Many people often confuse with the terms domain, top level domain (TLD), root domain, sub domain and sub directory/sub-folder. Some people use them interchangeably whereas in reality, each of them is distinct.
Many people often confuse with the terms domain, top
level domain (TLD), root domain, sub domain and sub
directory/sub-folder. Some people use them
interchangeably whereas in reality, each of them is
First, domain or domain name is the user readable
form of address or URL (Uniform Resource Locator)
that user types in the address bar of the browser to
visit the website. Some examples of domains are:
The domain or URL contains different parts like top
level domain, root domain, sub-domain and sub-folder.
Let’s discuss them briefly.
Top level domain (TLDs)
A top level domain appears at the end of the URL
followed by a period. In the above examples, ‘com’,
‘net’ and ‘us’ are the top level domains.
TLDs can be standard ones such as ‘com’ for
commercial websites, ‘org’ for organizations, ‘net’ for
networks, etc. They can be a country code like ‘us’ for
USA, ‘ca’ for Canada, etc.
Any domain will have only one root domain and has to
be purchased or registered from registrars.
It is the second level domain in hierarchy and is the
primary portion of a website. Root domains are also
called secondary domains. In our above examples,
‘example1’, ‘rootdomain’ and ‘website’ are the root
TLDs and root domains are very essential and they are
required to be entered in browser or other software or
applications to find the website.
A sub-domain is part of the root domain and it is
called third level domain. A root domain can have any
number of sub domains. They are free of cost but need
to be set up. For example, ‘www’, ‘Blog’ and ‘City’
are subdomains of the root domains ‘example1’,
‘rootdomain’ and ‘website’.
Sub-domains are treated as separate websites. They do
not carry the credibility or quality metrics of the root
domain. They have to build their own. The credibility
of the root domain is not passed to it unless it is
A sub-domain is useful if the website
Has multiple geographic pages
Offers different products/services
Appears in different languages
A sub-domain is helpful as buying a new domain
involves additional cost to the business.
A sub-directory is also called a folder and is used
instead of sub-domain. It's part of the root domain or
sub-domain on which it is created. It's treated as a
folder in the domain (could be root domain or sub-domain).
For example, in City.website.us/subdirectory,
‘subdirectory’ is the folder created
A sub-directory is useful
When you want to boost content and authority of your
When you do not have budget to do SEO for more than
one website (sub-domains are considered as different
website and need separate SEO, separate content and
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