When it comes to technical issues with your website, DNS is probably up there with the most problematic, potentially suppressing a website’s ability to rank. A little summary of what DNS is, it’s an online phonebook of the internet basically – allowing users to navigate to specific files using words rather than numbers. When you host your website on a server, the server can be identified with a unique IP address – meaning users can type this IP address number in their browser and find your website – DNS allows users to use words which will then show the content of the IP address/website files. This allows users to easily navigate the internet without having to remember large numbers – brands are much easier to recall. If your website is not displaying, it’s important to take some time to diagnose the key issues (or have someone else to), website errors can often be 5XX server errors, softer 4XX errors, broken links or with some CMS specific ones like no connection to database – which all require different fixes (seek developer help if unsure).
If you try to visit a website and an error is presented along the lines of hostname cannot be resolved, or similar errors to when you have no internet – you are likely having a problem with DNS. What is typically happening during a DNS error is the domain name you are typing into the browser does not point to the correct server. It’s important to check you are connected to the internet and check on other devices as it may be your connection (if on broadband with laptop, perhaps check with mobile on 5G). Another area which can trip webmasters up is there was potentially a DNS error which has been resolved but your router has cached the error. You can often fix this by running DNS flush using command prompt (or Mac version).
If the website has been working fine and is now serving DNS errors, check with your domain registrar that the domain is still active. Occasionally DNS registrars may not renew domain names if payment details are not kept up to date and this can cause DNS issues. You can easily spot these types of errors as there will often be a website served but it might be the domain registrar’s website rather than the site on your server. If your website has never served a website before then you need to go into and check various elements at domain registrar level. If you are using nameservers then you will be required to log into the platform which manages your DNS. For example, if you point your nameservers to your hosting provider, your hosting provider will often manage DNS settings. There are various testing tools for DNS to check where your website is pointing – validating that the server IP is correct, just search for DNS lookup tool via your preferred search engine. The easiest way to fix DNS issues usually is to raise a support ticket with your domain registrar or hosting provider who can often diagnose due to how common these types of problems are, most technical support agents are well versed in these types of issues.
Yes, you need to look at this through the eyes of the user, if you are pointing users to a website which is offline it’s not providing a good experience. You often get a grace period of an undefined period of time to diagnose and fix DNS issues – but after a week or two you can comfortably expect your organic visibility to slip.
- It’s important to understand that any changes made at DNS / domain / nameserver level can take up to 24-48 hours to fully populate on the internet. This is often much quicker but can occasionally take this long.
- If you are looking at changing hosting providers then I would encourage building out the DNS on the new hosting provider before you change nameservers. Replicating like for like DNS on new and old hosting can make changing the nameservers much easier.
- CDN’s can cause some issues with DNS, I’ve seen this many times in the past. What will happen is someone will sign up to a CDN which will then look up their DNS settings and provide users with what they have found. Many users don’t validate this against their hosting or domain registrar, meaning some DNS elements are completely lost. Other symptoms of this could be loss of email, validation of tools which require a txt record and downtime of the website entirely.