Structuring Your Site with Subdomains

subdomains sub-domain site structure Subdomains play a key role in your website’s structure. When structuring your site, it’s important to understand what they are and when using them is beneficial.

Subdomains are an extra level added to your existing domain name. Example.com might have the subdomain shop.example.com or mobile.example.com. In these cases, shop and mobile are subdomains of example.com.

Each subdomain has its own IP address. This means it’s a separate website that is independently controlled. You can run everything, including the host, CMS, and architecture, from a different provider (or the same one).

Setting up and managing a subdomain is typically accomplished through your web hosting control panel. If you need assistance, contact TechTe.am and we’ll be glad to help.

Plans & Pricing

Subdomains vs Subdirectories

Website designers use subdomains to create subgroups of content or functionality. Subdirectories are also used for the same purpose. This sometimes confuses people. Remember subdirectories are folders within your main website, rather than independent hubs. In the URL example.com/shop, “shop” is a subdirectory of the site example.com.

Creating a subdomain divides your website into a collection of themed mini sites. The URL shop.example.com indicates a separate site, while example.com/shop refers to a subdirectory on the same site.

Subdomains and SEO

Experts disagree on how having a subdomain affects SEO. Some believe webmasters gain SEO benefit through employing subdomains instead of subdirectories. This was especially true when subdomains had keyword names, and Google treated each subdomain as a separate website. In theory you could get your main site (shoes.com) and its subdomain (socks.shoes.com) both in top search results if a user searched for “socks and shoes.”

However some experiments suggest that using subdomains instead of subdirectories actually lowers SEO results.

Most recently, both of those theories has been largely disproved. Google doesn’t treats subdomains as separate websites for SEO ranking. When asked, Google’s spokesperson Matt Cutts said Google considers them “roughly equivalent.” Meaning use of subdomains is an organizational choice, not an SEO choice.

Reasons to use subdomains

If there aren’t any SEO benefits, why use subdomains? Really it’s an architectural choice. Here are several cases where people often employ subdomains:

#1: Localization

For a site serving multiple locations where users in each location access different content, it’s beneficial to organize the individual sub-sites into subdomains. Craigslist uses this structure for specific cities, for example dallas.craigslist.com. In the same way sites serve up different language versions, such as en.example.com (English version of site), or fr.example.com (French version of site).

#2: Branding

Affiliate, franchise, or associate sites often use subdomains to remain independent yet demonstrate a relationship to a parent brand. This is common with free site building or blogging platforms such as WordPress. The sites example.wordpress.com and yourblog.wordpress.com have separate owners and content, but remain linked under the WordPress banner.

#3: Mobile

If a website has separate mobile and non-mobile versions, the mobile version is often set up on a separate subdomain, such as mobile.bigsite.com. However the encouraged use of responsive design (using the same site to serve both mobile and non-mobile visitors) has reduced the use of separate mobile websites.

#4: Weaving in outsourced functionality

Many websites that include a store use a shopping cart service hosted and run by a external service provider. To make that added functionality appear as an integrated part of the site, set up a subdomain for it. Instead of sending customers to shoppingcartprovider.com/example, provide the appearance of staying on your site (shop.example.com).

How to create a subdomain

The steps for creating subdomains vary depending on your hosting environment. From your existing host set up a subdomain through your hosting control panel, such as cPanel or Plesk. Select the parent domain name and click “Add Subdomain.” Sometime you’ll have to select a location to store the subdomain’s content.

If you want the subdomain hosted on another server, it’s a little more complicated. You’ll need to modify the DNS record for your domain so that the main site resolves to one IP address and the subdomain resolves to the IP address on the second server.

Choosing Subdomains or Subdirectories

When choosing between subdomains and subdirectory structures, the main thing to remember is that a subdomain is a separate site that must be managed separately, while a subdirectory is a just a subsection of a site. Which you use will depend largely on your site. Many websites use a combination of both.

If you need assistance setting up or managing a subdomain, contact TechTe.am, and we’ll be glad to help.