A reader asks: I’ve added a domain name to my web host, but my webpage isn’t showing up. Instead, it’s taking me to a coming soon page. What’s wrong?
I’m going to assume it’s been a few hours since you purchased and set up your domain name, as it can take 24-48 hours for everything to work properly – though the process called “domain propagation” (defined below) has become a lot faster recently. If it hasn’t been that long, give it a few hours. Otherwise, read on…
A Quick Overview of Domain Names and Web Hosts
Your domain names and your web hosts operate independently. Your domain name is an easy to recognize word or phrase like “morningstarmultimedia.com” and your web host is the computer where all the files that make up your website sit. This computer is connected to the internet and has a series of numbers called an IP address that identify it from all the other computers out there that connect to the internet. An IP address is a lot like your street address – it’s (more or less) unique to you so the mailman can deliver your mail and friends can come to visit without knocking on all your neighbors’ doors.
Pointing Your Domain Name to Your Website
In order for your domain name to point to your website, you usually have to do two steps:
- You must tell your domain name what the IP address of your web host is. Web hosts make this pretty easy by giving you “DNS Server” information. You then log into your domain name registrar (the website where you registered your domain) and change the domain’s current DNS information to the DNS information your web host provided you. The process of changing DNS Servers to point from one computer to another is called “domain propagation” and can take upwards of 48 hours – though it usually only takes a couple of hours.
- You must tell your web host about your domain name. I mentioned that an IP address is a lot like a street address, but your web host generally hosts more websites than just yours – so think of it more like an apartment building than a house. You’ll usually have to add your domain name to your web hosting account (or inform technical support) so they can tell their servers that your domain name should point to your account rather than any of the thousands of others they probably host.
Many web hosts automate #2 so you can log into your account and add your new domain name. The catch is that they don’t know what domain names you’ve registered, so you can add a domain name even if you didn’t purchase that specific one (I’ve had a few clients who made a typo or forgot a hyphen, so, for instance, they told the web host they registered “mydomain.com” when really, they registered “my-domain.com”.)
Verifying Domain Name Ownership
Of course, if you didn’t actually purchase your domain name, you can’t tell it to point to your web host and you won’t see the site you’ve created – in other words, step 2 is dependent on step 1 to work.
If you want to double-check whether you really do own the domain name you’ve told your web host you own, you can do a whois search at virtually any domain name registrar, for instance Register.com’s Whois Search. This should tell you who the registrant is, when they purchased the domain, when it expires, their contact information and which DNS Servers the domain name points to. (Some people do purchase “private registration” so their personal information is kept private.)