Why Did I Turn OFF Domain Name Masking?

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Last week, I forwarded and masked a new domain (that I had created to match my Twitter name KeepUpWeb) to this website.  Yesterday, I went back to my GoDaddy domain manager and took the “masking” off. This means that if someone keys the URL www.KeepUpWeb.com into their browser address bar, after they’re redirected here, the URL www.KeepUpWithTheWeb.com will appear as the address. Why did I change my mind?

Well, for starters, when I was reading my blog posts with my domain name masked, the title of my articles did not appear in my browser address bar. That’s a problem because I couldn’t tell at a glance which of my posts I was reading. I take care selecting the title for each of my posts and I make sure that they contain the keywords that reflect the content. I didn’t want to lose an opportunity to display those keywords. I also didn’t want to risk confusing my visitors by not providing one more signpost of where they were on my site.

Another bigger issue that I should have considered is how “masking” affects my ranking by the search engines. How well my site ranks in the search engines determines whether or not it will be returned in the results page of an Internet search and even if it will be returned at all. If my sites don’t rank well, I’ll get fewer visitors “organically”.

After some research, I realized that masking my redirected domain name creates the perception of duplicate content. Search engines like Google hate duplicate content.

By masking one of my domain names, Google and the other search engines saw the two different addresses, http://keepupwiththeweb.com and http://www.keepupweb.com as two different sites with identical content. If I had left it that way, the search engines could simply pick just one of my two domain names to index – which would result in my losing the traffic to the other domain name in my rankings. They could also penalize me in other ways.

Who knows exactly what would happen? I certainly don’t know. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a science in itself. It seems every time the SEO experts figure out how to rank well in the search engines, the algorithms change or some other new logic is introduced.

So to recap:

  • Forwarding my domain name keepupweb.com to keepupwiththeweb.com – good idea.
  • Masking my domain name keepupweb.com – bad idea.

Comments? Experiences to share? I’d love to hear from you. As for more info and thoughts on SEO and SERP (Search Engine Result Pages) – look for more articles from me in the future.

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Published by Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

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25 Comments

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    1. Hi Dale,

      Thanks for the suggestion that masking a domain name isn’t so bad if you use a “canonical” tag. I’ll have to check that out.

      BTW – I apologize for not reply to your comment earlier. (I realized that you commented last summer!) Every once in a while, a comment just eludes me.

  1. I recently came across my towns website to find that it uses a masked domain. I was thinking to myself why would they do this and did a little research and it seems that like the company who did it is masking that it is set up as a sub domain. I think that the search engines are increasingly looking at this like “what are they trying to hide” as opposed to it being duplicate content.

    1. Matt,
      That sounds very confusing. Wouldn’t a simple 301 redirect be what they’re looking for?

      Thanks for dropping by. I readin your Facebook post that you have a lot going on this year. Good for you! It looks like BNI is working well for you too. We should catch up.

  2. Domain masking should only really be used by people who haven’t bought web hosting for their domain, like people forwarding their domain to a free web hosting service like WordPress or Blogger. But lets face it, web hosting is pretty cheap these days. If you’re gonna do a website, you might as well do it properly. Don’t mask cause it will screw up your SEO and haunt you in the long run.

    1. Lennon,
      Do you know of any good reasons why someone would mask a domain name? In the case where I have 2 domain names and 1 site, I always use a 301 redirect. For example, I’ve branded KeepUpWeb as my user ID and I have the domain name KeepUpWeb.com redirected here with a 301.

  3. Pingback: Subdomains, Subdirectories, Redirects, Subpages, and Parked Domains - Inbound Market Pro
  4. Hi Sherryl,
    Thank you so much for this article. I too made the mistake of “masking” and in only 2 weeks I lost my number one page rank on Google. 🙁

    My question is: now that I know it’s bad, and now that I have UN-masked the domains will I ever get back to page 1 again? Maybe? Hopefully? :S

    Thanks so much for any feedback ANYONE can provide!
    Very best wishes,
    Suzanne

    1. Hi Suzanne,
      It’s just a thought but have you tried resubmitting your XML sitemap using Google Webmaster Tools and submitting it to be reindexed. (I believe it’s under “fetch” if I remember correctly.)

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience with us Saksham. It’s always good to hear from someone who has personally experienced something like this. Using the permanent 301 redirect without masking is definitely the way to go.

  5. I understand you Sherryl,
    It would be very difficult to handle this type of situation where you’ll be risking your ranking and it would be harder for people to find your longer domain name site.
    All of this happened because Twitter only allows 15 character limit which made you a different site to link your twitter name and main site.

    1. Using the 301 redirect and editing my .htaccess file was the solution. Other people have let me know that they liked my idea to reserve my twitter ID as a domain name and have done the same thing.

      1. I tried to visit the short URL website of yours and Yes it’s working well and redirects to this site.. Very nice! 🙂

  6. Hi Sherryl! Glad you didn’t close the comments for this because the article not only provides a good explanation about domain masking vs redirection, it has potential for “evergreen-ness.” It’s not a topic you see much about, but when the questions start up, you’ll pop up. 🙂

    It would be nice if you found a way for it to show up more often amongst your other articles. Two things I actually use for this is my CommentLuv signature (when replying on my own site) (yep!) and a related posts plugin (I like Yet Another Related Post Plugin). Lots of ways to doi it if you think it’s a good idea.

    I wrote some articles about evergreen content. I’d like to add your post as another example.

    Happy Holidays!

    1. Thanks for the suggestions Vernessa. For some reason, when I use the CommentLuv link on my replies, I can only choose from my most recent post. It doesn’t give me a list to choose from. Do you have any idea why? It’s really something I should try to figure out but I honestly haven’t researched it.

      1. Since you’re already a ComLuv member, the only thing I can think to tell you to try first is the “UnBan” feature found on the ComLuv site. That’s just in case it somehow cached a funky rendition of your feed.

        Now a second idea comes to mind: Log into your FeedBurner account and get FeedBurner to rescan your feed. Don’t just ping it; there’s an option under the troubleshooting tab that nukes the old feed and re-does it altogether. Then ping your feed from within Feedburner (and ping it using whatever other service you use).

        Let me know if you don’t find the exact option in FB and I’ll look deeper to give better instructions. Hope this helps.

        1. Thanks for your suggestions with my CommentLuv issue. I tried your suggestions but I still can only access my most recent ComLuv link. If you think of anything else that I can try, that would be great but I think it’s just one of those funky computer glitches that you learn to live with. 🙂

          You also mentioned the related post plugin. I do use one. I think I may still have a few stray posts around that aren’t related to others though.

  7. Sherryl,

    Actually, masking uses a frameset (which is why your titles aren’t showing properly), which you should never use. Forwarding is fine as long as you use a 301, not a 302.

    1. Jeremy, I’m not using masking after all. I was concerned that it would give the perception of duplicate content and I turned it off almost immediately.

      Could you please tell me where my titles aren’t showing properly? I’ve viewed this blog in both IE and FF and it looks fine. Thanks for the input. I certainly don’t want problems viewing my site if I can help it.

  8. Great article Sherryl. Duplicate content can kill the placement of a website. The main reason to use domain masking would be if you have a sub domain in a website that you decide needs its own domain name. You wouldn’t need to buy a whole new hosting account for the masked content and save a few bucks. I would only mask a domain for a short term promotion that will run a fixed time and a full website might not be needed for.

    1. Thanks Matt. That’s a good point about using a sub-domain for a short term promotion and then masking it. I’ve used that strategy for landing pages where I’ve wanted to segment my market for a targeted pay-per-click campaign.

  9. Thanks Sherryl, I had ben just wondering if I should keep my old domain and forward….now my decision is made