Different types of domain forwarding
There are several types of domain forwarding and it is good to know about limitations with each type before choosing your web hosting provider. We'll get to the good stuff soon enough, but first let's make sure you know what you need to avoid.
Let's start with the most basic type of domain forwarding - parked domains.
If you want your website to be accessible through more than one domain name, you can use domain parking. With parked domains you can simply have multiple domains all pointing to the same website.
When you use parked domains, you should make sure that web search engines know which one is the main domain and which are simply additional domain names. Otherwise the search engines can penalize you for having identical content on different domains - something which is often used to cheat the search engines.
You can do this by setting the server headers to 301, which tells the search engine spiders that this domain is only an alias. You should find this setting from your domain registrar or hosting provider - whichever you are using to redirect the domain. You can find a more detailed explanation here.
In order to avoid the same problems as with domain forwarding (see below), you might need to setup domain parking at your website hosting provider instead of your domain registrar.
The main limitation with parked domains is that all the domains are pointing to the same website. But what about if you want each domain pointing to it's own website? Then you need to use domain forwarding.
Simple domain forwarding (without masking)
Let's say you already have a website "www.1st.com" and you want to setup a new website using simple domain forwarding. You register "www.2nd.com" and forward or redirect it to a subfolder in your main website; like for example "www.1st.com/secondwebsite/". Now whenever someone goes to "www.2nd.com", they will infact be taken to "www.1st.com/secondwebsite/" where they will find your new website.
So far so good. But. Guess what it says on the web browser's address field when they arrive at the new website?
Right. It says "www.1st.com/secondwebsite/index.htm" not "www.2nd.com". Oops. If this does not bother you, then by all means use simple domain forwarding. You can even do it without involving your hosting provider at all. Many domain registrars offer free domain forwarding. At least www.GoDaddy.com
But if this does bother you, like it most often does, then what? The next (bad) solution is to use domain forwarding with masking.
Domain forwarding with masking
Masking is a method of "tricking" the web browser to show "www.2nd.com" in the address field even though the page actually is located at another domain. This is usually achieved by using frames. Your domain registrar or website hosting provider will build a frameset which only includes one frame - the content of which is your webpage.
The webbrowser will indeed show your domain address as you intended, but if you are expecting to get visitors from search engines, this approach can cause problems. Many search engines don't like sites using frames. One of the problems in this particular case is that your webpage (frameset) is located on one domain and the content of that webpage on another. Now what should the search engine think about all this? Should it direct people to the frameset or the "real" page? Optimizing framed sites with search engines is tricky even for SEO specialists. I've heard that if you are hoping to get visitors from search engines, it is a good idea to avoid using frames alltogether (unless you really know what you are doing).
Now that you know what you don't want, it is time to see how everything works when multiple domains are set up properly...
Next page: Addon domains
Popular Web hosting providers
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