Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Follow-up on Google Sites

A few weeks ago I covered the re-release of JotSpot as Google Sites. At the time and today as well, I was/am expecting Google Sites to work like DotNetNuke and other "portal" applications allowing you to set a Domain Name for a specific "site" and have Google Sites take care of routing the browser as expected. This works great in DotNetNuke, MojoPortal and other such "portal" applications out there.

Because of this deficiency, you will be left with accessing specific sites with URLs similar to the following:


That URL is a little... well, they make sites like TinyURL for a reason :-)

So, for those of you like me that wanted to make your new "Google Site" your actual web site and have your main domain go directly there, Google doesn't offer a solution but most Hosts do provide a method that works quite well at handling this issue.

What you will need to do is setup what is known as Masked Forwarding for your site.

Most Domain Registrars supply you with a Domain Control facility where you can add/edit CNAME and A Records for your Domain. Another option that is becoming popular is called Masked Forwarding. Some Domain Registrars used to charge for this, while others such as Yahoo used to place a banner onto your site which I am sure nobody wants.

NOTE: Yahoo does NOT put banners in for Masked Forwarding anymore

Today a lot of Domain Registratras/Hosts offer FREE Masked Forwarding and it is easy to use for our purposes here.

In this case what we want is a URL that looks something like this:


The easiest way to setup a particular Google Site to point to this specific URL is to use Masked Forwarding.

Within your Domain Registrar/Host's Domain Management application, you should find a link or button for "Forwarding". In most cases you will supply the URL to forward TO and that is where you put the long Google Sites URL.

Then to "mask" that long URL you will set the masking option.

Yahoo Business Hosting does this as part of its workflow to setup a Domain/URL Forward. Once you initiate the forward, the next screen will ask you if you want to "Mask" the forward. Another option is to enter "keywords" for Search Engines as Forwarding like this will/may conceal the "keywords" from Search Engines.

NOTE: I don't remember seeing the "keywords" section on GoDaddy

On GoDaddy, this process is broken into two different "tabs" on the Forwarding Administration screen.

Once you have setup the Forwarding to go to your long Google Sites URL, give it about 30 minutes (with Yahoo it was more like 10 minutes for me) then try navigating to your web site. You should see the selected Google Site displayed on your browser screen and your custom URL (domain).

The only downside to this is that new "pages" within Google Sites follow a hierachy for a path. So, your home page will look something like this:


Any "pages" under "Home" will follow a path like this:



However, with Masked Forwarding, the URL in the browser will never change. All pages appear to be YourDomain.com with no trailing path.

For some people this may not be such a bad thing but it makes bookmarking pages impossible.

Well, at least if like me, you really wanted to host your new Google Site on your own domain this will get you "mostly" there. I just wish Google would address this issue.

It is quite obvious that when you create a "site" you will want to give it a custom URL or domain. All "portal" applications such as DotNetNuke, SharePoint or MojoPortal allow for this. I am not sure why this point was missed.

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