What is a Subdomain?

In 2021 and beyond, having an up-to-date website is one of the first things everyone thinks about when starting a business or showcasing a personal body of work.

In fact, it’s pretty common for individuals to create personal websites simply to host their resumes.

As we all know, there’s going to be some confusing terminology to get used to no matter how you approach setting up your website.

Take the term “subdomain,” for example. What is a subdomain? How is it different from a regular domain? When and why would you use a subdomain?

What is a Subdomain?

To start, it’s best to understand what a domain is and how it differs from a subdomain. Both domains and subdomains are part of a Domain Name System, or DNS. Think of DNS like a tree with branches. The domain is the trunk of the tree, while the subdomains are the branches.

What does DNS mean?

The Domain Name System is an identification tool meant to simplify the search process. Web browsers use Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, but the DNS system translates those IP addresses to make searches easier for users. It means instead of memorizing IP address numbers, you can search for social media platforms or business websites by what is called a domain name.

The DNS creates a hierarchy to regulate both domains and subdomains. Basically, the rules say domain names go right to left, rather than the other way around. The top-level domain contains information such as .com or .edu. They let you know whether the website is commercial, non-profit, educational, foreign, or other possibilities.

The next level is called the second level domain. Your website’s name is located here. Lastly, there can be subdomains that help users find specific information or services found on your website.

What are Domain Names?

A domain name itself is part of the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) of any website online. The actual address of a domain is part of URLs used to access web pages hosted by domains. In addition, your own domain allows you to create various websites related to but separate from your original domain. Those are called subdomains.

What are Subdomains?

A subdomain therefore can’t exist without its domain. That’s because all subdomains share the domain name even though they are a separate website. While you can only have one domain, you can have several subdomains under that domain name.

Structure-wise, the subdomain will always be a prefix to your main domain name. Let’s say you own a business called “Ribbons.” Your domain and possible subdomains could look like this:

  • Ribbons.com is your domain name
  • Blog.ribbons.com is a subdomain name
  • Store.ribbons.com is another possible subdomain name

Photo by Kvalifik on Unsplash

Why Use Subdomains in the First Place?

Believe it or not, there are a ton of reasons why you may want to set up a subdomain. From staging sites to apps and ecommerce carts, the versatility might surprise you!


One of the best reasons to leverage subdomains is to improve your organization, and efficiently silo certain parts of your business. Making sure your website is clear and easy to use is vital.

If you run a pet grooming business, for example, your main page could have engaging pictures and contact information. Then, you could have a separate site that explains who you are and another that explains your different services.


You may want to use two different content management systems (CMS) for one business. In this case, you’ll need to employ subdomains to meet your objectives.

A good example: many ecommerce websites will build their front-end website on WordPress, and then host an ecommerce Shopify cart/store on a subdomain like shop.business.com.

This allows the business to leverage the creative flexibility of WordPress for their marketing and lead capture pages, and simultaneously enjoy the benefits of Shopify for ecommerce transactions and fulfillment.


Before you open your website to the world, it’s a good idea to test the layout, update the design, or test plugins. The best way to test your site is by following “staging site protocol (or procedure).” A staging site is a direct copy of your website. That means you can make all the changes you need on a staging site without the public watching.

Once you’ve set up the cloned site, you can run as many tests and make as many changes as you would like. In later stages, you can review and correct any last-minute errors. A subdomain is a perfect fit for this process.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Another benefit of using subdomains is the improved control of the search results page.

Since subdomains are treated as separate entities by search engines, you could potentially control multiple listings on a single search engine results page. In turn, you improve the chances of people coming across your brand when conducting online searches.

Setting Up Your Subdomain

Our best advice? Don’t try to navigate this process alone unless you’re at least somewhat technical! Instead, why not reach out to us and let us help? We can answer all of your burning questions, explain our services, and give you great prices.

On the other hand, if you’re already a NameSilo customer and want to take care of it yourself, here’s our guide to setting up subdomains that will help walk you through the process.

About the author:

NameSilo Staff

The NameSilo staff of writers worked together on this post. It was a combination of efforts from our passionate writers that produce content to educate and provide insights for all our readers.

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