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Know Your DNS and TTL in Order to Maintain Your Internet Exposure

What happens on the Internet is a mystery to many users, but rest assured that there are many different things happening every time you enter an address and travel through the great electronic void to a Web site. It's not all that different from dialing a phone in the hope that someone will pick up on the other end.

Your Domain Name Server (DNS) and Time To Live (TTL) are two things you need to familiarize yourself with. A DNS is equivalent to a giant phone book, routing your requests to specific IP addresses to ensure you land on exactly the site you are looking for. A DNS recognizes your computer's address and the address you type in, and routes the request through the most convenient server. All these servers act like telephone operators and traffic cops to keep the flow of information running smoothly and in the most direct manner possible.

Your TTL is the duration of the information every DNS continuously records. It limits the life span of information in order to keep inaccurate or outdated information from re circulating and clogging up servers.

Now, here is why these two acronyms are important to your Web site:

Say, for example, you visit www.cmsbuffet.com. You don't even realize you're engaging the DNS; you type the address into your search box and your browser automatically takes you there. Let's say that the TTL for CMS Buffet is set at 30 days. If this is the case, the DNS will assume the site's information is correct for that time frame and it will not ask for any updates. This could potentially mean that the server has changed or moved and no one would be the wiser. This is not the way to operate a Web site.

If the TTL is set to more than one day, this is potentially troubling information. Here's why:

The host server might be having issues:

  • Your Web site has gained significant traffic; if this is the case, you want to switch to a stronger, more reliable server
  • There are hardware issues; Your host company wants to move you to another server with a different IP address
  • There are virus issues on another site hosted by the same server. The host company wants to move your site to a new server
  • Host servers become unstable

You want to pay attention to these issues; it's possible you might need to look for a new Web development company and a more reliable hosting company:

  • Your relationship with your current Web development company is not as rewarding as it used to be (it happens from time to time!)
  • The Web development company or hosting company did something to compromise your site - they added unsuitable links to your site
  • The Web development company or hosting company hosted some undesirable sites on the same server and yours is "guilty by association"
  • The Web development company switched hosting companies

In all of the instances listed above, a TTL longer than one day might cause your site to "vanish" for a period of time. That means:

  • DB, a site with a TTL of 31 days had to wait 31 days to switch over to another server
  • PP, a site with a TTL of 14 days had to switch servers within 24 hours. The site was invisible to its owner until the TTL expired.

If your TTL is more than one day and you switch servers, here is what might happen:

  • Your site will not be visible to existing and potential customers
  • Google, Bing and Yahoo robots might not be able to index your site
  • Google will direct organic traffic to your site, but your bounce rate will increase. This tells Google your site is not relevant for the keywords used in a search. This "bounce-out" can be detrimental for future traffic as well as future business.
  • Your PPC budget is wasted. It is advised to stop all PPC campaigns during a server switch due to drastically lower conversion rates.
  • If you are a blogger, you might lose your followers and sponsors
  • You will lose e-mails if you switch e-mail servers, too.

Here's what you should do:

  • Make sure your TTL is set to one day
  • Make sure you have control of your domain and you know the whereabouts of your DNS servers

For more information about how you can avoid the pitfalls of inferior hosting service, ask the SEO Toronto experts at CMS Buffet.

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