Domain Masking involves hiding the actual domain name of a website from URL field from user’s web browser in favour of another name. Domain masking is also commonly referred to as URL masking. Hosting providers also refer to domain masking as domain/web forwarding.

When should you adopt domain masking?

If you have a domain name or URL which is difficult to spell or not easy to remember for the end user then domain masking will be a suitable option. Let say for example you have created a micro-site to promote a report which you have developed for your target audience and the URL is too lengthy for example:

http://www.yourwebsite.com/resources/reports/campaign/index.html

Instead, you can purchase a domain https://www.yourreport.com/index.html and use domain masking to show the user the new domain name instead of the lengthy URL.

Alternately URL masking could also be used to replace lengthy URLs with easier ones. For example, you own an e-commerce site which creates a lengthy URL for products listed.

http://www.youbuy.com/buy/abc-brand-keyboard-700-with-mouse-combo-special.html

You can create rewrite rules on server level to make sure URLs are SEO friendly or use URL rewriting to achieve the below result.

http://www.youbuy.com/abcbrand-keyboard-700.html

 How do you implement domain masking?

There are multiple methods to implement domain masking. The most popular one in the list is to use HTML inline frame or frameset. In this technique, a frame is embedded in the main website to point it to some other website. Here is how it works.

<html>
<head>
<title>Page Title</title>
<meta name="description" content="Description">
<meta name="keywords" content="Keyword1, Keyword2">
</head>
<frameset rows="100%,0" border="0">
<frame src="http://yourotherwebsite.com" frameborder="0">
<frame frameborder="0">
</frameset>
</html>

Another recommended method is using URL rewriting or aliases to have the web server serve the same page for two different domain names. Depending on which software your server is running on you can configure URL rewriting modules. Apache comes with built-in URL rewriting module (mod_rewrite). With mod_rewrite enabled URL rewriting requires you to simply upload correctly formatted and named text files.

If you are using IIS, Microsoft’s Server Software you can use iSAPirewrite which has very similar capabilities like mod_rewrite.

To understand how URL rewriting works you can check the comprehensive guide published by Apache here.

Domain masking can also be facilitated using DNS settings on your hosting provider. To redirect the domain you need to select your domain name and set a (masked) 301 redirect which hides the actual domain name from the address on the user’s browser.

Does domain masking impact SEO?

Domain masking can impact SEO adversely if not done right. For example, if you have multiple domains let’s say http://www.yourwebsite.com & http://www.yourotherwebsite.com showing the same content. Then Google with treat it as a case of duplicate content which could ultimately affect your ranking.

When you are using domain masking it’s important to use canonical tags to convey to the google crawler that only one site is supposed to be crawled and indexed and rest are duplicate sites.

Set canonical preference on both domains:

http://www.yourwebsite.com

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.yourwebsite.com”/>

http://www.yourotherwebsite.com

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.yourwebsite.com”/>

Although URL masking can be very effective for marketing but it disrupts the navigation of the user hence it should be implemented only when deemed necessary.