content more efficiently. Modern sites have a more complex setup than traditional ones, so subdomains help organizations create sub-sections, location-specific sites, and mobile sites. 

Internet Service Providers

Internet service providers use subdomains to supply web services by enabling independent administration by clients who don’t own any domains. That can help users save costs and outsource accountability to the providers while paying for their services. 

Why Use a Subdomain?

Subdomains make it incredibly simple for users to organize website business functions. Here are the top use cases:

  1. Ecommerce Stores

Ecommerce stores can use subdomains to organize their value offerings. For example, they can create a subdomain for their latest releases or best-sellers.

  1. Mobile Websites

Mobile subdomains are a smart alternative to website responsive design for site administrators. They’re incredibly simple and require minimum CSS or JavaScript expertise. 

  1. Location-Specific Websites

Subdomains are excellent for improving search ranking and traffic in different locations. For example, GoDaddy changes its subdomain based on where I search web hosting services.

  1. Support Pages

Subdomains are an incredible tool for creating support or landing pages. They help streamline your site hierarchy and draw more traffic from multiple locations.

  1. Multiple Languages

Global businesses operating globally can use subdomains to create versions of their websites in local languages without relying on translation APIs that are prone to malfunction.

  1. Forums

Thousands of websites apply subdomains to set up their online communities and manage traffic accordingly. 

How to Create a Subdomain

You can create subdomains with the help of a web hosting provider, like Bluehost or GoDaddy. Although the method varies from company to company, the general process remains the same. Here’s how to create a subdomain:

  • Think of a subdomain name that fits your use case. Examples include blog, shop, help, forum, or store. 
  • Log into your website CMS panel and navigate to the setup section.
  • Look for a “Subdomain” or “Add Subdomain” section.
  • Create a new DNS record and select what you want the subdomain to connect to. It could be an IP address, an IP address connected to a server name, destination hostname, or another domain.

Subdomains vs. Subfolders

Subfolders are used as extensions of the main root domain but set up differently on servers. Unlike subdomains, they don’t require server partitioning and can be housed on the same web server and linked to the domain. Using my earlier example, isellbooks.com, if you were to add a subfolder instead of a subdomain, it would appear as isellbooks.com/store.

Subdomain Examples

The following are the most popular examples:

  • News.[domain].com
  • Forum.[domain].com
  • Blog.[domain].com
  • Shop.[domain].com
  • Admin.[domain].com
  • Gov.[domain].com
  • Portal.[domain].com
  • Mail.[domain].com

Conclusion

To sum up, a subdomain is a prefix that comes before the main domain name and the domain extension on a URL. It’s incredibly effective for dividing and organizing ecommerce stores or business websites in category, location, language, or function.

So, whether you’re looking to set up a web page for your best-selling products or a blog section, you now know what to do. Even if you don’t need subdomains right away, at least you now know what they are.

FAQ

What is a subdomain, and what’s an example of one?

A subdomain is an additional part or section of a parent website that organizes the content and manages traffic. A popular subdomain example is news.google.com. 

What is the purpose of a subdomain?

The subdomain’s purpose is to break down your online value offerings into specified sections, like blog, store, shop, or forum. That can help improve navigation and website analytics. 

What is the difference between a domain and a subdomain?

Regular domains use standard URLs like yourwebsite.com. In contrast, subdomains add a prefix before the main domain name and extension to redirect traffic to a specific section, device, or location. Examples include blog.yourwebsite.com, uk.yourwebsite.com, or mobile.yourwebsite.com.

What does a subdomain URL look like?

What is a subdomain? A subdomain is simply the word that comes before the website’s main domain name and extension. It can be anything from a blog to news, support, shop, store, forum, or event. It looks like shop.yourwebsite.com.