Sunday, December 07, 2008

Your Blog, Custom Domains, And Spurious Solutions

To publish your Blogger blog to a non-BlogSpot URL, yet on a Google server (which gives you the ability to use dynamic HTML and a Layouts template), you setup a Google Custom Domain. Custom Domain publishing is very simple to setup - when you understand how simple it is, when you get it right - and how agonisingly complex it is, when you do not understand.

Some bloggers just give up, and look for simpler solutions.

Here, we see but one example of the exasperation.
I have seen thousands of complains about this problem
Another blog is already hosted at this address.
so I decided to register my domain name with Google directly to avoid stuck with this same problem like thousand of other users.

You know what, I am given the same problem too, even after registering the domain directly with Google.

Solution: I log in to Godaddy using the ID & password given by Google, and forward the domain to my blog name instead. And it works.


An intriguing attempt to simplify, using an alternate solution. Equally as elegant as a Custom Domain, and more reliable.

And so wrong. Having a domain with only half of the DNS address properly defined produces the same result as a domain with only half of the DNS address defined. You will, eventually, see our old friend
Another blog is already hosted at this address.


Here, as always, I'll show DNS address configurations, illustrated with excerpted Dig logs.

mydomain.com.        1800    IN      A       64.202.189.170
www.mydomain.com.      1800    IN      A       64.202.189.170

or maybe
mydomain.com.        1800    IN      A       64.202.189.170
www.mydomain.com.      1800    IN      CNAME      mydomain.com

What is "64.202.189.170"?
pwfwd-v01.prod.mesa1.secureserver.net (64.202.189.170)
64.202.160.0 - 64.202.191.255
GoDaddy.com, Inc.

It's a forwarding server. The domain DNS resolves to the server provided by your registrar - not to Google. The connection from the forwarding server to Google is invisible, except to your readers (when it works). Whether it works, at all, depends upon what URL it is forwarded to.

If you forward your domain to the BlogSpot URL, the results vary - depending upon how the forwarding is setup, either the BlogSpot or the domain URL may be visible in the browser address window. Neither result will provide you what you need.
  • If you forward using "301 Moved Permanently", your readers will see the BlogSpot URL in the browser address window. Here, the domain is correctly forwarded for search engine reputation. Unfortunately, this is going to confuse your readers. You tell them to use the domain URL (or why do you have the domain) to access the blog, but all that they see is the BlogSpot URL. And the domain URL gets no search reputation at all. IOW, the domain does not seem to exist.
  • If you forward using "302 Moved Temporarily", your readers will see the domain URL in the browser address window. Here, both the BlogSpot and domain URLs are active. If you care about search engine reputation, you won't want this. Your blog will be openly accessible from either the BlogSpot or the domain URL. It will appear to have two addresses, the blog reputation will be split between the two addresses, and both addresses will be penalised for "duplicate content" by the search engines.
  • A "301 Moved Permanently" makes the target URL the primary address, and the source URL (your domain) becomes a secondary address. If you use a "301 Moved Permanently" to use your domain as a secondary URL for your blog, this is a good solution. For a single blog with a single domain, and the primary URL, this is not a good solution.


One of the reasons for getting a non-BlogSpot URL for your blog is the "prestige" of having a non-BlogSpot URL. In neither of the above scenarios will your blog have a non-BlogSpot URL consistently. Your established readers will be continually confused, the search engines won't give your blog the reputation that it deserves, and your potential readers won't see your blog in the search lists.

All in all, forwarding will not equal "A" / "CNAME" referral, in result quality.

These look like forwarding. They are not forwarding.
mydomain.com.   3600    IN      A       209.85.171.121
www.mydomain.com. 3600       IN      CNAME   ghs.google.com.

or maybe
mydomain.com.   3600    IN      A       209.85.171.121
www.mydomain.com. 3600       IN      CNAME   mydomain.com.

Here, someone looked at a previous configuration, maybe one from another thread in the forum.
mydomain.com.   3600    IN      CNAME   ghs.google.com.
www.mydomain.com. 3600       IN      CNAME   ghs.google.com.
---
ghs.google.com.         397440  IN      CNAME   ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com.       300     IN      A       209.85.171.121

cg-in-f121.google.com (209.85.171.121)
209.85.128.0 - 209.85.255.255
Google Inc.

More variations, odder still.
mydomain.com.   3600    IN      A       216.239.32.21 
www.mydomain.com. 3600       IN      CNAME   ghs.google.com.

or maybe
mydomain.com.   3600    IN      A       216.239.32.21 
www.mydomain.com. 3600       IN      CNAME   mydomain.com.


None of these configurations use URL forwarding, but not one of them is any more reliable. "209.85.171.121" is one of the individual servers in the "ghs.l.google.com" server array, and "216.239.32.21 " is one of the four servers in the Google Apps server array. Individual array members are not robust, the array itself is reliable because it contains multiple mutually redundant components. For a reliable custom domain, you need to use all provided components!

If one individual server in the "ghs.l.google.com" array fails, Google changes the DNS address for "ghs.l.google.com", to direct to another server in the array. Google can then repair or replace the failed server at their convenience.

If you are directing your domain directly to "216.239.32.21 " or to "209.85.171.121" (bypassing load balancing services provided by "ghs.l.google.com"), expect to see
Server Not Found

Error 404
occasionally, as Google repairs or replaces their server at their convenience, while expecting your blog to (automatically) use one of the array peers.

Either way, both you, and your readers (and your potential readers) lose. Respect your readers, and use the right solutions for your domain.
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5 comments:

EriC said...

Great list of things NOT to do.. but where is the solution?

Chuck said...

EriC,

One of the challenges of Custom Domains is that the solution simply doesn't exist. That said, Your Blog, Custom Domains, And Righteous Solutions should serve as a start to describing the best solutions.

Garret said...

Awesome. Many, many thanks. Will get this sorted out tonight.

Great response time to the question.

Cheers

Garret

send me your logo and it goes on my site forever for free :)

By Polar Opposites said...

Hi Chuck.
I read and read and read thru your posts and still dont understand any of it. I have the Domain ByPolarOpposites.com from GoDaddy.com, I and trying to create virtual domains I.E. Tech.ByPolarOpposites.com, I know this is asked a million times on here and i still have NO CLUE what your saying. In the DNS Server CNAME i added Tech as host, Ghs.google.com as points too, and left TTL alone. I created a new blog on Blogger but it wont link up. I dont know what im doing wrong. ANY help would be appreciated. Thank you - Devlon

Jeanine Byers said...

SO CONFUSED! In the past, I ordered a custom domain through Blogger/Google and that was all I had to do. I am NOT TECHNICAL at all!

So I just did the same thing for a new blog, and Google Wallet said I could now "retrieve me purchase." But when I did that, I got "server error."

When I put the URL of my new domain in and click on it, I get 404 error.

Is that a temporary glitch? I'm not sure I understood what you were saying in your post. Thx so much for your help.

Jeanine