Understanding domains

A domain, or domain name, is the address (or URL) that people will use to visit your website on the internet. It appears in the address bar of your web browser (for example, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari).


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You can buy a custom domain name through Shopify or from any third-party domain registrar.

When you buy a domain, you can choose a root domain and create subdomains for your online store.

It's important that you're familiar with these terms before you get started:

Domain name

A domain name is the address that people use to visit your website on the internet. It appears in the address bar of your web browser and is linked to a specific IP address.

Other terms: domain

Domain provider

A domain provider is a company that will register your domain name for you. Typically, you purchase a domain on a subscription basis and you pay a regular fee to your domain provider to keep using your domain name.

Other terms: domain registrar, domain host

Primary domain

In Shopify, a primary domain is the domain name that customers see in the address bar while they browse your online store. You can use your root domain or a subdomain as your primary domain, but you can have only one primary domain.

Root domain

A root domain is the domain name that you purchase from your domain provider. It does not contain a prefix, such as www., but has a top-level domain (TLD) extension like .com, .org, or .net. An example of a root domain is shopify.com.

Other terms: base domain, top-level domain and second-level domain


A subdomain is a subset of your root domain that you see as a prefix to your root domain. For example, in the URL help.shopify.com, shopify.com is the root domain and help. is the subdomain. You can use subdomains to organize your website and make it easier for visitors to find the information that they're looking for.


A subdirectory is a section of your main website. It is defined by a / at the end of the domain name, for example, shopify.com/pricing, where /pricing is the subdirectory. A subdirectory is different from a subdomain because it is used mainly for organizing your website while a subdomain can take you to an entirely different website. An example of a subdirectory in your online store is /collections.

The domains glossary and FAQ are great reference points if you have problems.

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