Tightwad Marketing

Domain name forwarding: tips and tricks

John Kuraoka, a project of www.kuraoka.com

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Domain name forwarding (or, as it’s sometimes called, URL forwarding) can be a way to use your own domain name with free webspace provided by your ISP. It can also be a way to have several domain names pointing to the same website. However, there are a few things you need to be aware of.

There are two kinds of URL forwarding: redirected and cloaked. With a redirected forward, you can see the actual URL in the browser window. With a masked or cloaked URL forwarding, the name in the browser window remains whatever it was that was entered. As an example, click on this link: www.cheapskatemarketing.com. Look at the website address in the new browser window. You’ll see “www.cheapskatemarketing.com/ something,” almost as if I were actually paying for web hosting. It is, of course, this same site, in the same webspace.

Particularly when using a free webhost, your actual URL may be a long, convoluted string of codes and characters. A separately registered and forwarded domain name may be shorter and more memorable than the actual webspace URL. That makes it easier to communicate, and much easier to promote offline.

The benefit to URL forwarding, from a tightwad’s perspective, is that you can use your ISP-provided webspace in conjunction with your own domain name. You get many of the benefits of having a website host, while paying only for the domain name registration and forwarding (which is often included free). You can learn more about cheap web registrars, free and cheap website hosts, and website management tools in the review section of this website.

There are seven potentially deadly problems with using URL forwarding. First, URL forwarding is not compatible with some browsers. If someone has an older browser, or has disabled the JavaScript on his or her browser (and some “safe surfing” programs do this automatically), then all that person will see is a blank screen. Most URL forwarding programs require JavaScript to work.

Second, if you mask or cloak the URL forwarding, then your website’s metatags (such as keywords, contents, and site description) will also be masked. A search engine won’t be able to read them - and that basically takes your website out of the search engines. In fact, most search engines won’t let you submit a URL that is forwarded to another URL whether masked or not.

Third, if you use redirect and submit your website to search engines, you’ll have to use your actual webspace URL instead of your spiffy dot-com domain name. Everyone will be able to tell that you’re not a “real” dot-com. Is that an issue? Maybe, maybe not; it depends on your business. For example, it hasn’t hurt this site’s credibility.

Fourth, and related to the point above, if your website gets into search engines and directories under its webspace URL (as opposed to the domain name you’re forwarding), then it may become hard to move. Why? Because if you move your website to a different host, all the search engines and directories will still be pointing to the webspace URL as opposed to the domain name server. All the work you did to get into the directories and search engines will be lost, and it could take months to correct your directory listings and get your search engine ranking back to its pre-move level. This is probably the single strongest argument against having your website’s primary domain name be one that is forwarded.

Fifth, with URL forwarding you are dependent on two separate services working properly in order for someone to get to your website: the URL forwarding service and your website host. That means less control over site reliability.

Sixth, the free host that you are forwarding to may place banners on your website, limit your website capabilities, claim rights to material you upload to your webspace, or even stop offering free webspace. This may be another deal-killer for you. Read the fine print carefully and review it periodically, especially if you will be uploading original creations such as poetry, photographs, or art.

Seventh, some unscrupulous “search engine optimization experts” use domain name forwarding to increase a website’s search engine ranking. They do this by creating a lot of keyword-loaded index pages, each targeting a specific search phrase and each with its own domain name, but all forwarding to the same website. This is a dirty, low-down trick, and if it works at all (which, any more, it probably won’t), it won’t provide lasting results. It could even get your website banned. If this is what you’re thinking of doing, I have just one word of advice for you: don’t! However, this practice has lead to further restrictions on forwarded URLs by ISPs, search engines, and directories.

All of which is why my actual business website is hosted at a cost of about $25/month. It gives me more space than I can use, tech support that when I’ve needed I’ve needed urgently, compatibility with all search engines and browsers, 100% ownership, and 99.99% reliability. And, with the recent demise of CompuServe, the Tightwad Marketing site is now hosted on its own server at a cost of about $10 a month.

So, with all that, why use domain name forwarding at all? Well, it’s a low-cost way to buy common misspellings or variations of your domain name, and have them forwarded to your website. And, domain name forwarding can be a useful tool for shoestring budgets: you set up your website on free webspace, and have your spiffy dot-com domain name forwarded to it.

Domain name forwarding can be a useful tool. But, be aware of the catches. Sometimes, it pays to pay for a website host; sometimes it doesn’t. Armed with this information, you can make the call for your situation. Information - that’s the #1 tool in Tightwad Marketing.
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