Launching a course platform or membership site is a significant project with long-term ramifications. Making the right choices early on will save significant time and resources as well as a lot of frustration in the future.

Should my course platform or membership site be on a subdomain instead of my primary domain name?

In most cases, a subdomain is preferred over a primary domain for course and membership websites. Determining which is better for your particular setup will depend on your technical skills, website hosting environment, and whether or not you anticipate making significant changes in the future. 

In this post I will provide you with the pros and cons of using a subdomain for your course and/or membership site platforms and ultimately why I choose one over the other.

The Pros and Cons of using a Subdomain for your Course or Membership Site

Pros:

  • Your membership site won't slow down your primary website
  • Experimenting and making changes won't impact your main sales/traffic site
  • You can use a completely different design and user experience on your membership site
  • Changing platforms or making major changes to your setup in the future is easier and won't impact your main website

Cons:

  • A subdomain is a second installation of WordPress to manage and maintain
  • Communicating data between your primary site and subdomain requires additional tools

Conclusion:

The benefits of using a subdomain greatly outweigh the drawbacks. Keep your primary website fast and focused only on driving traffic and sales. Let your subdomain be burdened by the bulky membership and course applications.

Communicating Data Between Subdomain and Primary Domain

If set up properly, very little information needs to be communicated between your primary domain and subdomain. 

  • User registration happens on your subdomain
  • Purchases happen on your subdomain (or if using ThriveCart, they happen off-site entirely and get looped in.)
  • Members log in to your subdomain site

Sending people to your subdomain is handled entirely by links. On my website, I have a link in the top right of my header for members to click if they didn't bookmark my site. Otherwise, the two sites are entirely separate.

How COULD you send data from one website to the other

If, for some reason, you had to send data between sites then I would recommend using Uncanny Automator. It's like Zapier for your WordPress website. Check it out.

Subdomains Improve Performance & Keep Things Running Smooth

I'm lumping several pros into this section because they're all related.

Membership sites and course sites use a LOT of resources on your server - particularly CPU. By setting up your subdomain as a separate WP install, you can host your membership site on a partitioned area of your server or at another host entirely. This keeps both your primary traffic / public site running fast, AND your membership site able to go its fullest.

Course sites and membership sites are far more dynamic than a blog or brochure site. As a result, they need different caching options/settings. You may end up disabling caching entirely on your course site if users experience issues when logging in and accessing courses. If your sites were one site, you'd significantly hinder your caching capabilities.

Change is inevitable. You may use Thrive Apprentice today, but something else in the future. You may move off of WordPress entirely. Keeping a subdomain allows you to change that domain easier because it's redirectable. If you worked it all off your primary domain, then that's much more difficult to change.

Conclusion: Subdomains are best for courses and memberships

Keep your sites running faster and specialized to do what they do best. Your public and primary domain is for generating traffic and sales; Your membership/course platform is for dynamic user accounts. Keeping them separate affords you the luxury of making changes in the future and testing features on your subdomain that you wouldn't want to interfere with your primary domain. 

  • The timing of coming across this post is massive. I’m in the process of setting up a new membership site for launch in August. Really good information to consider here. Thank you.

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