URL Masking

Written by Web Hosting Expert

July 31, 2023
URL Masking

URL masking, also known as URL cloaking is a technique used to hide the true identity and structure of a web address. 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 into a new destination without the visitor even catching on.

The purpose of URL masking is to hide the original URL, providing a seamless user experience by maintaining the appearance of the original domain throughout the browsing session. In this guide, you will learn the fundamentals of URL masking, its various applications, and how to effectively implement it to protect sensitive information, enhance branding, and improve user experience.

Benefits of URL Masking

Branding: URL masking allows website owners to maintain consistent branding by displaying their own domain name instead of a third-party URL. This is useful when linking to external content while keeping the user within the website's own domain.

Affiliate marketing: Affiliate marketers often use URL masking to hide their affiliate links, making them visually appealing and increasing click-through rates. It helps prevent users from bypassing the affiliate ID, ensuring accurate tracking and commission attribution.

Framing external content: URL masking allows website owners to embed external content (videos, images, or other types of content)within their own website by making it appear as if it's part of the original site, despite being hosted on a different server.

Tracking: Some link tracking software use URL masking to hide tracking tags in the original URL.

Link shortening: Long links aren’t visually appealing. Some users choose to shorten their links instead of changing their domain names.

Hiding free web hosting URLs: Some users use free subdomains provided by their host. So, you can use domain masking to make it appear as though the website has its domain.

It's worth noting that URL masking can be used for legitimate purposes, however, it can also be misused for malicious activities, such as phishing or redirecting users to malicious websites. Therefore, it's essential to use URL masking responsibly and ensure transparency and user trust when implementing it.



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Types of URL Masking

There are a few different types of URL masking techniques

Domain Masking

A domain or subdomain is used to redirect users to a different URL. This can be used to make a long, complex URL shorter and more memorable, or to conceal the true destination of a link.

Frame Masking

The content of a website is displayed within an HTML frame or iframe. The original URL remains in the address bar, while the content from another website is loaded within the frame. This gives the illusion that the content is being served from the original URL.

Server-Side Scripting

URL masking can be implemented using server-side scripting languages such as PHP, ASP, or JavaScript. The server-side script receives the request for a specific URL and then fetches the content from a different URL. The fetched content is then displayed on the original URL, while the original URL remains in the address bar.

Proxy Masking

Proxy masking involves using a proxy server to fetch content from another URL and display it on the original URL. When a user accesses the original URL, the request is forwarded to the proxy server that fetches the content from the destination URL. The proxy server then returns the content to the user, making it appear as if the content is hosted on the original URL.

URL Rewriting

URL rewriting is a technique that changes the URL structure using server configurations or .htaccess files. It allows the server to internally map a user-friendly URL to an actual URL behind the scenes. With URL rewriting, the original URL remains in the address bar while the content from a different URL is displayed.

JavaScript Redirection

JavaScript can be used to redirect users to a different URL while masking the original URL. When a user visits the original URL, a JavaScript code is executed, which immediately redirects the user to the desired destination URL. The original URL remains in the address bar during the redirection process.

Please note that while these techniques can be used to hide URLs, their effectiveness, security, and compatibility may vary by browser and device.

How to Mask Domain in cPanel?

To mask a domain in cPanel, you can follow these steps:

  • Log in to your cPanel account using your credentials.
  • Go to the "Domains" section or search for "Domains" in the search bar.
  • Click on "Aliases" or "Addon Domains," depending on where you want to mask the domain.
  • In the "Create a New Alias" or "Create a New Addon Domain" section, enter the domain you want to mask in the "New Domain Name" or "New Domain" field.
  • Fill in the required details, such as the document root and FTP username/password, if necessary.
  • Enable the option for URL masking or domain masking, which may be referred to as "Redirect with or without masking" or a similar option. This option allows the domain to be masked and display a different URL in the browser's address bar.
  • Save the changes and wait for the configuration to take effect.


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Does URL Masking Impact SEO?

URL masking can have an impact on SEO in a number of ways. It’s always a good idea to take a holistic approach to SEO and consider how your website’s URLs fit into the bigger picture, including the user experience, content and link equity.

Duplicate Content: URL masking can potentially create duplicate content if the same content is displayed on multiple URLs. Search engines may struggle to determine the preferred URL for indexing and ranking, leading to a dilution of SEO value and potentially lower visibility in search results.

Link Equity and Backlinks: When URLs are masked, the original URL may still be associated with backlinks. This means that any link equity or SEO value from those backlinks may not be directly transferred to the masked URL. Proper implementation of 301 redirects can help pass on the link equity to the masked URL.

User Experience: If URL masking is used in a way that confuses or misleads users, it can result in a poor user experience. High bounce rates and low engagement metrics can send negative signals to search engines, potentially affecting rankings.

Keyword Relevance: The visible part of a masked URL should accurately represent the content being displayed. If the visible URL does not align with the content or relevant keywords, it may impact search engine understanding and relevance.

Branding and Trust: If URL masking is used for branding purposes, it can help maintain consistency and reinforce brand identity. However, if users perceive the masked URL as deceptive or misleading, it can harm trust and reputation, affecting SEO indirectly.

Difference between URL forwarding and URL masking

URL ForwardingURL Masking
Redirects visitors from one URL to another.Hides the actual URL and displays a different URL.
Displays the destination URL in the address bar.Displays the original URL in the address bar.
Permanent or temporary redirection of URLs.Create a perception that content is served from the original URL.
Typically uses 301 or 302 redirects.Depends on the implementation and configuration.
May not maintain branding as the new URL is displayed.Maintains branding as the original URL is displayed.
Affiliate links are not masked.Can be used to mask affiliate links for a better user experience.
Passes SEO value to the redirected page.Can be seen as a black hat SEO technique, potentially harming SEO.
Not primarily used for link shortening.Can be used for creating shorter and user-friendly URLs.
Limited tracking capabilities.Can provide tracking data on clicks and other metrics.
Users are aware they are being redirected to a different URL.Users perceive they are still on the original URL.

Best Practices for URL Masking

Avoid Black Hat Techniques: Make sure you avoid black hat SEO techniques, including deceptive URL hiding practices that can harm your site harm your website's reputation and search engine ranking.

Consider User Experience: When implementing URL masking, prioritize a seamless and transparent user experience. Make sure that users can easily navigate and access the desired content without confusion or misrepresentation.

Maintain Branding: If URL masking is used for branding purposes, ensure that the displayed URL aligns with your brand identity and helps users recognize your website.

Use Reliable and Secure Methods: Choose reliable and secure methods for URL masking, such as server-side scripting or proxy servers, to ensure stability, performance, and data integrity.

Test and Monitor: Regularly test the functionality of URL masking techniques to ensure they work as intended across different browsers, devices, and scenarios. Monitor the impact on website performance and user behaviour.

Pros and Cons of URL Masking


Enhanced branding and customization of URLs.
Improved user experience by displaying familiar or memorable URLs.
Ability to cloak affiliate links and make them more attractive to users.
Maintains a consistent user experience by keeping visitors on your website.

Potential negative impact on SEO due to duplicate content and link equity dilution.
Reduced transparency and potential user trust issues.
Limited tracking and analytics capabilities due to hidden URLs.
Possible compatibility issues with certain browsers or devices.


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URL masking is considered a black hat SEO technique and can harm your website's reputation and search engine ranking. Instead, use URL shortener services for shorter URLs on social media, and opt for 301 redirects to maintain SEO value when redirecting links. Understanding the drawbacks of URL masking is crucial, and it's best to avoid it and explore alternative solutions.

It's important to register a domain name and subscribe to a reliable web hosting service like Verpex to avoid the need for domain masking on free platforms.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an example of URL masking?

An example of URL masking is when a website owner wants to display a shorter and more user-friendly URL to their visitors while keeping the content hosted on a different server or domain. For example, visitors accessing "https://www.mybrand.com/page" would see that URL while the content is actually hosted at "https://www.testing.com/long-url/page.html."

What is DNS forwarding with masking?

DNS forwarding with masking redirects a domain name to another URL or website while keeping the original URL displayed in the address bar. This technique combines DNS forwarding and URL masking, making it seem like the content is hosted on the original domain even if it's served from a different location.

What is the difference between masking and encryption?

Masking focuses on hiding or disguising sensitive data without altering its format, while encryption transforms data into an unreadable format using cryptographic algorithms and keys to provide strong security and confidentiality. Masking is typically used for data presentation purposes, while encryption is employed to protect data from unauthorized access.

Does DNS mask IP address?

DNS does not mask IP addresses. Its primary function is to translate domain names into IP addresses. However, DNS masking can be combined with IP masking techniques to hide the actual IP address of a server. This is done for security or privacy purposes by routing traffic through intermediary servers, making it harder to determine the server's IP address.

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