Domain vs Subdomain: What's the Difference? - Hosted.com Blog (2024)

Domain vs Subdomain: What's the Difference? - Hosted.com Blog (1)

Once you register a domain name, you’re granted access to all its subdomains, and knowing the difference between a domain vs subdomain becomes crucial.

A domain is your website’s unique identity on the internet, while subdomains give you flexible options for organizing your website, enabling you to design branches or sections with distinct functions for various kinds of content.

Understanding the connection between domains and subdomains can help you organize and manage your website more effectively. In this article we will explore the key differences between a domain vs subdomain, and how you leverage these to enhance your website’s functionality.

Table of Contents

Domain vs Subdomain

Understanding the differences between a domain vs subdomain enables website owners to make strategic decisions regarding their online architecture and choosing the best domain name. Leveraging their functionalities can improve the overall user experience and navigability of a website. Whether this is through the creation of specialized areas with subdomains or the establishment of a strong brand identity with a memorable domain.

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What Is A Domain Name?

A domain name is the address that users enter into the search bar of their browser to visit a website, making navigation easier. Without it, users would have to rely on the numerical labels that are allocated to each website and server on the internet – known as IP addresses.

Second-level domains (SLDs) and top-level domains (TLDs) are the two main parts of a domain name. SLDs are frequently made up of words or phrases, and TLDs indicate the extension that comes next. In “google.com,” for example, “google” is the SLD and “.com” is the TLD.

Securing a name on the internet for a specified amount of time is known as domain registration, and it typically needs to be renewed once a year. An alternative to this is a multi-year registration that can last for up to ten years.

Domain registrars and hosting companies oversee domain name registrations. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is in charge of regulating and managing domain databases on the internet and manage registrars.

It’s important to confirm that your selected domain is available before registering it with a registrar or hosting provider. To help you secure your own domain and make this procedure easier, Hosted.com provides a domain name search tool.

What Is A Subdomain?

A subdomain is a subdivision of a larger domain, allowing website owners to create additional sections or branches within their primary domain. In a URL, subdomains come before the primary domain and are divided by a period. The subdomain “blog” is present in “blog.example.com,” for instance.

Subdomains are capable of hosting unique features apart from the primary website. They are often used to organize and categorize content, applications, or functionalities , each accessible through its unique subdomain.

Subdomains share the same root domain, but from a technical standpoint, they operate as distinct entities with their own directories and settings. This enables website owners to separately administer various website areas and add unique features, design elements, or security measures as needed.

How Subdomains Are Created

Subdomains are typically registered and managed through the same process as the main domain registration. When you register a domain name, you gain control over its root domain as well as any associated subdomains. These can be created and modified using your hosting control panel.

For example, Hosted.com customers have access to secure cPanel Web Hosting services, which allow you to create domains and subdomains, through its interface.

The process of creating a subdomain in cPanel is simple and involves the following steps:

  1. Log into cPanel on the account to add the subdomain on.
  2. Click “Domains” under the “Domains” section.
  3. Click the “Create A New Domain” button.
  4. Enter the subdomain name to add in the “Domain” text box.
  5. Deselect the “Share document root (/home/username/public_html) with “domain.tld”.” option.
  6. Enter the directory where you want the files for this subdomain to exist.
  7. Click the “Submit” button.

After you’ve created a subdomain, you will need to add DNS record to link it to your domain, in the case of Hosted.com customer, this is the process:

  1. Log in to your Hosted.com account and click “Domains,” under “Manage Services.”
  2. Click “Manage DNS” from the dropdown arrow, next to “Manage” to access the DNS settings of the domain of your choice.
  3. Under the “Add DNS Record” page, enter the Host (subdomain), TTL, record type and value (IP address, domain name, etc.).
  4. Next click “Add” to update the record.

Note: Your IP address can be found under Shared IP Address, under the General Information column on the cPanel homepage.

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Domain Name vs Subdomain – Benefits & Considerations

Understanding the distinct benefits and considerations of domains and subdomains empowers website owners to make informed decisions regarding their online presence and architecture.

Whether prioritizing brand identity with a custom domain or enhancing content organization with subdomains, leveraging these elements effectively contributes to a cohesive and user-friendly website experience. Key differentiating factors of a domain vs subdomain, include:

  • A domain serves as the primary address of a website, while a subdomain is a subdivision of a larger domain, creating separate sections or branches within the main domain.
  • Domains operate as independent entities with their own DNS records, content, and services, whereas subdomains are part of the main domain’s DNS hierarchy, sharing its settings and resources.
  • Domains consist of the SLD followed by a TLD, crucial for establishing brand identity and credibility online. In contrast, subdomains are structured as a prefix to the main domain name (e.g. “blog.example.com”).

Register A Root Domain Only

Benefits

  • Free Domain Registration – Some hosting providers, like Hosted.com offer free domain registration, when signing up for one of our selected plans. Customers can also enjoy free SSL certificates for enhanced security in their root domain.
  • Brand Identity – Creating a single domain enhances recognition and fosters trustworthiness from your website’s visitors.
  • Flexibility – By registering only the root domain, you maintain flexibility in how you use subdomains in the future. You can create subdomains as needed without being locked into specific subdomain structures.

Considerations

  • Availability – Since popular names are frequently already registered, obtaining a desired domain name may be difficult. Here is more on how choosing the right domain name can help your business.
  • Resource Allocation – Concentrating resources on a single domain, instead of subdomains, may lead to higher traffic and resource usage, potentially affecting website performance and server load.
  • Future Scalability – Consider future scalability needs and whether a single root domain will be sufficient as your website, or if a more modular subdomain structure could better accommodate expansion.

Register Subdomains For A Root Domain

Benefits

  • Unlimited Subdomains – Creating a subdomain is free, often included with domain registration. There are usually no limits on how many you can register, however, some hosting companies restrict them to 500. This adaptability frees websites from budgetary restrictions, enabling flexible website organization and scalability.
  • Organizational Structure – Subdomains make it easier for visitors to navigate and organize content, making it easier for them to access specific areas of the website.
  • Functional Segmentation – They also allow for the development of distinct applications or functionalities within the website, such as e-commerce platforms, blogs, and forums.
  • Localization – To improve user experience and relevance, subdomains can be used to serve content that has been locally optimized or tailored to particular languages or areas.

Considerations

  • Complexity – Keeping track of several subdomains might make maintenance and administrative tasks more difficult.
  • Cross-Domain Cookies – Subdomains may not be able to share session data or cookies with the main domain, which could impact tracking and user authentication features.
  • SSL Certificates – When securing multiple subdomains with SSL/TLS certificates, a wildcard SSL certificate becomes necessary. Wildcard SSL certificates are typically more expensive than standard SSL certificates. This is because they cover not just the root domain but also all its subdomains.

SEO Considerations: Domain vs Subdomain

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the architecture of your website, including your choice between a single domain vs subdomain, can significantly impact your visibility and rankings. Understanding how each option influences SEO and implementing best practices accordingly is crucial for maximizing your website’s search performance.

Root Domains

  • SEO Benefit – A root domain name can raise your website’s exposure and ranks in search results, which makes it simpler for people to find it.
  • Brand Authority – A regular single domain without any subdomains can enhance your brand’s identity and authority, positively impacting SEO. Strong brand signals on a website are usually preferred by search engines.
  • Keyword Relevance – By telling search engines what your website is about, including relevant keywords in your domain name will help with SEO.
  • Backlink Profile – High-quality backlinks are associated with a higher search engine ranking for a domain. Building links naturally is encouraged by a memorable domain.
  • Geotargeting – Country-code top-level domains, or ccTLDs, are useful for local firms that are aiming to target particular geographic areas.

Subdomains

  • Segmentation – You can improve user experience by using subdomains to arrange content into discrete sections. Subdomains, on the other hand, are treated differently by search engines, which may have various effects on SEO.
  • Ranking – Subdomains may reduce the parent domain’s potential for SEO ranking and overall domain authority, necessitating deliberate optimization work.
  • Content Silos – Subdomains can form content silos, which could restrict the flow of link equity and lessen the primary domain’s overall SEO authority.
  • Keyword Focus -You can optimize each subdomain for a distinct set of search intents by using subdomains to target certain keywords or subjects.
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Best Practices

By understanding the SEO implications of domains vs subdomains and implementing best practices suited to your website’s goals – you can enhance your website’s visibility, attract organic traffic, and achieve sustainable SEO success. Here are five tips to consider:

  1. Select Wisely – Consider your website’s structure, content organization, and branding objectives when choosing between a regular single domain vs subdomain. If you value consistent branding and user experience throughout your website, go with a single domain.
  2. Optimize Content – Whichever strategy you decide on, make sure your content is optimized for search intent, user intent, and pertinent keywords. Provide insightful, high-quality material that speaks to the needs and preferences of your intended audience.
  3. Link Development – Put your efforts into creating a wide range of organic backlinks to your website. To improve SEO, invite other websites to link to your content by utilizing the power of your domain or subdomains.
  4. Consistent Branding – Make sure that your website’s branding is the same on all domains and subdomains. Utilize unified message, imagery, and design components to strengthen user trust and brand identification.
  5. Track Performance – Using SEO analytics tools, like Google Analytics to track your domains’ and subdomains’ performance on a regular basis. Monitor search engine rankings, organic traffic, and conversion data to pinpoint areas in need of tweaking and optimization.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Registering any domain name grants access to all its subdomains, offering versatile options for website organization.
  • A domain represents the unique identity of a website, while subdomains provide flexible options for organizing content into specialized sections or branches.
  • Understanding the relationship between domain vs subdomain helps in effectively organizing and managing website content and functionalities.
  • Leveraging domains and subdomains optimally can enhance a website’s functionality and user experience.
  • Domains with relevant keywords and strong backlink profiles can improve search engine visibility and rankings. Subdomains enable functional segmentation but may impact overall domain authority and SEO ranking potential.
  • Choose between a single domain only and subdomains based on website structure and branding goals. Optimize content, build diverse backlink profiles, maintain consistent branding, and track performance metrics for SEO success.

FAQs

What is the main difference between a domain and a subdomain?

The main difference is that a domain represents the primary address of a website, while a subdomain is a subset or subdivision of the domain, creating separate sections or branches within the main domain.

How are domains and subdomains registered?

Domains and subdomains are typically registered and managed through the same process. Once you register a domain name, you gain control over its root domain as well as any associated subdomains, which can be created and modified using domain management tools provided by your registrar.

What are the benefits of a domain vs subdomain?

Domains enhance brand identity and credibility, while subdomains offer organizational flexibility and functional segmentation within a website.

How does a domain vs subdomain impact SEO?

Domains with relevant keywords and strong backlink profiles can improve search engine visibility and rankings. Subdomains enable functional segmentation but may impact overall domain authority and SEO ranking potential, requiring strategic optimization efforts.

What are some best practices for leveraging domains and subdomains effectively?

Optimize content for search intent and user experience, focus on building a diverse backlink profile, maintain consistent branding across domains and subdomains, and regularly track performance metrics using SEO analytics tools.

Why should I use a subdomain?

If your website is unorganized and hard to use, visitors may leave. Subdomains simplify your website by reducing the quantity of content on it.

How many subdomains can I have?

There can be 500 subdomains under one root domain. A subdomain can have 255 characters for each level, however multilevel subdomains can only have 63 characters for each level.

Other Blogs of Interest:

What is Domain Monitoring?

Improve User Experience – Part 1: Enhance Your WordPress Website

Improve User Experience – Part 2: Making Your WordPress Website Effective

How To Transfer A Domain From Google

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Chantel Venter

Chantél Venter is a creative writer, strategic thinker, and a serious gesticulator. She’s passionate about storytelling, small businesses and bringing color to the world ­– be it through her words or wardrobe.

She holds a four-year degree in Business and Mass Media Communication and Journalism. She’s been a copywriter and editor for the technology, insurance and architecture industries since 2007 and believes anybody can run a small business successfully. She therefore enjoys finding and sharing the best and most practical tips for this purpose.

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