Everything you always wanted to know about subdomains but were afraid to ask

When we’re talking about the Internet, most people know that your domain name is your online address, also known as your URL or your .com. Our site is sumydesigns.com, for instance. That is known as the root domain. But what some people don’t know is that you can partition your domain off using subdomains. What does this mean exactly?

Think of it this way. Our domain is sumydesigns.com, but we could have other domains such as amy.sumydesigns.com or susan.sumydesigns.com or even blog.sumydesigns.com. That part before the main domain, that indicates the subdomain.

Why might someone use a subdomain?

There are a variety of reasons why you might use a subdomain. One reason is that you want to separate a section of your site so you can use a different platform on a different host. For example, maybe you want to host your root domain on your own web hosting account, but you have your blog hosted at wordpress.com, so you might use a subdomain to point to that hosted blog. Or you want to use Shopify for your shopping cart but the main part of the site stays on your own account you could set up a shop.domainname.com subdomain.

Some people might create a separate mobile version of their site that’s available on something like m.domainname.com

You could also potentially use subdomains for unique landing pages for different aspects of your target audience. Say you wanted to attract lawyers to one page and doctors to another, you could have attorney.domainname.com and doctor.domainname.com.

If you offer your site in multiple languages, you might use a subdomain to separate the different languages, like english.domainname.com and espanol.domainname.com.

The options are unlimited and there are a lot of scenarios where a subdomain could be a good idea.

Do subdomains hurt your SEO ranking?

This topic is often debatable, but it mostly depends on how you use your subdomain. Don’t use your subdomain to try to rank your domain for the same search terms, that just creates confusion. Google has stated that they draw connections between subdomains and root domains to serve the best result for each search query. However, Moz, one of the most credible authorities on SEO, says to use subfolders or subdirectories rather than subdomains.

Search engines keep different metrics for domains than they do for subdomains, so even though Google itself has stated that — from a ranking perspective — content in subdomains and subdirectories is treated roughly equally, it’s still recommended that webmasters place link-worthy content like blogs in subfolders rather than subdomains (i.e. www.example.com/blog/ rather than blog.example.com).

The notable exceptions to this are language-specific websites. (i.e., en.example.com for the English version of the website).

There are appropriate times and places to use subdomains and they can enhance the organization and usefulness of your site, but shouldn’t be abused. Contact us today if you need help figuring it out!

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Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

3 Comments

  1. Jason Dean Braddock on June 1, 2017 at 11:10 am

    I am thinking about creating a domain with multiple subdomains and even more subfolders. Any insight as to best practice in terms of SEO would be appreciated? To give you an idea I would be looking at doing something with new extensions. I was thinking of doing something like restaurants.closeby.me/cleveland-ohio and changing restaurants to different points of interest and changing cleveland-ohio to different cities around the country. I understand that (I think) subdomains wouldn’t inherent the popularity rankings of the closeby.me primary domain and (I think) the primary domain is not benefited by having multiple visitors to the subdomains. I just want to figure out what I should do before I do it to help with SEO/SEM. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • Amy Masson on June 12, 2017 at 8:52 am

      Seems like a WordPress multi-site install might be the best option for this. In terms of SEO, subfolders may be better than subdomains because they are less segmented.

  2. Bennie Blunt on May 23, 2017 at 9:21 am

    I liked your article and your website is impressive. The video speaks volumes!! I am looking to get into web design via GoDaddy, so I am checking out various free lancers.

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