Aliases vs Redirects

Under the “Domains” section on the BYU Domains dashboard, there are two different functions called “Aliases” and “Redirects.” We get a lot of questions about the difference between the two. The two functions do have some overlap, so we understand the confusion. In this article, we break down the different situations where you would use one or the other.

Aliases

The BYU Domains cPanel provides the following description of how aliases work: “Domain aliases make your website available from another domain name. For example, you can make www.example.net and www.example.org show content from www.example.com.”

What exactly does this mean?

For one thing, aliases allow several different URLs to take someone to the same page. For example, if you registered myblogisreallycool.com as your domain name, but then decided that you wanted something more professional, you could register the domain professionalblogging.com and use it as an alias for your original site. When you set up that alias, a person can access the exact same content from both myblogisreallycool.com and professionalblogging.com.

Unlike a redirect, an alias URL will not change in a web browser. This means that when people type in the alias URL, their browser will load the original content on myblogisreallycool.com, but their address bar will still say “professionalblogging.com.” Your website visitors won't even know that you have an alternate name for the domain unless you tell them. The benefit to this is that you don't have to move the content you have already published you can just set up an alias in order to essentially “rebrand” your site.

There is one downside to aliases: when you have an alias, your website traffic numbers will be split, because some people will use the alias URL and others will use the original domain URL. This is not as good for SEO and website stats; if that's a priority for you, using a redirect would be a better option. However, if you aren't too concerned about that, then aliases are probably the solution for you.

Keep in mind, however, that your alias domain names have to be registered in order to work. This means you will have to pay for an additional domain name registration before you can start using the alias function.

If your original domain name was mydomain.com, here are some situations where you might want to consider getting an alias for your domain (remember that all aliases still point to the content at your original site found at mydomain.com):

Reasons to Create an Alias New Alias
Shorter URL for users md.com
Mixing up different URL endingsmydomain.net
Consistent misspellings my domain.com
Covering different aspects of your contentmyphotos.com

Redirects

If you navigate to the Redirects page in cPanel, you will find the following description on redirects: “A redirect allows you to make one domain redirect to another domain, either for a website or a specific web page. For example, create a redirect so that www.example.com automatically redirects users to www.example.net.”

To really understand how a redirect works, it's best to see one in action. A great example of a common website that uses a redirect is Wikipedia. If you type in “wikipedia.com” and watch the address bar at the top of your browser, you will notice that the URL will change to https://www.wikipedia.org/ and the normal Wikipedia homepage will load. Wikipedia has set up several redirects so when a person types in almost any variant of the URL name, that person will automatically be forwarded to the real Wikipedia homepage.

Why do big companies use redirects instead of aliases? First, customers are happier when they don't have to do extra work to find the site that they want. Because redirects are automatic, the customer never knows when they've made a typo. And, second, redirects are better for SEO all website traffic is eventually pointed to one main page, so your stats are more accurate when you use a redirect.

There are a few things to keep in mind when you set up a redirect. The first is that if you are moving content to a permanent new site, setting a redirect could result in some broken links, especially for photos. These will have to be fixed manually, unless you know how to code. The second consideration is that there are two different types of redirects: 301 (permanent) and 302 (temporary).The option you choose will affect how Google will index your site: 301's is better for SEO and web traffic, but 302 is better if you're not sure whether you want to permanently move to a new site.

Please remember that domains must be registered before they can work with the redirects feature. This means that you will have to register the alternate domain name before you set up the redirect.

If your original domain name was mydomain.com, here are some situations where you might want to consider setting up a redirect for your domain:

Reasons to create a Redirect New Redirect
Using the wrong ending on a URL my domain.net to my domain.com
Misspelling URL mudomain.com to mydomain.com
Moved content to a new site, but still want the old domain functionmy domain.com to my blog.com

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