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I am putting together a site for a portal. Some of the subdomains have rather long names and I am thinking that maybe I should use hyphens to make the subdomain names more readable.

For instance: alternative-medicine.mysite.com instead of alternativemedicine.mysite.com.

However, I can't recall ever seeing a hyphenated subdomain - is this because it is generally frowned upon? Or are there technical (SEO) reasons why this appears to be the case?

In short, will hyphenating my subdomains have a negative impact on SEO?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Hyphens in subdomains are just as acceptable as hyphens in domain names.

One suggested drawback to hyphens in domain names is that having too many (with "too many" being more then two) it will cause your site to be put in the sandbox or face some other kind of penalty for "looking spammy". There is no definitve information on this (that I know of) so whether it is true or not is up tp you to decide. In your example I would say you have nothing to worry about.

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2  
+1 They're also just a bit of a pain to type and tell people about if you're speaking the domain to them. –  Su' Nov 21 '11 at 18:05

As John said, there is nothing unacceptable about hyphens in subdomains although there are potential negative drawbacks from "excessive" hyphen usage.

However I wanted to advise against using hyphens as a solution to making "rather long names" more readable. I think adding a hyphen is just contributing to the overall problem of the URL being very long already, which makes it harder to remember, harder to type, etc. This is especially the case with subdomains because you already have a domain taking up URL characters. I recommend searching for an abbreviated subdomain if at all possible. For instance, in the example above, you could use altmed.mysite.com.

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I'd agree with that. The ISP I chose has a hyphenated domain and it can be a pain spelling out my e-mail for people. –  ChrisF Nov 21 '11 at 17:28
    
I think it depends. Some domains should have used a hyphen. (ahem looking at you nycanal.com, webone.com, therapistfinder.com and penisland.net…) –  ghoppe Nov 22 '11 at 1:46
    
@ghoppe also a good point. Don't forget about msexchange.org! –  joshuahedlund Nov 22 '11 at 13:57

SEOmoz ranking database analysis have correlated hyphens in domains as negative factor. Keyword match is good for search engines, short an memorable is good for user experience. I would recommend using prefixes or sufixes. Altmedicine or alternativemed could work.

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A subdomain is a domain part of a larger domain. It's connecting it to the "source" domain that makes it a sub-domain. There's nothing wrong with having www.example-site.com or www.exa-mple.site.com. I truly just wouldn't do this: www.example-example-site.com. That one, I'd avoid.

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