What is domain forwarding?

Domain forwarding, also known as URL forwarding or domain redirection, is a service that lets you redirect visitors from one domain name to another. When someone enters a specific domain name into their web browser, domain forwarding automatically sends them to a different website or webpage.

Domain forwarding can be a useful tool when you have multiple domain names that you want to point to the same website, or if you have changed your website's domain name but still want visitors who type in the old domain to find your site.

Most domain registrars and hosting providers offer the option to enable domain forwarding for your domain name in just a few clicks. Some providers offer this service for free, while others charge a small yearly fee.

Benefits of domain forwarding 

Domain forwarding is a versatile tool that can enhance your online presence, improve user experience, and contribute positively to your marketing and SEO efforts.

  • Branding and marketing consistency: Domain forwarding allows you to maintain consistent branding across your digital presence. For example, if you have multiple domains related to your brand, you can forward all of them to a primary website. In this case, no matter which domain a customer remembers and types in, they will be directed to your main site, which creates clarity and strengthens your brand coherence.

  • Simplification of URLs: Some web addresses are long, complex, and hard to remember. You can use URL forwarding to create shorter, more memorable URLs that are easier for visitors to recall and type. This is particularly useful for marketing materials like business cards, flyers, or social media posts, where a straightforward URL is more likely to attract visits.

  • SEO benefits: Properly configured domain forwarding can help with SEO by ensuring that search engines index your site under a single, primary domain. This can help prevent content duplication issues (which can dilute your SEO efforts) and concentrate link equity, as all links and domains will point to the main site.

  • Easy transition to new domains: If you decide to change your website’s primary domain name, domain forwarding can make the transition smoother. By forwarding your old domain to the new one, you ensure that visitors who are unaware of the change still reach your site. This also helps you retain the SEO authority accumulated by your old domain.

  • Promotions and campaign tracking: You can also use domain forwarding to direct visitors to specific pages within your website for promotions, campaigns, or events. Using unique domains or subdomains for different campaigns makes it easier to track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts through analytics tools, allowing for more targeted and efficient marketing strategies.

How to set up domain forwarding?

You can usually set up domain forwarding in just a few clicks through your hosting provider or domain registrar’s control panel. Here, we describe the process for Openprovider. Be aware that it may work slightly differently at a different registrar.

At Openprovider, you can turn on domain forwarding both for new domain names and domain names you have already registered with us. To turn on this feature during the domain registration process in the control panel, select “Domain forwarding” during the checkout process. For existing domain names, you can find this option when you move to “Domains Overview” in the control panel, move to the domain that you want to set up forwarding for, and select “Edit”.

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After selecting “Domain forwarding”, click on “Click to configure” to set it up. You will need to select the forwarding type (301 - permanent or 302 - temporary) and fill in the destination URL. Don’t forget to add “https://” to the URL! 

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If you use the Openprovider nameservers, an A-record will be set up automatically in your domain’s DNS zone. In that case, you are done here, and your URL forwarding will be live in 24 to 48 hours! If you are using third-party nameservers, please ensure that the A-record for this domain in your DNS zone points to IP address

Domain forwarding is free for Openprovider Members. Regular customers pay a yearly fee. The exact fee depends on the domain extension of your domain name.

What are domain redirect types?

There are two different redirect types: 301 (permanent) and 302 (temporary). A 301 redirect means that the page has permanently moved to a new location, while a 302 redirect means that the move is only temporary. While a visitor won’t notice the difference between temporary and permanent forwarding, for a search engine, these two are completely different signals, and selecting the wrong redirect type can seriously mess up your SEO efforts.

  • Permanent forwarding (301)  indicates to search engines that the page has permanently moved to a new location, almost fully passing page authority from an old URL to a new URL. You should be careful about using 301 forwarding when a redirection isn't permanent. If you remove a 301 redirect, be prepared to wait several weeks or even months for your redirected URL to be indexed again by search engines.

  • Temporary forwarding (302) indicates that the page move is only temporary, meaning that no page authority is passed from the old URL to the new URL. In most URL forwarding cases, you would want to pass a page’s authority, which is why the 302 type is rarely used. If temporary forwarding is in place for a long time - search engines will automatically start to regard the 302 forwarding as a 301 type, as it has now become permanent to them.

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Common mistakes to avoid while setting up domain forwarding 

Setting up URL forwarding in the wrong way can damage your SEO efforts and your website’s user experience, affecting your margins and brand image in turn. These are some common pitfalls you should steer clear of:

  • Setting up the wrong redirect type: A 301 redirect tells search engines that a page has permanently moved to a new location. Using a 301 redirect for domain forwarding helps in transferring the SEO value from the old domain to the new one. Setting this up wrongly can lead to SEO issues, as search engines may still index the old domain separately, diluting your site's overall search ranking.

  • Overlooking email forwarding: If you use your domain for your email address(es), don’t forget to set up email forwarding along with your domain forwarding. Not doing so may result in lost communications and all of the problems that come with this.

  • Ignoring WWW subdomain forwarding: Some of your website visitors may type “www” before your domain name, while others may not. Make sure that you forward both versions of your domain (with and without the “www” prefix) correctly to your primary website.

  • Not using a SSL certificate: Security is a top priority for users and search engines alike. Make sure that your new and forwarded domains both have a valid SSL certificate installed. This helps you avoid security warnings in browsers that may deter users from visiting your website.

  • Not testing after setup: After setting up domain forwarding, it’s crucial to test it thoroughly. Check that all variations of your domain (such as with and without “www”,) correctly redirect to the intended destination. Not testing your setup can leave errors unnoticed, leading to a poor user experience or SEO issues.

  • Using forwarding when migration is needed: If you’re moving your site to a new domain, a full site migration is often more appropriate than simple domain forwarding. This includes transferring all site content to the new domain name and setting up individual 301 redirects for all pages. Using only domain forwarding in such cases can result in significant SEO and functionality issues, as it might not preserve the URL structure or the individual page equity.

When should I redirect my website?

Redirecting your website is a recommended step in different situations, such as when you are doing a rebranding or changing your internal URL structure. 

  • Rebranding or changing your domain name: If you're rebranding your company or changing your domain name for any reason, you'll need to redirect visitors from your old website to the new one. This is a crucial step to retain your existing audience and any SEO value your site has built up over time.

  • Changing your site structure or URLs: If you’re updating your site architecture, changing URL structures, or moving to a new content management system that changes your URLs, you’ll need to set up redirects. Doing this prevents 404 errors and ensures that users and search engines can find your pages at their new locations.

  • Eliminating duplicate content: To avoid SEO issues related to duplicate content, you might redirect duplicate pages to the original content. This is a common issue for e-commerce sites that might have products listed under multiple URLs.

  • Temporary promotions or pages: For past marketing campaigns or event pages, or for product pages of products or services that you no longer offer, you can use redirects to guide users to a more permanent page, such as your home page or a related product page. This is useful for maintaining a good user experience after the campaign is over or a product is discontinued. URL forwarding can also be a useful tool while your marketing campaign is still running, as redirecting visitors to a particular page can be a great way to better track the performance of these campaigns through your analytics tools.

  • Internationalization: If you create localized versions of your website for different regions or languages, you may use redirects to send users to the version that best matches their location or browser settings. Here, offering automated redirects can help improve your user experience.

Does domain forwarding affect a website’s SEO? 

Yes, it does - but this is not necessarily a bad thing! Whether the effect of URL forwarding is positive or negative on your website’s SEO depends on whether you have correctly set it up.

If done correctly, domain forwarding will almost certainly have a positive effect on your SEO efforts, as it will help consolidate the SEO authority of the website you are redirecting your visitors to. If you’re rebranding and changing your domain name, properly setting up domain forwarding (using 301 redirects) will also transfer the SEO value from your old domain to your new one, meaning that you won’t have to start over from scratch. Domain forwarding can also help you avoid issues with content duplication that can bring down your SEO score.

Negative effects of domain forwarding are almost always caused by choosing the wrong redirect type. A 302 redirect is considered temporary and does not pass on link equity or ranking power from the old URL to the new one. For permanent moves, a 301 redirect should always be used to maintain the existing SEO value.

If you set up domain forwarding to redirect all traffic to the homepage instead of to the corresponding page on the new domain, this can also bring down your page-specific authority and relevance - leading to a drop in rankings for specific keywords that individual pages ranked for. To avoid this issue, it is recommended to set up redirects on a page-to-page basis where applicable, rather than making all redirects point to the homepage.

Lastly, always make sure that your URL forwarding structure is set up correctly and does not lead to error pages. Making sure that both your old and new URLs have a valid SSL certificate installed is also an important step to avoid downtime and a lower SEO score.

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