What Is a Subdomain: Definitions and Details

By: | Updated: July 24, 2021

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If you’re familiar with website building, you may have come across the terms domain and subdomain. On the surface, you may think it is self-explanatory but answering the question “What is a subdomain?” needs a bit more context.

To help you better understand, we’ll discuss the definitions and other relative topics that go along with subdomains.

What Is a Subdomain and Its Placement?

A subdomain is an additional section of a domain. To give you an example, let’s use the URL blogs.intel.com.

The “blogs” is the subdomain, and “intel.com” is the top and second-level domain. There are numerous ways on how web builders utilize subdomains, and we will highlight its most notable benefits.

What Is the Importance of Subdomains?

A subdomain allows you to separate your online material into more organized sections. This feature is crucial for your website, especially if you’ll have different categories that need their own space.

Below are some examples of the primary benefits of using subdomains.

  • Creating an Online Store

It’s relatively common for many websites to have an e-commerce store that complements the brand of their content. For example, the official NBA website’s main page is about the schedule, player highlights, and news.

If you want to browse for merchandise, you can go to shop.nba.com to see a dedicated online shopping page independent of the main page. Not all visitors will appreciate seeing products heavily promoted on websites supposedly made for information and updates.

By having a subdomain for your online store, you will give your audience a better browsing experience.

  • Better Market Distinction

One of the primary uses of subdomains is gearing web content tailored for specific countries and regions. Many international companies utilize subdomains to ensure their online material is acceptable locally and internationally.

You can see this benefit being utilized by news outlets such as Yahoo. For example, by typing “uk” instead of just “www” before yahoo.com, you’ll be redirected to the Yahoo homepage with headlines, weather updates, and other current events meant for UK-based viewers.

With this feature, your visitors have the convenience to engage your website without searching for content that suits them. A few websites use the subdomain to identify the language of the webpage.

Case in point, you’ll see the subdomain “en” if you’re looking at the English version of the President of Russia’s official page.

  • Creating a Mobile Version

Most likely, you designed your website thinking that your audience will use a desktop to visit it. A decade or more ago, that was a sound assumption.

Nowadays, it might not be entirely accurate because of the rise of mobile phones capable of connecting to the internet at any given time and place. You might not be aware that not all websites are compatible with portable devices.

As such, you should highly consider publishing a mobile version of your website. Recreating a new site might sound daunting at first, but since you have the foundation of your desktop-friendly site, it shouldn’t be much of a hassle.

More and more individuals and organizations access the internet via their smartphones or tablets. With this fact, having a mobile iteration of your web pages will ensure more traffic.

What Are the Meaning of Subdomain and Subdirectory?

Many are arguing which of these two is the better choice for website building. At this point, we have answered what is a subdomain so this time, let’s have a look at the definition of a subdirectory.

Like a subdomain, a subdirectory allows you to organize your web pages available in one domain.

The most obvious distinction between the two is their placement. The former is located before the second-level domain, while the latter is found right after the TLD.

Which Is Better?

Regarding which one is the better option, it depends on your content type and audience size.

Subdomains are superior if you are creating or maintaining a large business or interest with multiple categories. You’ll have a smoother experience managing your digital materials. That is especially if you have an e-commerce store or catering to an overseas audience with a different language.

Subdirectories are better if you’re handling a website that doesn’t require too many updates at short notice. If your web pages only are pretty similar to each other regarding design and function, you’re better off using subdirectories instead of subdomains.

On the topic of SEO, you’ll see contrasting claims that subdomains are better suited for ranking purposes and vice-versa. Don’t let this factor affect how you select between the two. That’s because the quality of your content is still the top indicator of excellent search engine rankings.

What Are the Other Types of Domain?

Now that we have discussed the significance of subdomains, let’s get ourselves more familiar with them. That is by looking at the other types of domains and their importance.

Top-Level Domain

The closing segment of a domain name, or the component that follows after the last dot, is the TLD or the top-level domain.

IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) is a standard organization established in 1998 that manages the assignment of TLDs. This ICANN branch regulates the available domain names and distributes registrar’s rights to companies such as GoDaddy.com, Domain.com, and Hostgator.

The TLD’s primary purpose is to determine the association, purpose, or location of your website. Let’s look at the seven original kinds of TLDs that are still in use today.

  • .com

The .com TLD first came into existence in 1985. It is essentially a shortened form of the word commercial, emphasizing initial business-related purposes.

As time passes along, the .com TLD is not entirely associated with just for business but in numerous categories, as well. It is initially managed by the US Department of Defense but is now managed by Verisign.

  • .gov

Its name originates from the word government. As you may have expected, this TLD is exclusive to be used by government agencies only.

Before, it was only the USA federal departments that used it. Nowadays, many state-sponsored agencies around the world are applying this TLD to their official website.

  • .mil

Originated from the word military, this TLD is utilized by various agencies of the US Armed Forces. The official online page of the United States Army and US Marine Corps are using this domain name.

  • .edu

This top-level domain name is intended for schools of all levels, including research institutions.

Derived from the word education, the .edu domain name is one of the most common TLDs. An alternative to this TLD is the .ac, a shortening of the word academia.

  • .org

Usually used by non-profit organizations, the .org TLD is widely used for cultural, religious, charitable, artistic, and other related sites. Unlike the .edu and .gov TLDs, this domain name is unrestricted, meaning everyone can use it on their websites.

Millions of website owners use the .org TLD, making it one of the most popular domain names out there.

  • .net

The .net TLD comes from the word network and was initially meant for companies and organizations specializing in network technologies and other related industries.

Similar to the .com TLD, it became a general-purpose domain name used today by different types of organizations and industries.

  • .int

The .int TLD is a restricted domain that only intergovernmental organizations may register. In other words, this domain name is used by or between national governments to register entities, which form international treaties.

The World Health Organization and Interpol are some examples of organizations that use the .int TLD.

What are the Different Categories of Top-Level Domain?

The seven TLDs we noted above are categorized into three primary groups, including:

  • Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD)

The gTLD group has most of the popular TLDs we see today. Examples of this are .com, .net, .org, .xyz, .info, and .biz.

  • Sponsored Top-Level Domains (sTLD)

This TLD group is dedicated to being used officially by organizations, mostly the government. Common examples include .gov, .mil, and .edu.

  • Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLD)

As the name implies, this TLD is used to identify country-specific websites. Examples of ccTLD are .us (United States), .eu (European Union), .ru (Russia), and .jp (Japan).

Second-Level Domain

A second-level domain or SLP is typically considered the “primary” domain name. In essence, the SLP is the most recognizable part of a domain name. To give a definite example, the SLP for the website www.google.com is “google.”

In contrast, the top-level domain is rather general because it does not assist in identifying a site from other sites. You should think very carefully about the SLP you will use on your website because it may dictate the traffic it’ll get once your homepage is published.

It’s common that some websites will use sTLD as part of the SLP. One example would be www.citizensadvice.org.uk. As you can see, .uk is the TLP, while citizensadvice.org is the SLP.

Conclusion

Subdomains are an integral part of websites that offer multiple types of categories. It is an effective tool that aids you in maintaining your pages efficiently, so get all the information you need to maximize its functions.

by Brett Helling
Brett has been starting, growing, and monetizing websites since 2014. While in college, he began to learn about digital marketing. After graduating, he continued to build a diverse portfolio of websites while working a full time job. After years of building the portfolio on the side, he made the jump to run his websites full time.

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