Parking vs Redirect vs Addon Domains – Which is Best?

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SignsThis question on how best to handle our domain setup arose as we wrote our article on Drupal multisite setups.

Parking a domain

Parking is a function of a DNS (Domain Name Server) entry, where the DNS zone for both the parked and original domains resolves to the same document root (the same content). This is what makes Drupal multisite installations possible (many sites can access one document root, but have their own settings, themes, etc. files to make them unique).

Outside the Drupal world, domains are frequently parked on top of each other when you simply want more than one domain to reflect the same content. A good example of this is when you have misspellings of your original domain parked in case people make typo’s – with parked domains in place, they will still arrive at the intended domain. Now mind you, the preferred method for doing this is to use domain redirects, as they avoid the possibility of search engines penalizing you for duplicate content.

Parked domains have email and DB

The advantage of parked domains, in particular for Drupal multisite setups, is that they may have their own email accounts and databases (DB’s).

Redirecting a domain

A domain redirect is a function of .htaccess, a file that allows user-controlled configurations of site structure via Apache. In this case, a redirected domain differs from a parked domain in that it is redirected to an entirely new and different domain, whereas the parked domains are loading off the same document root. Redirects are typically used to redirect old content to new content. Read all about redirects in our search engine friendly domain and file redirects tutorial, including the importance of a permanent (301) redirect over a temporary (302) redirect in terms of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

What is an add-on domain?

An add-on domain is analogous to parking a new domain on top of a subdomain. Basically when your host offers you add-on domains they are simply creating a subdomain which points to a new domain. In other words, the domain is running off the document root of the subdomain, as explained in the parking section above.

About The Author:

Alex has been involved on the business side of the internet since the early 2000's. He holds both a Management Science degree from the University of California at San Diego as well as a Computer Science degree from NJIT.

We Rock Your Web had its roots back in 2004 as the tech blog for a web design and development company Alex founded that has grown and evolved into the parent company of We Rock Your Web.

While his foundation is rooted in web development, his expertise today lies in content and digital marketing, SEO, organic and paid search, analytics, and publishing. Alex is an avid tennis player, nature enthusiast, and hiker, and enjoys spending time with his wife, friends, and dogs.

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There seems to be another option in Apache (and in cPanel), and that is the Alias. What is aliasing, exactly, and how does it compare to parking and redirection? I hope you answer, even though it is four years later.

Hi, I have an issue. I recently changed my domain name. I spoke to Bluehost customers and they said since my old domain is a parked domain, I can’t create 301 redirects. They said it is only possible if I buy their plus plan with which they can add my domain as an addon. Right now I am using their basic hosting plan.
As of now, it’s not possible for me to upgrade my plan, also since I have around 50 pages pointing to my old domain in the google search. it’s quite frustrating.
Can you help me with a possible way to solve this problem?

I’ve been Google searching for quite awhile to determine which choice was appropriate for setting up multiple websites under a single host sharing the same Drupal 7 core. I wanted to confirm the correct choice for the architecture to make updating sites more fluid (subdomains? add-on? parking?) features offered me in Cpanel through GreenGeeks running on the same Drupal core install. Which is right for me? This clarified— Basically, parked domains and add-on domains are the same thing. Thanks.

Excellent, glad you found it useful. Thanks for posting your feedback!

Nowadays, however, I just opt to set up a small landing page with some generic template and make a habit of updating once every month or two… might not do much, but you’ll get a few search engine visitors, better than none! Obviously I’m only doing this with new domains, if you need to transfer the link juice then the 301 is your only option.

I’m finding that more and more, redirecting a site to a new domain name becomes easier and easier. If you need to make a domain name change, you can even specify in Google’s Webmaster Tools that you want to redirect the domain (specify the old and new URL’s) and it will do the rest for you, re-indexing the pages in a much quicker fashion than normal. Just be sure that you have the appropriate 301 (permanent) redirects in place for all your pages and that they actually redirect. Finally, and I’m not sure why, but the Google redirect tool does not work with subdomains.

Should I redirect my domain if I’m moving to a new web host? I decided to move to another web host, what should I do to transfer my domains? I was thinking to leave an .htaccess file on the old hosting to redirect to the new content, but how should I do it properly?

Redirects are always based on your domain name. So as long as your domain name stays the same, you won’t have to do any redirects when moving to a new host. Simply migrate all your files over and ensure that your file structure (ie. stays in tact, and you’re good to go. No need to redirect if your website URL’s stay the same.

Good explanation for people who are new to setting up domains and websites. I would have been grateful for an easy-to-understand explanation like this when I first was setting up my original sites. Now days, I just get help to find domain names for what I need and I’m good to go! This is really helpful for finding cool domain names that are original and available.

Is it bad practice to mask a domain name URL? That is, to have a site load under the URL that is different from the domain name?

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want the domain name to reflect the content of the website. You also need to be careful that there aren’t two versions of the same website floating around – as one could be given a duplicate content penalty.

Parked domains are a good alternative for webmasters whose site is hosted by a free hosting service, since by using a memorable parked domain users won’t need to remember the cumbersome web addresses usually associated with free hosting accounts.

I would be grateful if you could give me step-by-step instructions about how to set an add-on domain, what to put inside its newly created folder, what to do about redirecting and so on.