Subdomain Questions and Answers

SubdomainYour domain name is your Internet address. For example, my domain is sumydesigns.com. Easy enough. But what’s a subdomain? A subdomain is a way to break up your domain into parts for different uses. For example, we offer WordPress maintenance packages and you can sign up for those at support.sumydesigns.com. I’ve also set up websites that had subdomains for their blog (such as blog.domain.com) or for their shopping cart (such as shop.domain.com) or real estate listings (such as listings.domain.com).

Using a subdomain is a way to organize a site for different purposes, but it also allows you to use your domain for different systems. For example, I use WordPress for this site, but maybe I want to use Shopify for a shopping cart, which is a hosted platform. I’d want to use a subdomain to point to the shopping cart since it’s hosted in a different place with different software. Same for real estate listings, those might be on an IDX system that you need to incorporate, but you still want to use your domain for branding purposes.

I often set up subdomains to show a client their new site before it’s live, putting it on something like dev.domain.com – so they can see and test it without showing it to the world and taking down their active site.

 

How to set up a subdomain?

This is different for different web hosts, but I’ll show you quickly on how to set it up on a web hosting that uses CPanel. First, login to your Cpanel account. Now, your options may be in a different arrangement than mine, that can vary. But look for the option for Subdomains and click on it.

sub1

On the next screen, you get two simple options to fill out. First, pick what you want the subdomain to be called in the domain. If I wanted demo.sumydesigns.com then I’d put demo in the box.

sub2

The Document Root will fill in automatically with the directory where your subdomain files will be hosted, so unless you want a different directory name for your subdomain, then you don’t have to do anything. Then click Create. And that’s it!

You’ll have a new directory in your account for files associated with this new subdomain. Anything you want on the subdomain should go in there.

What if I want my subdomain to be directed to another web host? 

This can be done too, but it will require some changes to be done in your DNS Zone. If you are unfamiliar with Advanced DNS settings, then you may want to hire a professional to take care of this for you.

Will having a subdomain help or hurt your SEO?

This is an excellent question and there are a lot of very strong opinions on this. And I unfortunately don’t have a definitive answer for this. Google has said in the past that a site on a subdomain that has a different host is considered a separate site, but it’s also said they know that a site on a subdomain is connected to the main domain. So which is it? That answer remains murky at best.

My recommendation would be if you can keep all your content on your top level domain, then you should do that. Having a blog or other content on a subdomain won’t provide you any more SEO benefits than having it on your top level domain. I’m of the opinion that if you are producing content and you want that to benefit your main site, then it should be on your main site. Using subdirectories rather than subdomains is generally regarded as a better option.

Will creating a bunch of subdomains using your keywords help you? No. Don’t do that.

What if you want to offer content in several languages, would that be okay?

This is a good example of when using a subdomain would be a good idea. The content in the Spanish/Greek/Armenian content isn’t going to help the SEO for the English site, so having a subdomain for each language makes sense. Each language would be considered it’s own site, for example you could have en.domain.com and then es.domain.com and then even fr.domain.com. These would be considered separate sites. This works because you would more than likely want to rank the English site in an English speaking country and a Spanish site in a Spanish speaking country, etc, and they wouldn’t be competing with each other for the same keywords.

It’s all very confusing, so in essence, if you can keep it all on one domain, you should. But sometimes, it’s okay to branch out with a subdomain. Still have questions? Ask away!

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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.

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