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Primary Domains, Addon Domains and Subdomains Explained

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In this session, we explain the domain system for WordPress sites. We cover primary domains, addon domains, parked domains and subdomains. We show how one of our domains is set up in our hosting account with both addon and subdomains and the location of the WordPress installations.

Video Transcript

Member: When you set up the… you actually install WordPress on the front end and then you install Thesis, do you have to do that? Let’s say you have, just from an example, you have 5 domains in your Host Gator account. But you have one primary name or one primary domain that your account’s under, right? Okay so when you go to install, there’s that addon directory, your root directory…is that your… the name of your account?

Rick: The root directory is your primary account.

Member: Right. So then do you have to install like WordPress each time sort of where you would put your root directory and then if you’re going to install it on another domain, you have to put that on the addon section?

Rick: Yeah. It’s a little simpler than that. You know, if we start off with… if you just start off with your straight account you know, and that’s your account name and that’s your primary domain. And if you install WordPress on that primary domain, the WordPress installation goes inside the root. That’s how it works by default. Now it doesn’t have to work that way but that’s how it works by default.

Then you add a new domain, and to that same hosting account. And now you know, when you purchase that domain name, you have the choice of either making it an addon domain or a parked domain, right? It’s going to be one of the two. It can’t be both and it can’t be anything other than either parked domain or an addon domain.

And the practical difference between the two is that an addon domain gets a… once you make it an addon domain, Host Gator automatically creates a directory for it inside your root. And when you installed WordPress for, you would be installing WordPress inside that sub-directory.

So I’ll show you what mine looks like.

Member: Okay. I think I understand what you mean but I just want to make sure. I don’t like to have to undo stuff.

Rick: Yeah well…

Member: And I really like the idea of learning this FTP situation because like I said, I have sort of backed into this. I had somebody else do this part and then I took it from there.

Rick: So for example, right now we’re at my which is a… this is not hosted with… oh, isn’t that interesting? Yeah, okay. That’s right, it’s fine. is the domain name that I use for creating tutorial sites that then I refer to in a class. And so I have addon domains in there and then I have subdomains. And if you look at… over here on the right hand side is the contents of my public html for And so has a WordPress installation in it and that WordPress installation has the wp admin, wp content, and wp includes. And then it has a whole bunch of these subdomains or addon domains. And you can’t really tell the difference between an addon domain and a subdomain by looking at it from here because all that really is, is just a… it’s just a folder or a subdirectory inside of your public html directory. But for me, each one of these things represents either an addon domain or a subdomain and…

Member: Is there a difference?

Rick: Well yeah, subdomains don’t cost you anything so a subdomain would be, in this case, That’s a subdomain.

Member: Subdomain like a subdirectory? I mean, I’m just trying to get this terminology…

Rick: Well, you have… a subdomain… let’s see. Let’s… well, we’ll use the example of byobwebsite for a moment. BYOB Website is the primary domain, right? And as part of BYOB Website, I’ve created a couple of subdomains. And so one of those subdomains I showed you… just showed Jared a moment ago that I have Optimize Press installed on and that’s Okay, is a subdomain of BYOB Website. I didn’t have to pay for that. I just added it as a subdomain.

The same thing is true with my Facebook Fan Central stuff. I have a subdomain called and that’s actually where my fan central stuff resides. It’s actually on this little site that is created on this subdomain and then I have an app that imports the site into my Facebook page. But what this is is just a subdomain. It’s

Now on the other hand, I also have addon domains in the same hosting account. For example, is an addon domain and you know, it has its own subdirectory inside of But I actually, obviously, paid for this URL or I paid for the domain name. And this subdirectory or this addon domain has its own set of subdomains. For example… oh, let’s see… is a subdomain of And is an addon domain to my Actually, it’s really an addon domain to… well yeah, it is an addon domain to

Member: So I guess you might be able to say that in other words, you have your root domain which is the domain that your account…

Rick: Your primary domain, that’s what they call it. Primary domain.

Member: And then you… okay and then you have addon domains and then to either one of those, you could have the subdomains.

Rick: That’s right. And WordPress gets installed in each directory, for each one of those. The addon domain and the subdomain creates a directory and then you have to install WordPress in that subdirectory or in that directory.

Member: You just have to install WordPress once, correct?

Rick: No, once per subdomain, once per addon domain.

Member: Okay, that was my basic question. In other words, I lost that screen but you know, where you go in and you go in to… it’s at the beginning of the videos where you’re actually installing WordPress… alright and then it has your root directory or whatever and then it has addon domain. That’s where you install WordPress for each addon domain.

Rick: Yes.

Member: Okay.

Rick: And you install it…

Member: I got it.

Rick: And so my BYOB Website hosting account probably has 40 installations of WordPress in it. Maybe not that many but lots and lots and lots.

Member: And then do you install Thesis in each one of the addon domains?

Rick: Yes you do.

Member: Okay that was… it’s kind of confusing because I’ve never started at the very beginning, if that makes any sense.

Rick: No, it does make sense and I think it can be… because… and if you look in your File Manager, you can’t really tell the difference by looking at your File Manager between a subdomain and an addon domain. Because when you look at your File Manager, the file structure is exactly the same. Essentially both subdomains and addon domains, they all point to directories within your root directory. And there doesn’t appear to be any difference between them when you’re looking at it in your File Manager.

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