What Is a Subdomain? Definition & Examples

A subdomain can be an effective organizational tool for your company’s website. Learn more about what a subdomain is and when to use one here.

Whether you're browsing the internet to find information or you have your own website, being familiar with subdomains is essential to optimize your surfing and sharing experiences. But what are subdomains?

Subdomains can be added on to a domain name in order to redirect visitors to a specific page or website section. This can be a helpful organizational tool as you build your website and design the customer journey. Read on to learn more about what a subdomain is.

Subdomain Definition

A subdomain is an additional directory or location of a website that is typically used to distinguish content types or the type of information presented with each subdomain. Subdomain addresses can help improve a website's navigation, SEO, or even a website's organizational needs.

There are both top-level domains (TLD) as well as second-level domains (SLD) to help identify the type of domain you are viewing or attempting to visit. A TLD typically includes the original domain name and/or URL. For example, Starbucks.com is the TLD name. If Starbucks launches a promotion with the name of "Summertime" and creates a subdomain to reflect the promotion's name, the SLD will appear as "summertime.starbucks.com." Both domains include the top-level and original domain name, with the subdomain being placed before the original TLD.

What Is the Purpose of a Subdomain?

A subdomain’s uses vary based on the type of website you own and the information you’re trying to share. A subdomain can direct visitors to a particular area of your website, such as a landing page, without crowding the main area or navigation of your TLD. Using a subdomain can help redirect users to a specific section of your website while also providing in-depth metrics and data for each SLD you create.

Segment your website, target specific demographics, and even launch individual marketing campaigns for tracking purposes with the use of a second-level domain, or a subdomain.

Pros and Cons of Using Subdomains

Before determining whether or not a subdomain is right for your own website, it is best to familiarize yourself with both the pros and cons of using an SLD, regardless of the type of site you are running. Some of the most notable benefits and advantages of using a subdomain for a website include:

  • Improve SEO: With the right subdomain name, marketing campaign, and formatting, it is possible to improve your website's overall SEO, or search engine optimization. If the optimization of your website is important to you, subdomains can help you rapidly scale the expansion of your website in less time.
  • Organize your website: Do you have a large and expansive website that is robust and packed with content? If so, a subdomain is one of the best and quickest ways to organize your website's content and any sitemap you create for your website. An organized website helps your visitors better navigate your website and help boost your website’s SEO.
  • Improve navigation: Navigation is one of the most important elements of any successful and working website today. Without properly coded and optimized navigation, you are much more likely to turn users away while increasing your website's overall bounce rate. Using subdomains helps improve navigation while ensuring your visitors can browse your website easily and without finding themselves lost or stuck.
  • Target specific demographics: If you're interested in targeting a specific group of individuals or specific demographics, you can often use a subdomain and an effective marketing strategy to do so. Subdomains can help redirect specific audiences based on demographics such as age, location, gender, and even specific hobbies or interests that are most relevant to your target audience.

Along the same line of thinking, there are also drawbacks to using subdomains to consider and account for prior to developing and launching any subdomain for your website. Some of the cons to keep in mind include:

  • May complicate your SEO strategy: Depending on how you choose to incorporate subdomains into your website, they can interfere with any existing SEO strategy. Depending on how you format your subdomains, as well as the purpose of the subdomains themselves, the SLD might impact the overall SEO of your website on top-performing search engines available today.
  • Requires time and commitment: Choosing to develop your own subdomains is possible for just about anyone and any type of website, though it will require plenty of time and commitment. If you do not have the time to put into developing, programming, and sharing your website's subdomains, you may be better off searching for an alternative navigation route that is right for you and your site.
  • Not always as effective as a single main site: Unfortunately, as useful as subdomains can be, they are not always as effective as traditional TLDs. Depending on your website’s size and purpose, you may find it best to keep your website focused on its main domain, rather than expanding to use numerous subdomains. The use of subdomains, however, can be extremely beneficial for larger and more robust websites or online communities available today.

When to Use a Subdomain

Knowing when to use a subdomain is extremely helpful if you are creating a website for the first time. While most websites simply create new pages or blogs to represent new content, others might develop subdomains. So, how do you know when it is best to use a subdomain or if you should add content to your TLD instead? Two of the main reasons to use a subdomain are:

  • To launch a separate website for your main site, such as a promotional campaign, an online store, or even a section that is for members only.
  • To create a blog for your website or the existing business or brand it represents.

It is best to use a subdomain when you want to share new content types that cover different types of information with a particular group of people or prospective customers and clients. To target a specific group of demographics with unique marketing campaigns, you can use individualized subdomain names. Unique subdomains can also help you better track the overall effectiveness, engagement, and ROI of the campaigns you launch.

You can also use subdomains to balance traffic, which is often necessary for larger websites and websites that receive thousands, if not millions, of page views each day. Using different subdomains can also be extremely helpful for SEO when done correctly, as the use of subdomains is one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to boost your website's SEO.

Subdomain Examples

You can create a subdomain for just about any purpose. Whether you are interested in launching your own community message board, an eCommerce store, or a live chat space, you can separate each section of your site with subdomains. Subdomains segment important areas of your website while assisting users with navigating and browsing your website. You can also use subdomains to help improve your website's official sitemap, which, in turn, can boost SEO over time.

Create subdomains for just about anything, including:

  • Your eCommerce storefront
  • Your website's official blog
  • A community section (including a membership area and/or message boards and community forums)
  • A live chat section
  • Promotional marketing campaigns
  • Audience-specific promotions or sites for data tracking purposes
  • New product, service, or content releases for promotional purposes
  • Hidden or special content that is available only to exclusive members, subscribers, or customers

It is important to note that a subdomain and a subdirectory are not the same. While a subdomain will appear before your TLD, a subdirectory link will include the subdirectory name after the original TLD. For example:

  • Subdomain example: mysubdomain.mywebsite.com
  • Subdirectory example: mywebsite.com/mysubdirectory

Familiarizing yourself with subdirectories versus subdomains can also help you if you are thinking of using subdomains for SEO purposes or for web crawling assistance with top search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.

How to Create a Subdomain

If you've never created a subdomain for your website, the thought of doing so may sound daunting, especially if you are unsure of where to begin. Fortunately, Mailchimp makes it easier than ever to create your subdomain with just a few clicks and within a few minutes. To create subdomains with the use of Mailchimp, complete the following steps:

  1. Log in to your active Mailchimp marketing account.
  2. Click "Website" from the main navigation that appears once you have successfully logged in.
  3. Select "Domains," then "Connected Domains."
  4. Choose "Connect a Domain" from the "Connected Domains" section.
  5. Enter the name of your subdomain and select "Submit" to solidify your choice.
  6. Copy the CNAME that is generated for your subdomain. You can copy the CNAME by highlighting the CNAME and right-clicking and selecting "Copy," or by highlighting the CNAME and pressing 'CTRL' + 'V' simultaneously on your keyboard.
  7. Create a CNAME record field for your chosen subdomain with your domain provider account in another tab to link your subdomain properly.
  8. Navigate to the "Domain" page in your Mailchimp account and click "Connect" to connect to your newly created subdomain.

You can use Mailchimp to create numerous subdomains for any reason once you are logged into your Mailchimp account and your account has been successfully activated.

Final Notes

To know what subdomains are, it is important to first consider the purpose of your website and your intended audience. Whether you are simply looking for a subdomain definition, a subdomain example, or if you are thinking of implementing subdomains for your own website, the first step is to become familiar with the concept of a subdomain. The more familiar you are with subdomains and their purpose, the easier it will be to determine if subdomains are a useful addition to your own site and online presence.

For an all-in-one marketing solution to create websites and secure domains with subdomains, use Mailchimp. Mailchimp provides the all-in-one marketing tools and solutions for any website, regardless of the type of domain and the number of subdomains you intend to create. You can even buy a domain for your company’s website through Mailchimp. To get started, visit Mailchimp to learn more about the marketing tools and services available for your website today.

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