Managing domain names and DNS settings is an important part of running a website. Your domain name is your website’s address on the internet, and DNS tells computers how to find your website. Most hosting providers make it easy to set up and manage your domain and DNS, but there are some key things you need to understand. In this guide, I’ll walk through everything you need to know about managing domains and DNS with your web host.
Registering a Domain Name
The first step in setting up your website is registering a domain name. Your domain is your unique web address, like “example.com” or “mybusiness.net”. Here are some tips for choosing and registering a domain:
- Check availability – Your web host usually provides a domain search tool to see if your desired name is available. Try different variations if your first choice isn’t available.
- Pick a relevant name – Choose a name related to your business or website topic. Short, memorable domains are best.
- Consider extensions – .com is the most popular, but there are many options like .net, .org, .biz, etc.
- Register for 1-10 years – Domains can be registered for 1 to 10 year periods. Longer registration provides more security.
- Enable privacy protection – This service hides your personal contact info from public domain registries.
Once you’ve found an available domain, most hosts make it easy to add it to your account and complete registration during checkout or in account settings. Your web host will become the registrar and handle renewals going forward.
Pointing Your Domain to Your Host
Once your domain is registered, you need to point it to your hosting account so that your website is viewable at the domain. This is done by setting your domain’s nameservers to match your web host’s nameservers. Here’s how it works:
Every hosting account has DNS settings known as nameservers. These tell the internet where to find your website’s files. Your registrar has a place to set your domain’s nameservers. By entering your web host’s nameservers there, you point your domain to your host.
Log in to your web host’s control panel and look for the list of nameservers associated with your account. Then, log in to your domain registrar, and find where to enter custom nameservers. Enter your web host nameservers, save changes, and your domain will point to your hosting.
This may take up to 48 hours to take full effect across DNS servers worldwide. Once propagated, your website will be viewable at your new domain. Your web host usually makes this process easy by providing instructions.
Setting up Subdomains
Subdomains allow you to divide your domain into sections. Each subdomain acts as a separate domain. For example, you may use “blog.example.com” for your blog, and “help.example.com” for your help documentation. Here’s how to set them up:
- Login to your hosting control panel – Your control panel manages DNS settings.
- Find the subdomain tool – Look for a section like “Subdomains” or “DNS Zones”.
- Add new subdomains – Enter the subsection name like “blog”. The host will generate the full name.
- Point subdomains – Forward subdomains to specific folders, or set up addon domains.
- Save changes – It may take up to 48 hours for new subdomains to propagate.
With subdomains properly configured, you can use them to divide sections of your site or set up microsites under your main domain. This allows you to isolate sections for easier management.
Using a CNAME Alias
A CNAME record, or canonical name, allows you to create an alias for your domain or subdomain. This reroutes a URL to another address. For example:
- Set up a CNAME record – In your DNS settings, create a new CNAME record.
- Enter alias domain – Use the format like “support.example.com”.
- Enter real destination – Add where it should point, like “helpdesk.otherdomain.com”.
- Save settings – It may take up to 48 hours to work across DNS servers.
CNAME records are useful for consolidating multiple domains. You can make an alias point to your primary domain or subdomain and have the alias domain redirect seamlessly. This allows you to grow your brand while managing one central website.
Setting up Email with Custom Domains
To use a custom email with your domain like email@example.com, you need to properly configure your DNS settings:
- Point MX record – This tells email services how to route mail to your domain. Enter your email host’s MX info.
- Add A record – This points the hostname like “email.domain.com” to your email server’s IP.
- Add SPF records – These verify your domain to prevent spoofing. Enter your email host’s SPF info.
- Configure DKIM/DMARC – These further authenticate your emails. Your email provider will guide you.
- Check email routing – It may take a bit for new records to propagate across DNS system.
Properly configuring your DNS ensures delivery of email to custom domains. It stops emails from being blocked or marked as spam. Follow your email service’s specific instructions.
Using URL Redirects
URL redirects automatically send site visitors from one URL to another. There are a few ways to set these up:
- Page redirect plugin – Install a plugin for your CMS that lets you create redirects via a dashboard.
- Web host redirect – Your host may provide a redirect management tool in the control panel.
- HTACCESS redirect – You can usually redirect via the .htaccess file in your site’s files.
- 301 redirect – This permanently redirects pages best for SEO. A 302 is temporary.
- Redirect mapper – This tool scans site errors and builds redirects from old to new pages.
301 redirects are best for SEO in most cases. Redirecting instead of simply removing pages keeps search engine rank. Make sure any redirects are working correctly.
Troubleshooting DNS Issues
If your site is having DNS issues or not displaying properly, here are some troubleshooting tips:
- Flush your DNS – In your computer’s network settings, flush DNS cache. This clears any old settings.
- Check propagation – Use a DNS checker tool to check that your settings have propagated globally.
- Verify your changes – Make sure nameservers, records, and redirects match the host’s instructions.
- Look for typos or errors – One small typo in DNS records can disrupt things.
- Contact support – Your domain registrar and web host provide DNS support to help resolve issues.
- Wait it out – DNS changes can take up to 48 hours to work across the worldwide DNS system.
With a proper understanding of how DNS works, you can configure your domain and DNS settings with your web host for optimal performance and seamless website management.
Managing your domain names and DNS configuration is a crucial part of running a website. By registering your domain, setting your nameservers, configuring records, and troubleshooting issues, you can ensure your website domain resolves properly and efficiently directs traffic. Your web host provides tools to make domain and DNS management easy, but it’s important to understand the what, why, and how behind these services. With this guide, you should have a solid foundation for handling domains and DNS with your web hosting provider.