HTTPS Domain Forwarding with SSL Certificates is a feature that is increasingly important to website owners and webmasters, with rising public awareness about secure websites. Improved messaging by web browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox on the topic of secure websites has had a powerful impact on HTTPS traffic on Google and the web.
In this post, we describe the purpose of Domain Forwarding and show how to enable Domain Forwarding with HTTPS on your Webnames.ca account. We recently included support for HTTPS Domain Forwarding in our DNS Hosting offering, with the option to even forward subdomains using HTTPS on the Premium DNS plan.
What is Domain Forwarding?
Domain forwarding (domain redirects), allows a domain admin to forward all visitors to the domain name to another address, usually a different URL and website.
In its basic form, domain forwarding redirects all visitors to any page on a domain name (for example visitors to both example.com and example.com/about) to a single forwarding address. It is commonly used when pages are reorganized on a website or if a website is moved to a different domain, for business acquisition, SEO or rebranding purposes.
It is also possible to be more selective and redirect specific URLs to an alternate location, and this is commonly called URL Forwarding or URL redirection and is used when landing pages are deprecated or modified to alternative URLs.
What is an SSL/TLS Certificate?
SSL (Secure Socket Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) are protocols that help establish secure encrypted connections between devices that communicate over a network. An SSL Certificate (more accurately known as TLS Certificate these days) installed on a web hosting server enables a user to encrypt the data sent and received using public and private keys. This allows web browsers to authenticate that this location is the destination the owner of the domain name intended visitors to reach.
Technically SSL is a deprecated protocol and TLS is its successor, but SSL Certificates and TLS certificates are used interchangeably. When an SSL certificate is correctly installed on a server it can then deliver content over HTTPS – the secure counterpart of the HTTP protocol that powers the internet.
How does HTTPS Domain or URL Forwarding work?
An SSL certificate is automatically issued and installed for the root domain name (and/or its pages) that is being forwarded which allows visitors to the forwarded address be redirected to the destination URL over a secure HTTPS connection. HTTPS Domain forwarding is included with all of Webnames’ DNS Hosting plans while HTTPS URL Forwarding is available with Premium DNS and Multi-domain Premium DNS plans.
How to enable HTTPS Forwarding in your Webnames Account
HTTPS Forwarding on the root domain: If you have purchased Advanced DNS or Premium DNS for the domain name you wish to forward, all you need to do is to setup forwarding from the Domain Management > DNS Hosting (tab) as indicated in the below screenshot. It just works!
Once you enter the forwarding destination and apply changes, Webnames will automatically issue and install an SSL for this domain, and enable secure HTTPS forwarding for the root domain.
HTTPS URL redirection for specific pages under a domain: You still require Premium or Advanced DNS Hosting and can use the Root URL Forwarding section (pictured above), your destination domain name must include a trailing / at the end. For example, the destination domain should be entered as https://webnames.ca/ and this will ensure that a specific sub-page URL on the forwarded domain will redirect to the respective sub-page on the destination, as described in the below table.
HTTPS URL forwarding for subdomains: You will need Webnames Premium DNS enabled on the domain name. To redirect a subdomain such as “blog.yourbiz.ca” using HTTPS, open Domain Management > DNS Hosting (tab) (as pictured above) and scroll down to the Subdomain URL redirect section to create redirects.
If your website already has SSL configured and you wish to only redirect paths on one domain to another page on the same domain, you can modify .HTACCESS on your web hosting and configure the HTACCESS file for both URL redirection and to force HTTPS.
HTTPS Redirects and Search Engine Optimization
Redirects can be permanent (301) or temporary (302), both of which are unmasked redirects where the URL on the address bar changes to the destination address when a visitor enters the redirected URL.
For the purpose of better Search Engine rankings (SEO), Google recommends a 301 redirect when a page has been permanently moved to another address. This allows webmasters to pass the ‘page authority’ that the old page had earned, on to the new address. This ensures that any off-page SEO efforts that may have been carried out on the old address will now accrue to the new page.
HTTPS Domain Forwarding can also have a significant impact on search engine optimization (SEO) since search engines and web browsers increasingly prioritize a move towards a HTTPS web. A correctly forwarded domain name or URL with HTTPS forwarding would fulfill all the requirements that search engines require in a well configured website.