Why Forward and Mask a Domain Name

Posted on 23 January 2009   

Last week I learned how to forward and mask a domain name. I am extremely excited about this because it is such a powerful and underrated tool. This simple technique can make you hundreds if not thousands every single month. In just one week I have already made a few hundred dollars from this technique.

First let me give you the definitions of domain forwarding and masking.
Forwarding redirects visitors to another website when they go to the typed in URL.
Masking prevents the forwarded URL from displaying in the browser’s address bar.

Two weeks ago I was talking to a friend and he was telling me how he was not pleased with his hosting provider, he asked who was I using. I gladly told him Host Gator which hosts a dozen or so of my sites and am very pleased with. Making money online is my business, why not make an affiliate commission from my buddy signing up. Unfortunately at the time I did not have a domain forwarded, instead I had to say, “Do me a favor, go to my website and click on the Host Gator banner. If this isn’t the obvious I’m going to make money on your purchase I don’t know what is.” Being my friend he did it and signed up.

Now let’s say I was not talking to a friend and they wanted advice on hosting or any product for that matter, they may not have been as willing to go through my site. They may ask for the direct address. Am I to deny them the address? Wouldn’t it be great to say sure, go to eSiteHost.com for your hosting needs. Not only is this great on the phone but emails, print or even out in public. Maybe you are at a networking event where you know they always ask what do you do. You explain you have a few websites and make money online. They may follow up with questions about hosting and so forth. Here is your chance to say visit eSiteHost.com, that’s who I use. Now let’s say they like the service and now start to refer their associates to the site address because for all they know the address is what you told them. That is the power of masking; they believe they are getting service from the given domain name.

Getting back to my buddy, he develops websites for some of his church members. Because I’ve had this conversation with him he now directs his customers to eSiteHost.com for hosting and he will setup the site.

The psychology of some buyers…
They hate knowing you are making money on them. They not only think your advice is given just so you can make money but they may also assume because you are making money they can get a better price by going direct.

Watch the video for a quick tutorial on how to forward and mask your domain names. You may have to turn up the volume on your speakers.

Check it out for yourself, eSiteHost.com.

Update
One thing to add, not all affiliate companies allow for domain forward and masking. Make sure to read the terms of service (TOS) for each company you are dealing with.

  1. Masking is very powerful and useful. I have never used it myself before but might if I have a few domains that I don’t plan on developing. Nice job, post, and video!

  2. Kevin M. says:

    As I read your post, it seems you are suggesting sending your ‘referrals’ to HostGator, but giving them your domain name which is ‘forwarded or masked’ to HostGator, thereby somewhat ‘branding’ your domain as a/the hosting site. Why not just tell them to go to HostGator.com directly?!!? I’m not sure how, or if, you are making any money this way, as masked domains don’t reference ones’ affiliate codes, so it seems all you’re doing this way, is sending HostGator traffic and customers per your domain, and getting ‘the big donut’ for doing so. Unless you’re an HostGator principle/investor!! If I’m missing something and you are making money and/or getting credit for the traffic you’re sending them, well more power to you, and please, if you would, share with us how it’s done by just masking a domain name.

    • Chef Patrick says:

      Sorry I thought my video gave details about your question, if it was not clear I apologize.

      Basically you are taking your affiliate link attaching it to a domain name you already own and then masking it. So yes, I get credit for every sale that is referred by using eSiteHost.com. People using the site address just don’t see the affiliate link, it is there just behind the scene.

      • Kevin M. says:

        Thanks. I did figure it out after my post. Didn’t realize you could put your affliate code in that way. Learn something new every day. ;-)

    • Kevin,

      I haven’t wateched the video, but presumably his redirect is pointing to something like hostgator.com/affiliateid=chefpatrick, in which case he would receive commission for that sale. People do it all the time.

  3. Barry Goggin says:

    Hi Patrick.
    This is also called cloaking. You are using a full page frame to display another website. This is technique with a nasty history for phishing.

    If you do a search, I think you can find better techniques than this and avoid any potential penalties.

    Hiding affiliate links has ethical and trust issues associated with it so its always a judgment call whether you want to trick your visitors or not.

    Matt Cutts recommends putting text on the page noting that the links are affiliate links

    • Chef Patrick says:

      Personally I see nothing wrong with this. I don’t know what trust and ethical issue there possibly can be with hiding an affiliate code or not giving that address.

      This is an extremely powerful tool. When you are away from the computer there is no way to remember a 60+ character affiliate address. Using a domain forward with masking just allows you to have a short address. Now, you do not need to mask the affiliate code. This way if someone types in eSiteHost.com it will redirect to the Host Gator affiliate code, visible for everyone.

      • @Chef

        I agree with @Barry on this. It’s a shady technique that the public and SE’s frown upon.

        Likely, your domain will get banned from google for dupe content too. I see you have a couple pages showing in google with your old content for the site right now, but once google see’s the new content, they will likely de-list you.

        Some better techniques include:

        1. Make a /hosting page on your blog, put some useful content on it, and list your hosting affiliates on it. Then tell your friends/clients to go there for your hosting resources – they get useful content and if they like it, they click your links. When you link to your hosting resources on your /hosting page, use a URL structure like /go/hosting and use a script that 302 redirects the visitor to your hosting affiliate. For the /go you could use anything you want of course, /deals /specials etc, you get the idea.

        2. If you don’t want to make a /hosting resources page, then stick a 302 redirect script in your /hosting directory that send the visitor straight to your hosting affiliate with your affiliate code.

        With these methods, your visitors see the URL as /hosting and don’t see any affilate codes on the URL so they’re not turned off to use it.

        - Richard

        PS. You should use the same /go and script technique for your 125×125 banners too!

  4. Barry Goggin says:

    Patrick,

    I didn’t mean to imply that you would do anything shady. I just meant that the technique has had a bad association with phishing in the past and can look like a spam signal.

    You can do the same thing with a server side redirect to a simple url without a full frame redirect and the bonus is that you dont need another domain name. so it could be chefpatrick.com/hostgator for instance. The other bonus is that you have promoted your blog as well without losing the customer totally to the affiliate.

    Sorry about the misunderstanding.

  5. RKB says:

    So which technique is better out of these two and which one is easier to implement?

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Barry Goggin says:

    RKB,

    Both are easy to implement. I have my bias to server side redirect. Patrick gave a great tutorial on how to do the full frame redirect.

    Server side works by adding a line into the .htaccess file in the website root directory.

    Redirect 302 /affiliate http://www.example.com/affiliateID

    Then you change your affiliate link on your webpage to http://www.mywebsite.com/affiliate

    When they click on the link, it goes to the affiliate page using the affiliate ID so u get paid.

    I recommend you block bots from following the link.

    Of course substitute affiliate for the name of the affiliate company or whatever you want. Substitute the affiliateID with the referral link given to you by the affiliate.

    Hope that helps

  7. BullS says:

    Why don’t you just be a reseller?

    More money rolling in.

    • Chef Patrick says:

      Reseller account is good but I’d rather make my $50-$125 per account setup and walk away. Plus this is just an example, it’s not really meant to be about hostgator.

  8. dndot.com says:

    Good info there! I redirected some of my domains and know about masking but I never looked at domain masking in this way!

  9. EarnBig says:

    Just thought I would mention that VentureNames.com has this facility as standard, you can forward/redirect any domain with an affiliate link. I have many domains parked there that are forwarded to ClickBank and other affiliate sites – it’s a great way to make additional rev over banners and ads because ALL relevant traffic is routed so your not relying on the clicks.

    I bought up a ticket on this at CJ and I was surprised to get an answer asking me to tell them what domains I had and the quality of traffic so they could look into it.

  10. Frank Michlick says:

    While it doesn’t look like hostgator does this in their affiliate TOS, many affiliate programs (and even PPC advertising networks) explicitly forbid this practice to forward/clock traffic without having a separate lander with links.

    So in general when dealing with affiliate programs and the like, you may want to be careful which method to employ to acquire your traffic.

    /FM

    • Chef Patrick says:

      Agreed, do your homework before using. Last thing you want is to break any rules and not get paid for your hard work.

  11. I’ve never been 100% clear on this, but based on what I’ve seen with my own domains, when I’ve masked a domain, it doesn’t seem to do as well with pagerank. I don’t get sandboxed, but it does seem as if Google is penalizing me for what it might deem to be duplicate content. I believe google’s system is smart enough to know that my domain is being masked, but then again, it may see two domains (mine and the domain I’m masking) and think “hmm, these sites are exactly the same…i’m going to ding both of them”

    Does anyone have conclusive evidence to support or refute?

    • Chef Patrick says:

      I’m pretty confident that Google dislikes this practice and will penalize your domain name if they find out. This is not a method I would use for a high end name.

      Having said that, Google does not pay my bills. I personally don’t care if they like that I do it. The domain I’m using in most cases means nothing to me and I’m not in PR. I’ll take hundreds if not thousands of dollars from affiliate commissions over page rank any day.

  12. Jamie says:

    Just to be clear, the majority of affiliates DO NOT allow this. Also, in most TOS for affiliates it’s not 100% clear if you can or can not do it. If you have question if you can or can not do it, it’s likely you can not.

    Affiliates like CJ.com, Amazon.com do not allow “domain forwarding”. The masking part doesn’t really matter, since in order to mask, you have to do the forward.

  13. iridium says:

    I think you are better off doing a “white label” type of affiliation under your domain name.

    The way you set it up as a framed redirect, your friend will probably signup, but his relationship will be through hostgator and if he refers others I doubt that he will mention your domain.
    The frame can also scare some people off as they notice the URL is not the same as the actual site they are signing up on…

  14. One of the better posts and comments I’ve seen in a long time. Lots of great info here. Also, look into content for your affiliate redirects and storefronts by using WhyPark.com

    Great job on the article Pat.

  15. Wow Chef – I never even thought to do that for those long affiliate links. I use it for a couple of my names, for example, with and without the “s”, but never thought of using forwarding for this. Great idea, and I will definitely use it in the future.


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