Domain vs. Subdomain: Good or bad, the difference
You will hear different opinions on the web regarding why it is better to have your own domain name. But from a search engine's perspective, there is very little difference in whether you serve your website from a domain or from a subdomain, especially when the latter is short and not irrelevantly keyworded!
Advantages of a free short subdomain name:
- No up-front cost. The number one advantage is that these subdomains are free of charge, whereas fees for registering TLDs start from $10 USD per year (or even as low as $1 USD for the first year) and some are downright exorbitant (e.g.
.game). Setting up everything for free sounds very convenient when you're just starting out a website and don't know how successful it will become. Sometimes you seem to be getting more than what you paid for.
- Full anonymity. No mandatory WHOIS data to fill, and no payment trail that can be traced to you by web detectives.
Disadvantages of free subdomains:
- Potentially-irrelevant extra characters in the domain extension.
The real owner of the top-level domain you're "borrowing" the subdomain from may at any time choose to:
- not renew the domain name,
- to repurpose the domain name for some other project,
- to ban your account,
- to hijack your visitors by redirecting your subdomain to their alternative location, etc.
All of these result in your subdomain no longer being under your control and functioning as expected.
Feature parity with top-level domain names:
Ask this on any webmasters' forum: Free subdomain names technically work just the same as the top-level domains. Here are a few respectable, well-known example websites that are served on subdomains:
You can set DNS records, point nameservers to your hosting server directly, use it for email, etc.
- In Search, it ranks just as well.
Free subdomains are best suited for:
- First-time learning websites. This makes sense if you're just learning to code some HTML and want to show off to your friends without needing them to navigate to a cryptic raw IP address.
- Personal websites and blogs.
- Short-lived and throwaway sites for demos and testing.
- Temporary school projects that are most likely to disinterest you in at most a few months.
Bought domain names are recommended for:
- Community building websites that heavily rely on user-submitted content. If one of your users submits illegal or otherwise questionable content (of which you now happen to be the host), and if then somebody reports it by appropriate means, eventually reaching your domain's real owner, you risk getting your subdomain temporarily disabled and/or completely banned.
- Long-term projects that you hope to maintain for several years.
- Business ventures. There's a certain level of professionalism every reliable business needs to exhibit in order to sell.
Because of the above appealing conclusions, we use the terms like free domain and free short subdomain interchangeably throughout this website!
You get some advantages if you buy and pay for the domain name, and, on the other hand, unexpected, potentially dire consequences in some cases if you don't. If unsure, go get a free domain or a free subdomain name to kick-start your project, but if the site ever picks up sufficient steam, go spend that $10 and confidently redirect visitors to your new home.