Can you mask a URL?

Can you mask a URL?

What is URL masking and what are the dangers for a website?

The process of hiding the real address of your site is called URL masking, or “link cloaking”. URL masking is not recommended by professionals because it can pose a number of issues, preventing a user from carrying out different actions or sharing content from a web page.

Masking a URL means that people visiting your domain will be forwarded to a new destination site, but your URL in the address bar will stay the same as it was. It loads your original content to a new destination without a visitor actually realising it.

Person completing URL masking.

So, how do you do it?

There are many ways to mask a URL. One of these ways is to embed an HTML frame in the main website, redirecting a user to a completely different site. Others include virtual hosting or rewriting a URL. Doing this masks the original URL displaying the masked version instead.

Let’s look at an example. If your original URL was www.urlmasking.com and you want a customer to be taken to your new site, URL masking is helpful here. It will take your user to the desired destination without showing them the new URL.

URL masking could also be helpful when running a blog on a free domain. Take sites like WordPress or Blogger. If a site owner isn’t ready for a paid web hosting plan, then they may mask a URL to show a new domain instead of a .wordpress or .blogger address.

Before you start, you might want to hear this…

URL masking is actually more of a negative practice than a positive. Having a masked URL can be problematic for several reasons and could actually hinder your efforts. It’s worth knowing the dangers and implications before you invest the time and effort into it.

First of all, your website visitors will not be able to see the true web address of the site they are visiting. This causes obvious problems such as the inability to bookmark a page for future reference or to share it externally on social platforms or blogs.

Creating content that people want to share is the main reason for doing it in the first place, right? Well, masking a URL will prevent people from sharing your content, meaning the only way they can find your content is to stumble across it after clicking on links after links.

A website’s search engine ranking may plummet too if you’re masking your URLs. Search engines can identify these new sites as duplicate content, which, as we all know, is a big thing to steer clear of when it comes to SEO. It can really affect your efforts badly.

If you’re found using duplicate content, how can a search engine work out which is the most authoritative content? The fact is, it can’t, meaning that your sites will be penalised and your search engine rankings will eventually be affected due to this. Not ideal!

Even though site owners usually have the best intentions for a masked URL, there is always the danger of it being used the wrong way. For example, URL masking can be used to take a user to a malicious site, or a site that is unreliable.

What can you do instead?

Instead of using a URL masking method to get the desired redirects, there are alternative steps you can take instead to grab the right results in a more ethical way. Some of these methods don’t necessarily redirect your site, but the results will still be relatively similar.

For starters, think about the additional information you require. Combining your content into a singular domain instead of masking your URL for multiple other sites could be the answer. However, you’ll have to leave your old sites behind with the optimisation you’ve already acquired.

You can own separate domains, creating unique content for both. Even though this may be a lot more time consuming, you’re eliminating the need to mask a URL, avoiding duplicate content. Keeping clear links to your additional site can prevent your sites from being penalised.

Another alternative is to set up a permanent 301 redirect. This is a way to send your users to a different URL from the original that they requested and it can also tell Google and other search engines where to find the desired content.

Redirection instead of URL masking is much more secure. It can pass up to 99% of link equity and is actually seen as the best method to use. Instead of masking, a 301 redirect tells a browser the specific URL or requested content location.

We use only the highest quality methods – no URL masking!

Knowing right from wrong where SEO is concerned can be a struggle. With so many different methods and so many constantly changing algorithms, the digital world can be one big whirlwind. Where on Earth do you start if you want to make a difference to your business’ success?

If you’re serious about using the best techniques to grow your business online, you need a dedicated SEO agency to give you a hand. You need a company who will treat your business like their own and that strive to bring you the very best digital marketing services around.

Bigfoot Digital is one of the UK’s leading digital marketing agencies. We pride ourselves on our varied skill set, meaning we have the capabilities in-house to provide professional, tailored SEO, social media and web development services to businesses both big and small, of any industry.

If you’d like to find out more information about our services or to ask a technical question about URL masking that you may not know the answer to, our experts in-house will be more than happy to shed some light and have a chat with you.

Give our friendly team a call today on 01226 720 755 or drop us an email with your enquiry to enquiries@bigfootdigital.co.uk. We can give our professional opinion and any pointers that we think will benefit you and your business. Business growth is closer than you think!