Friday, April 03, 2009

So Why Are Custom Domains Setup So Complicated?

Every week, at least one BHG forum thread, in which I provide advice about a custom domain setup, includes the question
Why are custom domains so complicated?
And the short answer is
They are not at all complicated; they are elegantly simple - when you understand their simplicity, and follow the instructions.

The long answer, which justifies the simplicity, is not so simple.

The Object Of The Custom Domain

The object of a custom domain is to have the blog content, produced and hosted by Blogger / Google, be accessible from 2 addresses.
  • The BlogSpot URL (old address).
  • The domain URL (new address).
For a good search engine reputation, and to help your readers, you want the domain URL to be the primary address for the blog. You want to publish the blog to the domain URL, and say to your readers
Hey, check out my blog, now at "www.mydomain.com".
Some readers can continue to access the blog at "myblog.blogspot.com", until they too learn to use "www.mydomain.com".

The Setup Process

The setup process is not too complicated, when you understand the simplicity.
  1. You start with a righteous DNS configuration.
  2. You publish the blog to the primary address.
  3. You redirect the secondary address to the primary address.
  4. You are done with the setup. Go tell your friends about your blog, now at "www.mydomain.com".


The Domain URL

When you publish the blog to a custom domain, the domain URL becomes the primary address for the blog.
  • The internal links in the blog mention the domain URL.
  • If you use Google Webmaster Tools, the domain URL is specified in the GWT entry for the blog.
  • You tell your readers to use the domain URL, when they browse or link to your blog.
  • The search engines index the blog, using the domain URL. The internal blog links, the GWT entries, your readers activities, and the current Blog*Spot URL value, aggregated, all contribute to the search engine reputation for the domain.
  • The domain URL, using a "CNAME" referral, points to "ghs.google.com", and to the hosted blog.


The BlogSpot URL

When you publish to a custom domain, the BlogSpot URL becomes a secondary address for the blog.
  • The BlogSpot URL is setup with a "301 Moved Permanently", redirecting to the domain URL.
  • The search engines know that the blog at "myblog.blogspot.com" has now moved to "www.mydomain.com".
  • The search engine reputation for "myblog.blogspot.com" provides the initial juice for "www.mydomain.com".


"ghs.google.com"

The domain URL is redirected to the Google server "ghs.google.com", which provides the IP address of the Blogger published blog, in the custom domain DNS server array. The server "ghs.google.com" is a large load balancing proxy, which uses DNS to distribute the load, from serving millions of blogs, over the thousands of servers in Google. You publish the blog to "www.mydomain.com", which sets up an entry in "ghs.google.com", pointing to the server that will serve the blog.

The Referral Process

You use a "CNAME" referral to point the "www" alias of the domain to Google. If your registrar permits, and your needs allow, you may do the same for the domain root, aka "naked domain". This gives you a "symmetrical DNS configuration", and allows you to publish to the domain root or to the "www" alias, as you wish.

If your registrar, or your personal needs, won't permit a "CNAME" referral for the domain root, you redirect the domain root through the 4 Google Apps servers, giving your domain the flexibility provided by Google Apps. This gives you an "asymmetrical DNS configuration". The 4 servers are not part of the "ghs.google.com" array, and they are addressed by IP address. Blogger will prevent you from publishing to the domain root, in this case, giving
Blogs may not be hosted at naked domains.

With an asymmetrical configuration, you can only publish the blog to the "www" alias.

Either a Symmetrical, or ASymmetrical, DNS referral is the righteous way to publish your custom domain blog.

DNS

The public DNS infrastructure is used for custom domains, because custom domains are designed to be integrated with other Google, and non Google, domain services. You can make a custom domain published blog part of a domain that includes a WordPress blog, a TypePad blog, and any non blog web sites of your choice. Just choose the right registrar for your domain.

Complications

All of this is reasonably simple to do, if you follow the instructions. What complicates matters is people who don't follow instructions, and try to do it their own way. Or, they are told by their DNS host
We don't support that redirect method, but this alternative will work just as well.


Another complication is the latency involved in setting up a new domain, which has to be replicated to every DNS server all over the world. If your custom domain becomes active before the DNS server used by your reader is updated with the domain information, he sees the well known
Server Not Found

Error 404
In other cases, the Google domain database may become corrupt, giving the well known
Another blog is already hosted at this address.


This is why we have a "Transition Period" for every newly setup custom domain, purchased through the "Buy A Domain For Your Blog" wizard. If you purchased your domain directly from a registrar, and the domain is mature, it's already replicated through the DNS infrastructure, so this isn't a concern. If you just purchased your domain directly from a registrar, you are expected to heed the advice provided to you
Please wait 24 to 48 hours before using the domain.
Ignoring the latter advice, and trying to publish your blog too soon, may be another cause for the well known
Another blog is already hosted at this address.


Follow the above guidelines, and generally (though unfortunately, not always) you'll have a blog with a non BlogSpot URL, with content hosted by Google. And eventually, the search engines will index the blog under the domain URL, and your domain will have the reputation previously enjoyed by the BlogSpot URL, but with the additional reputation that is legendarily part of a non BlogSpot URL.

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3 comments:

Mara from Motherofalltrips said...

Thank you for all your help! It worked - when I (as advised)'left the NS servers alone' in the content-host, and changed the NS servers in the Registrar. All good now. Ping confirms! THANK YOU!

São Rosas said...

Hi. Since some months ago, I've configured my blog to have the "adult content warning". The result is: the contents of my blog are not shown in Google searches. Should switching to a custom domain solve this?

Chuck said...

São,

This should be discussed, in GBH: How Do I?, or in Nitecruzr Dot Net - Blogging. Peer forums are a far better way to explore this issue.