Domain Forwarding With Masking – Does It Affect SEO?

If you have ever worked with a lead management marketing system, you may know that there are many options and you get your website complete with auto-responders, landing pages and contact management. They work with online marketing where your PPC and banner ads drive the audience to your landing pages to generate leads. But what about creating your own domain and directing it to your marketing system? This is also as easy as it sounds.

You can buy a domain for a few bucks and forward to your marketing system. This is where domain forwarding comes into the picture. It is a process that allows making multiple sites look like a single one. It is possible to register alternate extensions and misspellings and forward them to the primary website. However, the concern is whether it will cause any SEO problems for the new domain. In this article, we talk about domain forwarding with masking and its SEO effects.

Domain Forwarding with Masking – What It Is & How It Works?

Domain Forwarding is similar to redirect where a page takes the visitor to another website. But here, instead of using a script or HTML for redirection, the domain name itself redirects the user. When a domain is set to forward visitors to some other website, the domain name does not remain in the address bar of the browser, but the URL of the new page is displayed.

If you want to display the domain name which the user typed in the browser’s address bar and not the new domain name where you have forwarded them, you need to use domain forwarding with masking. When masking is activated, the visitors don’t realize they are being redirected to some different website, no matter where they are on the website.

Masking hides the URL that you are forwarding the visitor to. With a normal forwarding, the user sees the destination URL in the browser’s address bar once the redirect is completed. But with masking, the target domain is hidden from the user and the original domain is displayed, keeping the user unaware that he is redirected to some other site.

GoDaddy Forward With Masking – Getting Started

While domain forwarding lets you direct your visitors automatically to another website, masking blocks them from seeing the domain forward by keeping the old domain name in the browser’s URL bar. To use forwarding and masking for a domain on GoDaddy, it is essential to use the nameservers.

The masking uses iframes to put the destination site on a page for the domain. To be able to get the visitors to the domain with or without www prefix, the domain should be forwarded to use www. On GoDaddy, you will need to configure Forwarding in the DNS Management panel to forward from one domain to another. DNS, or Domain Name Services, is an internet layer which maps the domain name to the IP address of the server where the content originally resides.

Here are the steps for GoDaddy Forward with Masking:

  1. Go to the DNS Management page and scroll to the Forwarding section.
  2. Click Add next to the domain and enter the name of the domain.
  3. Select http:// or https:// under Forward to.
  4. Next, write the URL you want to forward the domain to.
  5. Select the Forward type – Permanent (301) redirects to the website you specify in the Forward To field using an HTTP Response ‘301 Moved Permanently’. Temporary (302) redirects to the site using a ‘302 Found’ HTTP Response.
  6. Select the Settings. Here you can select Forward Only which forwards the domain without masking or Forward with masking that prevents the forwarded domain URL from showing in the address bar, allowing you to enter meta tags in the fields like Title, Description and Keywords.
  7. Check the ‘Update my DNS Setting to Support this Change’ option to automatically update the nameservers to reflect the changes you made.
  8. Click Save and you are done.

Does Domain Masking Affect SEO?

Masking the domain poses a number of problems for SEO. Websites with masked domains are hosted on servers with completely different addresses, search engines will crawl on the servers and not on the domain that website managers want them to be crawled on. Search engines punish websites with masked URLs as the algorithms flag them for duplicate content.

This is because if you have two different websites with the same content, Google is not able to identify which one is correct and authoritative. It penalizes sites serving duplicate content. Apart from the penalty, domain masking has a negative outcome in the form of the potential to confuse Google and diluting the domain power that impacts SEO visibility negatively.

There are, however, a few tips that work for those who want to use domain masking without affecting the site’s SEO.

Google Domain Masking Rules

Through all these years, SEO experts have been working on some of the best practices that decide how to handle the redirection of URLs. Some of the old-school rules for domain masking include:

  • 301 redirects result in about 15 percent loss of PageRank as confirmed by Google in 2013.
  • 302 redirects don’t pass the PageRank as these forwards are temporary and search engines treat them differently.
  • HTTPs migrations lose PageRank as they involve a lot of 301 redirects.

These rules pose big challenges for those want to forward domains. The risk of losing traffic has kept a number of SEOs from forwarding domains. But over the past months, Google has worked to change these axioms. It announced last year that no PageRank is lost for 301 or 302 redirects from HTTP to HTTPS. Regardless of the redirection method used, Google will pass the PageRank as well as per an announcement made last year. While these changes are good, there are considerations when masking domain forwarding.

While Google does not penalize domain masking through PageRank loss, it should be noted that PageRank is only one of the numerous aspects Google considers to rank pages. Google treats redirecting to irrelevant pages illegal and penalizes with loss of link equity.