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When to Use Subdomains (And How to Set Them Up)

If you’re a fledgling site owner, you might not know that you can use a single domain to set up multiple websites. We’re not talking about separate pages, but full blown websites running side by side on the same domain.

There are two ways to accomplish this, by using ‘subdirectories’ or ‘subdomains’. From a technical standpoint, both approaches work much the same way, but we prefer subdomains since they offer a cleaner look.

In this article, we’re going to talk about what subdomains are and why you should use them. Then we’ll discuss a few of the situations where it makes sense to do so, before teaching you how to set up (and use) a subdomain of your own. Let’s get to it!

What Subdomains Are (And Why You Should Use Them)

An example of a subdomain.
Subdomains are a great way to separate areas of your site with very different functionalities.

Subdomains enable you to set up multiple websites using a single domain. Take a look at our client area for example – you’ll notice its URL is my.a2hosting.com. In this case, we’re using the my subdomain through our normal URL, which enables us to set up a hosting management panel alongside the rest of our site.

You can also use subdirectories to achieve the same end, for example by setting up an a2hosting.com/my subdirectory. However, we’re partial to subdomains in some cases because of how they impact Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For example:

  • Search engines recognize subdomains as individual websites. That means you get more chances to increase your traffic.
  • They enable you to set up backlinks to your primary domain, which can increase its authority.

With that in mind, let’s talk about some of the specific situations where it makes sense to use subdomains over subdirectories.

When to Use a Subdomain Instead of a Subdirectory

We’ve covered the difference between subdomains and subdirectories, so let’s get right to the point. Here are just two scenarios where it makes more sense to use the former over the latter:

  1. Running an e-commerce store to complement your primary website.
  2. Setting up a blog for an existing company or business website.

These two situations have one thing in common: they’re both running as parallel sites with specific functionality. You can achieve the exact same results using subdirectories, but the SEO benefits often make subdomains a better choice.

At this stage, it’s important to note there’s a lively debate on this very subject. Many people prefer to use subdomains, whereas others say that subdirectories are the better choice, even taking SEO into consideration. If you want to learn about the latest developments, check out the Moz blog, which constantly deals with the most recent developments in SEO.

How to Set Up and Use Subdomains (In 3 Simple Steps)

An example of a cPanel.
cPanel enables you to set up subdomains in a matter of minutes.

For this section, we’re going to focus on how to create subdomains using cPanel, given that it’s currently the most popular hosting panel available. If your host doesn’t use cPanel, you’ll need to get in touch with them and check out their documentation concerning subdomains. If you’ve never accessed your cPanel before, keep reading – we’ll cover the process in full.

Step #1: Access Your cPanel

To access your cPanel, you’ll need to log into your hosting account. For example, A2 Hosting customers need to click on the Login button on the home page, then enter their account’s credentials into the relevant fields:

The A2 Hosting home page.

Once you’re logged in, you’ll come to your main dashboard. Not every provider uses the same type of platform, but in our case, you can find an option to access your site’s cPanel under the main dashboard:

Accessing your cPanel.

Click on the Login button now, which brings you to your account’s cPanel. The number of options here can be overwhelming, so we recommend you read up on cPanel’s functionality when you have the time.

Step #2: Create a Subdomain in cPanel

Creating subdomains using cPanel is remarkably simple. Scroll down until you find a section named Domains, then look for the Subdomains option and click it. From here, choose a name for your subdomain and specify the domain you’d like to add it to. In this example, we’re setting up a shop subdomain:

Creating a new subdomain.

Next, click on the button that says Create, and that’s it! You’ll see a success message if everything goes well, and your subdomain will then appear on a list at the bottom of the Subdomains section:

A list of existing subdomains.

From here, you can delete any subdomain you want by clicking on the Remove button. However, any data on a deleted subdomain will be lost forever, so keeping a copy of it should be a consideration before you go ahead.

Step #3: Set Up a Website on Your Subdomain

Once you have a working subdomain, the final step is to put it to good use. For all intents and purposes, your subdomain will work as an entirely new website, even if it shares a primary domain with others.

For example, you can use your new subdomain to set up a WordPress website. To do this, return to your cPanel, find the Softaculous App Installer section, then click the WordPress option:

Installing WordPress using cPanel.

You’ll be brought to the Install tab. Here, you can set up WordPress on your new subdomain by choosing it from the Choose Domain option under Software Setup:

Choosing a subdomain in which to install WordPress.

All that’s left is to fill out a few more fields. For example, you’ll have to pick a name for your site, set an admin username, choose a password and add a suitable email address, and also pick a language for your site. Finally, click on the Install button and give it time to finish processing. Once it’s complete, you’ll be able to access your new site:

A new WordPress setup.

It’s worth noting that you can set up as many subdomains as you want for a single domain, but (of course) you should only use them when it makes sense to do so!

Conclusion

Subdomains are a great way to differentiate areas of your website according to their functionality. For example, you can use a shop.domain.com address to set up an e-commerce solution that runs parallel to the rest of your site. Subdomains look clean, and they’re easy to set up, so there are few downsides to using them.

In this post, we’ve shown you how to set up and use a subdomain through your cPanel. Let’s quickly recap the steps:

  1. Access your cPanel account and find the Subdomains option.
  2. Create a subdomain.
  3. Set up any type of website you want on your new subdomain.

Do you have any questions about how and when to use subdomains? Ask away in the comments section below!

Image credit: Pixabay.

About Brad Litwin

Brad Litwin is the Marketing Manager for A2 Hosting. He has been with the company since 2007. His specialties include affiliate marketing, content writing and SEO. In his spare time he enjoys running and reading.

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