CNAME, URL Forwarding & Frame Forwarding: Which is best?

Best way to redirect domain namesMany of our customers buy multiple domain names for the same website. For instance many businesses like to have the .co.uk, .com and other variations of their domain name. This is useful if customers are manually typing your website address in and get it wrong, but it is also useful in stopping other people getting these domain names and using them to spam your customers. Another reason people often want multiple domain names pointing at the same website is because they have taken over a business or project with an existing website and want to forward the traffic from that site to their own. There are a variety of ways to do the forwarding process but the most common are altering CNAME records, URL Forwarding and Frame Forwarding.

CNAME

CNAME or canonical changes are done at the DNS level. When you try to visit a website, e.g. www.website1.com what you are actually trying to do is look at some files held on a server with an IP address like 192.168.12.24. The DNS system keeps a list of domain names and IP addresses and uses this to point people to the correct servers. A CNAME change is made at this level. So that the DNS system knows that a request to visit www.website1.com should actually redirect peoples to www.website2.com which is held on server 192.168.12.12.

URL Forwarding

URL forwarding, or URL redirecting, is when a request to visiting www.website1.com is handled by the visitor briefly visiting www.website1.com before being forwarded onto www.website2.com. This is normally done through the hosting platform the website sits on. Unlike the CNAME option the two domains (websites) keep separate DNS records. There are a number of different types of URL redirects. They are normally classed using different codes starting with a 3. The most common one is a 301 and this is the one which search engines like Google recommend that you use. It tells anyone who looks, including the search engines, that the page they are looking for has permanently moved elsewhere. They then know where to look for it in the future.

Frame Forwarding

URL redirects simply move the visitor from one site to another. Frame Forwarding is a little more sophisticated. What it does it show the visitor a page from website A while the address bar tells them that they are looking at website B. It redirects the content of the page rather than redirecting the visitor. This helps to maintain the illusion of having two different sites rather than 1 site with 1 lot of content.

Which one is best?

All three methods essentially bring about the same result, that a visitor can go to one site but be shown the content of another. One major concern when doing this kind of thing is SEO. Basically how it will impact on the search engine rankings of the websites involved. For this reason 301 redirects are seen as the best option. A 301 allows any positive search engine ranking from one site to be passed to the other. With a CNAME no benefit is passed on and with Frame Forwarding there can be a negative impact because you are presenting duplicate content on different domains.

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