How to host multiple websites on a single Godaddy account?

This is how I (tried to) host multiple websites on a GoDaddy Windows Deluxe Shared Hosting plans. It should apply to Linux and Windows, Deluxe and Ultimate. So if you have purchased a Deluxe or Ultimate plan and are wondering how to host “unlimited websites” on one account, or more likely you've run into some serious problem, here is some information I struggled to discover that may help you figure out just how to do it. If you are wondering if GoDaddy is the right choice for you to host multiple websites on one web host account, maybe this information will guide you in the right direction.

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No alternate root folders for your multiple websites
Broken URL structure on your secondary websites
URL re-writing breaks your multiple websites
No support for URL re-writing on GoDaddy

Short version: Don’t even try. If you look at any other search results on Google, you will read horror stories. What host to use? Compare them all. After comparing I registered with hostgator’s Windows shared hosting and instantly my multiple websites worked as-is. No extra hassle required. Separate folders for each website in the control panel. Not INSIDE the first website’s folder… But I’m getting ahead of myself...

When you look at GoDaddy’s web hosting options, underneath Deluxe and Ultimate it says "unlimited websites". Perfect, one account for all my websites. Or so I thought. There are some problems you hit when trying to set up multiple websites...

unlimited websites on godaddy

How do you create an alternative root folder for your secondary domains?

Oh, you can’t have separate root folders. It's not particularly unusual for shared hosting to only have one technical "root" folder for your websites, but you should really be abl to have distinct folders to act as root folders for your individual websites, without one website being nestd inside the other. But don’t worry about that. GoDaddy’s solution for multiple websites is to create a folder within your root folder and just build your secondary website in there... But there are some more problems you hit when doing this, very serious problems that you are not told about when you sign up.

how to create secondary websites in godaddy

Problem 1 – no alternate root folders for your multiple websites on Godaddy

By putting your new website in a sub directory of your first website, one problem you may face is this: Any Web.config files in your main site, or other sorts of configuration files in the top root folder will affect all the sub folders, including your new secondary websites. This is kind of a big problem... It can literally cripple any efforts at making anything other than text-on-white-background websites. However, there is technically a solution for this I've discovered.

The solution to this first problem? The only working solution to this I was able to find after much searching was to do this:

  1. Go to Web Hosting > More > Hosted Domains in GoDaddy
  2. Click Add Domain
  3. Then either enter a domain name you own as a place holder, OR, enter a scramble of letters and numbers as the domain (a fake “dummy” domain). Eg:
  4. Set that domain as your primary domain to make it point to your root folder
  5. Move all your websites into folders in the root folder.
  6. Re-point the domain you were using for the root folder to your new web folder.
  7. Open up IIS Management and set the new folder you created as an "application root"
  8. Now their config files won’t affect each other... Definitely a hack of some kind... But it works.

*Update Dec 15, 2013 I received an official email from GoDaddy yesterday confirming that this is indeed the method to create distinct webpages. Here is the email with the lengthy instructions and more details. To be honest I haven't read it very carefully, my eyes kind of glazed over after the first paragraph, and I'm quite happy hosting multiple websites with my new host hostgator now. But Godaddy did offer me in-store credit for the remainder of the plan, so that is good of them.

Support Staff Response

Thank you for your reply. If you wish for your sites to remain separate entities, you could make your root directory non-web accessible. When setting up your shared hosting account, you are required to enter the primary domain name to be used for your website. The primary domain name serves as one of several unique identifiers for your site, and it is also the primary address visitors use to access your site's root content folder through a Web browser. By default, this root folder is set as an application root and also set to allow anonymous access. These options cannot be changed directly. However, you can make your root folder non-web accessible using a false domain name. Keep in mind, false domain names cannot be secured with an SSL.

A domain name (real or false) is still required to act as one of your site's identifiers.

Note: This procedure applies to Deluxe and Unlimited Hosting accounts only. For more information, see What type of hosting account do I have?

To Set up a Non-Accessible Root Folder

1. Change your hosting account's primary domain name to a false domain name. For more information, see Changing Your Hosting Account's Domain Name.

NOTE: Changes to the primary domain affect the availability of your site. Your site is not accessible until the remaining steps are completed. This change also requires the use of server IP address and not domain name to FTP. If you have an SSL certificate applied to your hosting account, you cannot change your primary hosted domain name. 2. Add your real domain name as a secondary domain — make sure you use the hosting account's root as the domain name's Folder. For more information, see Adding Domain Names to Your Hosting Account.

After you update your account in this way, it is important to remember that the root folder of your site still allows access to anonymous users, but not through a Web browser. It is possible that your site may allow users to access files stored in these directories. If you would like folders to be more secure, create a new virtual directory off of the site root and restrict its access.

Godaddy folder structure for multiple websites

Problem 2 – URL Structure Broken when setting up multiple websites on Godaddy Deluxe hosting

So let’s say your new secondary website is located in RootFolder/websites/L2internet. You’ve pointed a domain name to that folder as the root, so it is working and your home page will look fine. Unfortunately when you click on any links to sub pages on your site (such as to “cool-article”), the URL will be displayed as follows: Not as This kind of messes with not just your visitor’s readability and your site’s shareability, but potentially could destroy search engine rankings depending on your situation. Besides, if you want full control of your website, you don’t want the URL structure to be messed up either.

The solution offered to me by GoDaddy's tech support for this was to use URL-rewriting via web.config file. And remember, the web-config files will conflict with each other unless you implement the problem 1 solution. And then once you do get the URL's to rewrite, if you are as lucky as me, your website will be destroyed. The relative links won't work, the absolute links won't work, and your site will actually be forwarded up the directory path and load the index file in your primary website (or load your dummy URL if you've done that).

fix godaddy url structure with microsoft url rewrite module

Problem 3 – The official solution to problem 2 is very difficult, and will likely break your website

So how to fix this URL structure problem? GoDaddy’s response to me was to use Microsoft’s URL re-writing module, or Apaches mod_rewrite for Linux. But wait! Don’t run away and try to use that to fix your problem yet. You will likely struggle to figure out what it is and how to get it to work on your site if you don’t have any experience with it. And if you get it to work to re-write the URLs of your site, the re-written URLs will most likely break your site’s scripts, code and styles altogether in a total disaster, as happened to me. Yes the URL’s were re-written, but now the site is destroyed.

Problem 4 – The official solution to problem 2 is not supported by GoDaddy

Maybe GoDaddy can provide you with some help, tips, maybe an article, a simple how-to guide, anything for how to use the Microsoft’s URL-rewriter module with GoDaddy to set up your unlimited websites on one Deluxe account, or maybe how to use it without breaking your site? Nope, they don’t provide support for the URL re-writer… Support will always forward you to Microsoft’s® URL Rewrite Module documentation. (Have fun! You now have bed time reading for the next couple months.)

godaddy no url re-write support

Conclusion – Don’t waste your time, don't even try

To properly host multiple websites on GoDaddy shared hosting, the glorious "unlimited" websites on one account, you have to hack their folder format and use a fake domain name for the root, be a whiz with the URL re-writing module/mod-rewrite to re-write your URLs, and also have some deep knowledge of how the re-writer module will work with GoDaddy’s "unique" configurations, because, wait for it, – GoDaddy won’t provide any support during this complex hassle on how to use the URL-rewriter module or apache mod_rewrite and how to make them work with their service....

3 days later...

I signed up with a new host, hostgator’s Windows shared hosting, loaded my websites to separate folders, pointed the DNS servers, no hassle, up and running in about 20 minutes.

Feel free to share your own horror stories or comments below.

Last Updated: December 15, 2013

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