The Difference between Subdomains and Subdirectories.
If you are looking into domain name registration and web hosting for your personal or business website, you may be wondering whether subdomains are necessary or appropriate for the site you are building. What is a subdomain anyway? How is this any different from a subdirectory? Which is right to use for different situations? Here’s a look at these two basic types of domain name organization, and how they each can be applied to the specific needs of your own website.
What is a subdomain?
This is our first question. A subdomain is considered a domain that is part of a larger domain. For example, on the large domain “MyExcellentBusinessWebsite.com” you could create a subdomain of “Sales.MyExcellentBusinessWebsite.com” the “sales.” comes listed in front of the domain name. This means that it is a separate entity from other subdomains within the larger URL: the files are kept separately, email addresses are located separately, and so on.
What is a subdirectory?
A subdirectory, in contrast, is an extension of a domain, such as “MyExcellentBusinessWebsite.com/sales”. All of the information for this directory and other subdirectories is located in the same place (the server owned by the web hosting provider you chose for hosting your website), and emails come from the same domain as well.
So, what is the difference?
Think of it this way: picture a 3-leafed clover. Subdomains are the cloven leaves that make up the cloverleaf shape: they are each a separate leaf, but are part of the larger whole. For a subdirectory, picture a tree with a single trunk and several branches: the subdirectories are branches that extend from the single main trunk.
In practice, there are several differences between subdomains and subdirectories.
- As mentioned, the files and email addresses are stored separately, so from a UK web hosting perspective, make sure that your potential web hosting provider offers this service if you’re considering subdomains. This will allow you to have email addresses from separate subdomains (which make it simpler for clients and customers to keep things straight). It also means that people searching within your website can search within just the subdomain they’re on, so your information is easier to find and access.
- SEO is the other major difference. Because subdomains are treated as individual domain names, search engines will rank them independently. This means you can optimize different subdomains for different terms, or you optimize for the same term and potentially have your website represented more than once within the top search results page.
The bottom line: If you need your website to address several different types of customer or perform several major functions from one site, subdomains are a good way to keep that information separate without creating separate websites. If this is something you’re interested in, then before you sign up for web hosting or pay to register your domain name, check the provider to ensure they have the capacity and support to provide this functionality to your new website.