Subdomains can be a great way to add on to your existing main website, or even launch a new product or service without having to purchase an entirely new domain name.
Subdomains can serve a wide range of purposes, and you’ve undoubtedly come across a subdomain in action sometimes during your time online. In fact, sites like Tumblr and Craigslist are literally based on using subdomains.
Below you’ll learn the ins and outs of what a subdomain is, and why they’re used. Finally, you’ll learn how to create your own subdomain using the tools available right here at HostGator.
Whether you’re looking to add a separate eCommerce store to your, create a separate resource or blog section, or simply need a subdomain for another purpose, then this post is for you.
What is a Subdomain?
You might think you have a solid grasp on what a subdomain is. After all, the name gives it away. If you were guessing it’s like a sub-portion of your root domain name, then you’re right.
A subdomain is an additional aspect of your domain name that can be used for a variety of purposes. To better break this down we’ll look at an overarching picture of domain names.
First, you have your actual root domain name with your hosting account. This is the ‘HostGator’ portion of ‘hostgator.com.’ The domain name is followed by the top-level domain or TLD, which is typically a .com, .net, or .org, although there are thousands of other top level domains you can choose from as well.
Now, once you add a subdomain to your site, this will come before your domain name, so this will give us something like “support.hostgator.com.” Just as you choose your top-level domain and actual domain name, you’ll also select your subdomain. (You can read more about the differences between domains vs. subdomains.)
The only difference is that your subdomain doesn’t depend on availability. You’re only limited by your own creativity.
Why Would I Use a Subdomain?
Before we show you how to create a subdomain, it’s important to cover exactly why you’d want to use a subdomain in the first place.
There are multiple different applications for subdomains, whether you’re creating one for a temporary project, or you want to use one for the entirety of the time your site remains online.
Below you’ll learn about the eight most common scenarios where a subdomain is used.
1. Separate Your Support or Resource Pages
As we briefly touched on above, it’s common to create a separate site knowledgebase, or resource and tutorial library. You can find one of these here at HostGator Support, Google Support, and all over the web.
If you run a website that offers a technical product or service, you may find value in creating a tutorial library for your visitors. By keeping it separate from the rest of your site, you allow yourself to create a unique design and layout that can intuitively present all that information.
2. Test a New Idea
Sometimes you might have a new idea that you want to add to your site, but you want to test it before you fully implement across your website. This could be something like a new membership section, an online tool that’ll provide value to your visitors, or something else entirely.
By using a subdomain, you’re essentially given a blank slate that you can use to play with. You can even double down by running traffic to your new page to see if it’ll convert and actually bring value to your visitors.
3. Add an eCommerce Store to Your Site
Maybe you’ve been running a blog for a while, and it’s been picking up steam. You’ve decided that the perfect way to monetize your website is to start selling products. But, there’s only one issue: the configuration of your existing site makes it difficult to integrate an eCommerce store.
Instead of having to redesign and build your site from scratch, you can use a subdomain and create an eCommerce store upon that. So, the domain for your eCommerce store might be “shop.mydomain.com.”
If you’re just testing the waters with eCommerce, a subdomain offers you the perfect playground to experiment with products and keep things small. As your store grows, you can always expand and continue to add products to your subdomain.
4. Host Client Websites
If you’re a developer, then your clients probably want to be able to see the sites you’re building as they progress. A quick and effective way to do this is to create them on a subdomain of your business site.
This gives you a chance to showcase your client’s site in an online environment. This can be a fun way to let them interact with the site and offer real-time feedback, instead of having to send screenshots of the site back and forth.
You can even password protect your client project subdomains, so only they have access to the site.
5. Build Your Website
Using a subdomain to test out your site during a redesign is a common approach. This gives you the freedom to build out your website, test out different content management systems, and more—all in an online environment.
Since your subdomain uses the same web server, you’ll also have the chance to see how your website works with certain plugins and apps.
Like the situation above, you can also password protect your subdomain. This way, it won’t be accessible to the general public before it’s finished.
6. Cater to Different Markets or Languages
If you have a large brand with a global audience, then you may want to create separate versions of your site to speak to each audience in their local language.
Now, this is a large task, especially when you’re maintaining multiple different websites with varying languages. But, if you’re operating at a global scale, then this is probably something you have the budget for.
Another common approach for large businesses that speak to multiple different market segments is to create separate subdomains for each of these products or services you offer. For example, if you’re a large marketing company which provides services to real estate agents, financial services firms, and corporations, you could create specific subdomains for each of these like, “realestate.marketing.com,” “financial.marketing.com,” and “corporate.marketing.com.”
7. Separate Your Blog from Your Website
The final common reason to consider using a subdomain is to separate your blog from the rest of your website. A lot of startups and eCommerce companies will choose to separate their blogs if they serve a different focus from the rest of their site.
If your site wasn’t built using a CMS that allows you to create and manage content easily, then this will enable you to install a CMS like WordPress on your subdomain, so you can more easily run a blog on your site.
Just keep in mind that you’ll want to try and align the design of your blog with your existing site, so your visitors don’t get confused when they navigate between your blog and your website.
8. Create a Site Based on Subdomains
This idea was briefly mentioned in the introduction. There are tons of large sites that utilize subdomains as a business model, or a way to introduce free users to their products and services—with the hope they’ll stick around and upgrade to a paid offering.
For example, this is common practice for some website builders that offer free access to the builder and domain name. Think sites like WordPress.com and others—basically, any site that allows users to create their own content, or page, while still being hosted under the larger primary domain of the brand. For example, whenever you create your own Tumblr blog, you’ll end up with the domain name ‘myblog.tumblr.com.’
Many large sites function this way, so there’s no reason you couldn’t do the same. Just remember: if you’re allowing other people to create blogs or small sites on your subdomains, there’s a chance it might be against the terms of service of your host. Always carefully review your web hosting provider’s policies before you test this approach. Otherwise, you may find your site (and all of those subdomains) suddenly get taken down without warning.
How to Create a Subdomain in 3 Simple Steps
By now you should know the exact reason why you’re creating a subdomain for your site. Luckily, creating a subdomain is a pretty simple and straightforward process.
Below we’ll show you how to do it if you have your web hosting right here at HostGator:
1. Navigate to cPanel
The first thing you’ll need to do is fire up cPanel. Your control panel is where you’ll accomplish most technical tasks related to managing your website and web server.
2. Locate Subdomains
Now, locate the ‘Subdomains’ icon in your control panel and click on it to fire up the application. This is where you’ll manage, change, and create your subdomains.
3. Create a Subdomain
Finally, it’s time to create your subdomain. Just select the domain you want to add a subdomain to, enter your subdomain and click ‘Create’. Once you’ve completed this step, you have successfully created a new subdomain!
Congratulations! The process for creating a site on a subdomain will be similar to building out your current primary domain.
Pros and Cons of Using a Subdomain
Subdomains can be a great organizational tool to help with laying out your site, but they’re not perfect for every situation.
Here’s a look at the most common pros and cons you should weigh when deciding whether or not to use a subdomain for your next project.
Here are a few unique advantages you’ll find when creating subdomains:
1. Subdomains Give You Flexibility
With a subdomain you open your site up to a lot of different possibilities. Even with the eight different options highlighted above, there are still even more uses of subdomains that are out there. Whether you’re hosting client sites, adding to site features, growing your site into new markets, or want a place to host a new website redesign, you can do all of that and more.
2. A Subdomain Can Add Value to Your Site
Creating subdomains allow you to expand your brand without having to go through the entire site creation and brand development process from scratch. Sure, when you start with a subdomain you have the ability to create a new site from scratch, but you also have your existing brand and domain authority that you can lean on.
Even though subdomains can bring a lot of value to your site, there are still a few downsides you’ll want to be aware of. These include:
1. Could Have Negative SEO Impact
Although Google states they place the same value on primary domains and subdomains, independent testing from sites like Moz suggests that websites who run their blogs on a subdomain don’t receive the same benefit as sites that strictly use a primary domain.
2. Brand Aesthetic Can Suffer
If you’re creating a subdomain that will still be an ongoing aspect of your site, like a blog or eCommerce store, then you’ll need to take extra time (and potentially hire professional web design services) to ensure your design remains consistent. This is especially true if the software you’re using for your subdomain is different than your primary domain.
3. More Time Managing Sites
Depending on the reason you’re creating a subdomain, you’ll need to be aware that it’ll probably take more time to run and manage your website. This is especially true if you’re trying to rank your new subdomain in the search engines, as it seems like subdomains do take longer to rank.
Closing Thoughts: Making Subdomains Work for You
Hopefully, by now you have a greater understanding of subdomains as a whole, why they’re used, and finally how to go about creating your own right here at HostGator.
When you’re thinking of creating a subdomain you should do so with serious thought—especially if it’s going to play a central role in how your site is organized and have an impact on how your visitors will interact with your site.
Luckily, if you do decide to add a subdomain to your existing domain, it’s very easy to do so right here as HostGator. The only thing you need first is an epic domain name!