Podcast Episode

Navigating DNS Settings


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin from the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

Duplicate Post is a plugin that makes it super-easy to duplicate pages or copy posts within WordPress. You can configure the settings that you’d like to copy and bulk-create posts or pages.

Breaking down DNS

Join us as we unravel the complexities of DNS configuration, from understanding name servers to demystifying A Records, CNAMEs, MX Records, and TXT records. The aim is to empower you with the knowledge needed to manage your website’s DNS settings effectively, enhancing your online presence and improving email deliverability.

Topics Covered:

  • Introduction to DNS settings and their significance in website management.
  • How name servers function and their role in translating domain names to IP addresses.
  • Exploring A Records: Associating domain names with specific IP addresses.
  • Understanding CNAMEs: Creating aliases for domain names and subdomains.
  • Navigating MX Records: Directing email traffic to the correct mail servers for reliable delivery.
  • Harnessing TXT Records: Utilizing text records for domain verification, SPF, and DKIM setup.
  • Practical steps to configure and optimize DNS settings for WordPress websites.

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Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

[00:00:00] **Dustin:** On today's episode, we're going to talk about DNS settings. That's name servers, CNAMEs, MX records, TXT records, all of those things right here on Your Website Engineer podcast episode number 534.

Hello and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler and I'm excited today because I think that DNS settings are some of the most confusing things when it comes to setting up a website, and we'll get to that in just a little bit. I have some announcements that I want to share and a plug in to talk about.

So the first announcement on my list today is all about a new Chrome browser extension that allows you to have a one click plugin and theme testing within the WordPress Playground. That is a mouthful, but basically a few weeks ago, I talked about the WordPress Playground, which is a kind of a new experimental project that uses WebAssembly to run WordPress in a browser.

You can basically go to playground.wordpress.net, which will instantly create a real WordPress instance with the admin area. And you can just start using [00:01:00] WordPress just like that. But there is this Chrome extension and there's a link in the show notes where you can get to it.

Basically you add it and then there's a button that says playground next to the download button inside the wordpress.org repository and you can click the button and it will open up the WordPress installation and install the plugin immediately so you can just start using it and I think that's a really, really cool and I think it's a super neat way that you can learn how a new plugin works and you can try it out without having to download it, install it or open up a test server, whether it's on Local or any of those different places that you might have a local environment going and just click a button, test out the plugin.

Is this going to work? Is it going to not? And then you can close it and close the tab and you're done. You don't have to turn anything off or anything. It is a really neat way to to test plugin. So I wanted to highlight that today. That's the Chrome browser extension. You can find that link in the show notes for episode number 534.

The next thing on my list today is about a new site is over at wordpress.org/blocks. This is not really a new site, but it is a new [00:02:00] page that explains blocks. And so it goes through and kind of shares and highlights how the block editor works, some of the core blocks that are there and gives you some examples of what that looks like and what a page could look like with a bunch of blocks.

So if you're interested in learning more about blocks, I'm going to keep surfacing things about blocks and full site editing, because I think it is the future when it comes to WordPress.

Speaking of about blocks. I also want to highlight the Twitter account or X account or whatever you call it these days.

It's by Jamie Poodle Press and it's over at twitter.com/poodlepress and basically there's a screenshot and it says, can you work out how this layout was created with just core WordPress blocks? And then by the end of the day, then he'll go through and outline how it's built.

And there are some really cool things and really cool layouts, whether they have like diagonal gradients or they've got multiple images that are circles, like it is a really cool thing to follow. And I recommend following Poodlepress on Twitter and [00:03:00] just seeing what can be done with the block editor.

Because some of these things, it's like, there's no way that that's all done with blocks, but it is really, really cool. And I stumbled upon that this week.

The other thing that I found this week, and it is an article from back in 2018, but it is a very good article talking about the different versions of PHP and how PHP kind of works in like the different versions and whatnot, and how you can go through and test your site to make sure that you can run the latest version of PHP.

So if you're still in them, the legacy versions, that's anything below 8. 0. I recommend taking a look at this article. It's again in the show notes, yourwebsiteengineer.com/534. And you can find out like the best ways to check to make sure your site is available or you can upgrade to that latest version.

And then lastly, of course, this is WordCamp US week. If you are heading to D. C. And you are going to be in the area. Come and find me and say hello. I'm one of the organizers for the volunteers. So I'll be helping all of the volunteers get to the places where they need to be. And I'm excited to hang out with the WordPress community [00:04:00] in person.

And it is going to be a mega huge event. I think last year at WordCamp U. S. It was like 800 attendees and this year it's gonna be closer to 2000. So there are a ton of WordPress people that are descending into DC, even as I record this and I'm excited to hang out and just spend some time talking about WordPress, talking about non WordPress things.

And I'll also be finding people that want to talk about WordPress on a podcast. I'll be taking some podcasting gear and recording there. So if you're interested in that, please find me or send me a message on Twitter and I'll be happy to, to hang out and say hello.

All right. I do have a plugin this week, and I don't think that I've ever done this one, but it is it is called a Duplicate Post. I know that there's been plugins in the past that will duplicate post or pages or whatnot, but this one is really cool because it is block editor ready. And basically what that means is you can massively duplicate Increase your WordPress productivity with this plugin and you can copy or duplicate pages so quickly and it's got a ton of settings so if you wanted to be able to copy like if you want to duplicate a post they're saying But you want you didn't want to [00:05:00] duplicate the featured image or whatnot. They have a whole settings panel where you can say when I duplicate this post I want to duplicate the title the excerpt the tags the comments, whether they're on or off the author if there's navigation menus like all of this stuff.

You can customize all of this. And then when you click the button, it's going to copy only the things and duplicate only the things that you asked it to. And so that is a cool plugin. It is super handy when you're creating a repeatable content, you know, very much like creating Your Website Engineer episodes every week.

Like I could have one that is kind of the default and then I could copy it over and over again. I could use patterns. I could use blocks and there's a lot of different ways that I could handle like creating repeatable content. But this plugin I think is really cool. There's a link in the show notes.

Again, it's called Duplicate Post and you can search for that in the WordPress repository.

The other thing about this plugin which is cool because there's a blurb highlighting this but remember when we talked to just a few minutes ago about the chrome extension that you could add to spin up a wordpress playground with that specific plugin, well there's also a service called TasteWP [00:06:00] and if you go to if you basically find a plugin that you're looking at in the WordPress repository you know it's wordpress.org/plugins/copy-delete-post that's where this one is you can replace the wordpress.Org and put in tastewp.com and that is going to automatically generate a site for you with that plugin already installed. And it's a, it's just a cool service that you can use.

Taste WP and it will take you right into the dashboard for those settings, which I think is really, really cool. So I did that. I clicked on the link inside of the duplicate post plugin and it opened up a new tab and now I see the settings panel for the copy and delete post and I can see which elements I want to be copied and which ones I could delete and it's all built in right there with one click of a button.

So I think that's a really cool thing that I want to share today. So basically find any plug in on the WordPress repository, take the wordpress. org out of the URL and put. TasteWP. com and [00:07:00] it will automatically do the exact same thing, which I think is super cool and a very innovative solution to a problem of like, Oh, I have to create a test site to test what this plugin is.

No, you can just use a TasteWP. So that is the plugin of the week.

All right. Today I want to talk about DNS or domain name system. And this is probably the fourth or fifth time in the 500 plus shows that I've talked about a DNS. And I feel like every time that I do it, I get a little bit more clear and things are making a little bit more sense. And I find that there is a lot of confusion, especially when people are using wordpress.

com and they have their their domains hosted at GoDaddy or Hover or any of those other domain registrar places. And it's just I don't know. It's hard to understand. So I want to try to debunk all of the things today and just talk about what DNS is, how name servers fit into the picture and then a record C names, all that kind of stuff.

So that's where we're going to go today. That's where we're highlighting. And hopefully this makes a lot of sense because in the past I have messed some things up [00:08:00] with my DNS settings and it has broken things like email or websites or different things. And so I want to make sure that that doesn't happen to you in the future when you stumble upon a new problem or you know you changing hosts or whatever.

Let's make sure that we all understand name servers and DNS and how it all works together.

So the domain name system, DNS is a higher archeal system that translates human readable domain names like example. com, YourWebsiteEngineer.com into IP addresses that computers use to identify each other on the internet. The DNS is crucial for navigating the internet as it enables users to access websites and other online services using memorable domain names instead of having to remember numerical addresses IP addresses.

Think about like, Oh, I have to go to my favorite website. My favorite website is You know, that's an IP address and that would be really hard to remember where all of those are on the internet. So that's why there's domain names that we can remember, you know, Google.com or Yahoo or any of those places. Okay, so that's why [00:09:00] the DNS was created.

The first thing that we need to talk about is name servers. And name servers are a fundamental component of the DNS system. They are specialized servers that are responsible for storing and managing DNS records for a domain. When you register a domain name, you typically need to specify the name servers that will handle the DNS request for that domain.

Each domain must have at least two authoritative name servers to ensure redundancy and reliability. So, for example, if you buy a domain, you want to point to wordpress. com, we actually give you three, ns1.wordpress.com, ns2.wordpress.com, and ns3.wordpress.com. Those are your name servers and you can set those up.

When you have a domain and you point your name server somewhere, then that is where you're going to manage your DNS settings.

So if you point your, your domain to wordpress.com, then you will have to go into your wordpress.com dashboard to manage your DNS settings. If you point your name servers to Flywheel or WP Engine or to Squarespace or any of the [00:10:00] platforms out there, wherever you point those, that is where you're going to have to go in and make adjustments to the DNS settings.

Inside the DNS settings, there are a few different records that are there. There's a few different ways that you can configure your domain to do certain things, depends on what you're looking to do. The first one, and probably the easiest one to understand, is your A records. And your A records will map your domain name to an IP address.

So they are used for your direct web traffic to the correct server where a website's content is hosted. For example, an A record might associate example.com with the IP address That's essentially what it is. And some places when you point your name servers to that, those areas, they'll automatically generate an A record so that your website loads.

For example, if you host wordpress.com, you point your name service to wordpress.com, we automatically add an A record that points to your server so that your website will load.

So a good example is I manage all of my [00:11:00] domain names over at Hover. I like the interface. I'm familiar with it. It makes sense to me. And so I have my name servers pointed to Hover's name servers. And what that means is like, all of my DNS settings now have to be managed on Hover's end.

Okay, so that's good, fine and well, but then I want Your Website Engineer is hosted on Pressable. So I have to find the IP address for Pressable and then I have to put that in as an a record inside of my, my Hover account. And so that way my domain is able to point directly to that server where it's it's located on Pressable sites.

So that is A record. So you basically like there's a host name and usually the IP address in the host name if you want your entire domain to go to a certain domain, you basically you put an asterisk in there and then so it's an asterisk and then the IP address of your site.

You can also use the A records to point a subdomain to a site. So I did this in the last week or so. I took a domain name that's pointing somewhere, [00:12:00] but I wanted the subdomain to go somewhere else. So in my A record, I put a, the subdomain, say for example, it was webinar. Maybe I wanted my webinar.

Webinar. yourwebsiteengineer. com to go somewhere else. So I could put in Webinar, and then I could put as the host name, and then for the IP address, I could put a different server. And so then it would point that to a specific server, or a different WordPress installation, or whatever I wanted to do. So you can use A records for your main domain, you can use the A records for your subdomains as well.

The next DNS setting I want to talk about is called CNAMEs, and this is a canonical name records, and these are basically aliases for domain names. Instead of using an IP address, the CNAME points to another domain name. So this is often used for subdomains when you want one domain to reflect to another.

So an example here would be if I wanted to take webinar and I wanted to point that to my webinar software, which is webinar jam, I could have a specific link. It could be like app dot webinar jam and then a bunch of numbers like that's where my webinar is.

My most the next webinar or whatnot. I [00:13:00] can create a CNAME and I would call that webinar and then I would link it to that specific URL. Or this happens sometimes when you have like Email. And so you could say email. yourwebsiteengineer. com and it just forwards to wherever your email inbox is.

So you wouldn't have to remember what that URL is, you could just redirect it and type the short URL, use the subdomain, and it'll point to the right place. The important thing about CNAMES is you can only put URLs in the CNAME and it's not going to mask the URL.

So basically if I type in webinar. yourwebsiteengineer. com, it's going to forward over to WebinarJam and you'll see webinar jam in the URL.

The next one in the DNS settings are called MX records, mail exchange records, and these control your email routing. They specify the mail servers that should receive email messages destined for that domain. So when you send an email, the recipients domain is. MX records guide the email to the appropriate mail server.

MX records have an associated property values, which will determine the order of which the mail servers are used. [00:14:00] The most popular one here is I Google mail or Google suite, and they have five MX records that you use and that just over redundancy there. So there's one with a priority of one, there's two with a priority of five, and then there's a two that I have a priority of 10 MX records have priorities that you can set and basically your email provider will showcase and and highlight how to do this.

I have a text expander snippet that just does each one of them because those mail records for Google have never changed. And so you can just plug them in. But if you're using like Titan email or fast mail or any of those places and you have a custom domain name or a custom email box, they will give you those settings and then you need to put those into your DNS settings wherever your domain is pointed.

The last type of record in your DNS settings, you may or may not use. It just really depends. The first ones, you know, you always need an A record so that your domain works. You not necessarily need CNAMEs because that happens, you know, whether you needed them or not, you can create those.

The MX records are there if you have a custom email address. And so those [00:15:00] ones would need to be there if you have that custom Google Suite or whatever. And the text records, they store arbitrary text data with the domain. They have various uses, including domain verification for services like Google Workspace or Office 365, as well as setting up a SPF, which is a sender policy framework and DKIM, which is a domain keys, identified mail records to improve email deliverability and prevent spoofing.

And sometimes you might even get these with like Facebook or, you know, if you're trying to link a custom domain name to something, the company wants to make sure that you actually have access to the domain settings. So what they'll say is like, I want you to put in this big long string of URL, a bunch of characters.

I want you to put that into your TXT records and then save those. And so then that other company can look at and pull in that TXT records and make sure that was changed. So the good example here is we see this all the time with Google workspace, like they want to make sure before you set up the MX records that you actually have access to the [00:16:00] domain.

So it's like put in this short little code or this long code, put this in your TXT records and then you click a button on Google's end and then it'll go out and look and it'll verify that. Yes. This record, this exact string is now a TXT record. It holds this data. And then Google can be confident that you have access to that domain.

And so that is what a TXT record is for. They don't really do much. And then most of the time, like you can delete those after you do that verification, a lot of people just leave them in just because just in case that Google does an arbitrary check every three months or six months or whatever, but it's usually there for setting up and configuring them.

That is what the TXT records are.

So that is the domain name system.

Kind of think of it like a phone book or a directory or index or something along those lines that when somebody goes to your website, you know, yourwebsiteengineer.com is a good example. Then like when they go there, first, your browser is first going to find the IP address and then it's going to look up the server information and then it's going to display the website and then if somebody emails Dustin at [00:17:00] yourwebsiteengineer.

com, it's first going to check those MX records and see where the email is supposed to go and then it's going to send that email or if somebody's going to webinar. yourwebsiteengineer. com, it's going to be a redirection to somewhere else or whatever the case may be. I don't know, like a log or an index or I don't know the best way to describe it.

But basically all the information about what your domain is supposed to do is all held in those DNS settings. And you will manage those DNS settings inside of the system inside the service that you have pointed those name servers.

Okay lastly, we understand the pieces of the DNS how it works and whatnot. Now, what happens if you want to transfer your domain from one place to another? I know that right now, like Google domains was sold to Shopify and there's people that want, don't want to go to Shopify.

They want to move them. What happens when you transfer a domain? And so when you transfer a domain, you're basically moving it from one registrar to another, and once it moves from registrar A to registrar B, none of the DNS settings change.

Got it. [00:18:00] None of the DNS settings change. Everything is going to be exactly the same. This makes sure there's no downtime for the website, there's no downtime for the email, and all the settings are exactly the same.

So that's if you're transferring the domain, but you don't want any of the settings to change, you can transfer your domain from registrar to registrar all day long, and you'll never see downtime. Now, if you're transferring from maybe Shopify, from a Shopify store and you want to move to WordPress and you're hosted over at Flywheel and your site is done on Flywheel and you're ready to update but you also want to move the domain at the same time, I recommend that you change the name servers first.

Change your DNS settings first and then start the transfer because once you click the button to transfer a domain from one place to another, it takes upwards of seven days to make the transfer from one place to another. During those seven days you cannot update any of the DNS settings. They're not gonna.

You can't do it like your dashboard is kind of grayed out in the where you were in the new one isn't ready yet. So basically, if you are [00:19:00] transferring a domain and changing where it's pointing, change where it's pointing first, make sure that's all working and then you can transfer it to the new company.

And that's what I wanted to share about name servers and A records, CNAMEs all that kind of stuff. If you have any questions, let me know. Dustin at Your Website Engineer. Find me at WordCamp US in the next week or hit me up on X or Twitter @DustinHartzler.

Until next time, take care and we'll talk again soon. Bye bye. For more great press information, head on over to YourWebsiteEngineer. com