What is Domain Masking? Domain Masking In Plain English

If you’ve read the WHT article: What is DNS? DNS in Plain English, you know a little about DNS. You may have heard the term “Domain Masking” or “Shadowing” when you’ve bought a new domain.

What is Domain Masking?

Domain Masking is sometimes called a “pointer domain.” If we are to continue our example of a postal system mentioned in DNS in Plain English, is like having your mail sent to a P.O. Box. It’s not a physical address, and the “final” destination is another location entirely. You’re hiding the final address from the sender for whatever reason.

Domain Masking is usually offered by your domain registrar as a service. [How is this different from Domain Forwarding? Read Domain Forwarding in Plain English]

If you set up Domain Masking for a blogspot blog, for example, you might consider the following:

http://www.domainname.com is a Domain Mask for domainname.blogspot.com

When someone types in http://www.domainname.com, it’s really forwarding to domainname.blogspot.com without the address changing in the address bar (the part of your browser where you see the URL beginning with “http://…”. The user continues to see http://www.domainname.com in the address bar although the site and its contents are really from domainname.blogspot.com.

Why Use Domain Masking?

If you have an existing site that is being hosted free (like a blog from Blogger or WordPress.com) being able to give out a short URL or address may be a benefit to you. Also, if you’re not ready to pay for hosting, it’s a quick way to utilize your domain name.

Why Should I Think Twice about Domain Masking? Does it Matter?

It definitely matters to Google. If you will rely on search engines for any traffic, then you need to seriously consider if you need to use domain masking or if you can find another solution, such as Domain Forwarding or Switching Your Web Hosting.

Google doesn’t like duplicate content, and with Domain Masking, it sees two domains with the same exact content. What will happen? Google has not released their exact policy on Domain Masking but they make it clear that duplicate content will only get indexed once, and it may not the URL or domain that you prefer.

I Still Want to Use Domain Masking. What Do I Do?

Make sure you use 301 (Permanent) Redirects if given a choice by your domain management.

It may be possible to do this in the settings when you select Domain Masking, or it may require access to the administrative console of the server, so it’s possible that this will not be available to you.

Ready for More? More Resources on Domain Masking:

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3 replies »

  1. Hi Sara,

    Thank you for such an excellent resource! I have an online jewelry store, Amatyzt.com, and my ecommerce software will not allow me to host a WordPress.org blog there. I was really confused on how best to work around it and just wanted to be sure I am doing the right thing. Your blog made it easy for me to understand this whole thing!

    However, since you wrote this post, Google finally confirmed that there is no duplicate content penalty. I heard that if it is just one site redirecting to another, don’t worry about it. However, if you have several sites with the same content, then Google will get suspicious that you are being SPAMish.


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Director of Product Marketing @ HubSpot. Early hire @ Automattic / WordPress.com. Founder World Nutella Day. MBA Alumni Advisory Board @ Santa Clara University.

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