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How do I set up a custom subdomain?

What is a subdomain?

A subdomain allows you to make a new subsection of your top-level domain name. Subdomains are often used for sub-sections of a website or to brand the URL of a website property outside of your primary website. As an example, if you website URL is “yourwebsite.com” you might create a blog with the subdomain “blog.yourwebsite.com”. Or your Marketing Automation Landing pages might be located at URLs with the subdomain lp.yourwebsite.com.


Why should I use a Custom Subdomain With PathFactory?

By default (assuming you’re not using a custom subdomain), your Content track and Explore Page URLs will start with “yourcompanyname.pathfactory.com”. When you configure your custom subdomain with PathFactory, it will appear as “<>.yourcompanyname.com”. By dropping “pathfactory” from your track URL, you are able to provide seamless URL branding for your audience, greater trust that they are on one of your properties.

Common vanity words used are “resources”, “explore”, or “paths”.

Moreover, if you are a Marketo customer, and wish to use our API integration you must have a custom subdomain set-up with PathFactory. This is a requirement for the Marketo API integration to work successfully in PathFactory. For more information see the dedicated article on the Marketo API integration.


Does having a Custom Subdomain Impact my SEO?

For an overview of how PathFactory supports your SEO strategy, see How does using PathFactory affect my SEO?. In particular, using PathFactory does not negatively affect your SEO, and having a subdomain with a descriptive keyword like “resources” can support your SEO strategy.


Is it better to have a Custom Subdomain, or to have a Reverse Proxy Setup?

PathFactory can support a reverse proxy configuration whereby we utilize a subdirectory on your top-level domain. For example “yourcompanyname.com/resources”. For more information on this configuration please reach out ot your PathFactory CSM or SA.

To answer whether a custom subdomain or a reverse proxy is better, it really depends on your strategy and the way that your website is structured; there is no fundamental advantage in using one over the other. If you’re wondering how this would impact your SEO, there are many ideas, theories and explanations of the benefits and drawbacks to either approach. For more information we recommend watching this video.


Who is involved in the subdomain setup process, and how long does it take?

In order to set up your custom subdomain, we will need to work with whoever owns the domain at your company; usually someone from your IT or web teams. Generally, the process takes around 3 business days, but we have occasionally been able to do it faster if you have an urgent need for it.

If the domain owner from your team is unclear about any steps in the process, we are always able to set up a call with them to go over the steps and send over any documentation to help them understand the process.


My subdomain is due to expire, what do I do?

If your domain were to expire, all of your target tracks would go offline until the domain is renewed. If your domain is set to expire, please have your domain owner send us the CSR file and private key so that we can generate the CNAME and send it back to your team. Once they update the CNAME, the domain will be renewed for another year. We can also set up the subdomain with you in such a way that the domain is automatically renewed each year; these steps are covered further in this article.


Who should I contact to create a custom subdomain?

If you are a new client to PathFactory and are in the implementation process, please reach out to your Implementation Specialist. Otherwise, you can reach out directly to our Support team (support@pathfactory.com) or your Client Success Manager.


Subdomain Setup Options

Please share this information with your IT team to see which would work best for you. Once you’ve selected the option, we can begin the process.

We recommend creating your subdomain through the DNS Validation method – there is less back-and-forth between our team and your domain owner, and it auto-renews each year, so once it’s complete, we won’t have to do it again!

  1. You provide us with the subdomain vanity name that you want to use in PathFactory – eg: explore.smardesk.ai, content.smartdesk.ai, resources.smartdesk.ai, etc. Be as creative as you’d want!

  2. PathFactory will provide a configuration file. Your web dev team can add it to your DNS record so we can complete the certificate validation process.

  3. You will have to let us know once that has been completed. We will then provide you with the CNAME record that your team will add. At that point, you can confirm with us once it has been added and we can conclude the setup on our end.

If the DNS validation method is not possible, we have two other methods with which we can create the custom subdomain.

Email Validation

With email validation, we can create the CSR file for you and host the SSL certificate on your behalf. Please note that with this method, you will have control over the certificate renewal; please take note of the expiration date of the certificate ahead of time so you can send the approval request to us via email. It’s important to note, your PathFactory pages will give an Internal Server Error if the SSL certificate is not renewed prior to the expiration.

  1. Since the email notification method is handled by our Amazon AWS account, we have no control over it. Before beginning this process, please check with your domain owner if this is possible for your domain, as only the below set of email IDs will receive the validation email:

    administrator@your_domain_name,
    hostmaster@your_domain_name,
    postmaster@your_domain_name,
    webmaster@your_domain_name,
    admin@your_domain_name

  2. Confirm your chosen subdomain vanity name with us (e.g. explore.smardesk.ai, content.smartdesk.ai, resources.smartdesk.ai) as well as the best email address (see the list of emails in Step 1) to use for sending the Validation Request. Once we install the certificate, you will receive the validation email.

  3. Once the email has been sent, please have your domain owner confirm the email. The token in the email expires after 48 hours, and will have to be re-sent if the token is selected outside the 48 hour window.

  4. When you have confirmed the email, please let us know, so that we can enable the subdomain on our end.
     

CSR Validation

This is the method we originally always used with our clients to create a subdomain, but it is no longer preferred because the subdomain will have to be renewed with us each year (unlike the DNS Validation method described above).

  1. You send us the vanity name for the subdomain (e.g. explore.smardesk.ai, content.smartdesk.ai, resources.smartdesk.ai) as well as answers to the following questions;
    1. Country name (Two-letter abbreviation)
    2. State or Province (Full name of state)
    3. Locality name (City name)
    4. Organization Name (Full legal name of your company)
    5. Organizational Unit (Additional company information)
    6. Common Name (Fully qualified domain name you need to secure)
    7. Email address (Server administrator’s email address)
  2. With your answers, we generate a CSR file in .pem format.
  3. We send you the CSR file, and you use the file to generate the certificate and chain files
  4. You send us back the certificate and chain files, with which we generate the CNAME
  5. We send you the CNAME, you point it to the custom subdomain. Let us know when you have it pointing to the subdomain, and we’ll finalize configuring the subdomain for you!
     

Updated on July 10, 2022

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