How to connect a custom domain

Custom domains are the most visible aspect of the internet, yet how domains work is a bit complicated. Below are instructions for attaching a domain to your nation. 

There are two options: 

  1. NationBuilder hosts your DNS
  2. DNS hosted elsewhere

If you want to send authenticated email from NationBuilder without connecting your domain to a website, follow the DNS hosted elsewhere instructions. You will need to attach the domain to your nation to create the mail records needed for authentication.


Connecting a domain with NationBuilder hosting your DNS

This is the most common way to connect a domain. NationBuilder will be responsible for telling the internet where your website is and where to send your email. You'll still have to pay for domain registration through your domain registrar, but we'll handle the other aspects of domain administration. Having us host your DNS records means you'll never have to worry about whether people who type in example.com rather than www.example.com arrive at your website.


Add your domain to your nation

Go to Settings > Domains. Click on +New domain.

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  1. Enter the domain name in the text box. Do not include 'www.' For example, our domain would be entered as nationbuilder.com.
  2. Leave the “Allow NationBuilder to manage this domain” box checked.
  3. If you have subnations, you'll be given the option to allow them to use the domain. Checking the box allows them to access the domain. Keeping the box unchecked means only the parent nation can connect to the domain.
  4. Select a site to connect to the domain. The site selected here will live at www.yourdomain.com.
  5. Click the "Add domain" button.

Domain settings: name servers and email

When you add a domain, you'll be taken to domain settings. Here you will see the name servers to add in your domain registrar's control panel.

If you are already using email with your domain, it is extremely important to make sure the correct email provider is selected on this page. Our system will check the current settings for your domain and replicate your current MX records if you are using Bluehost, 1&1 in the US or in the UK, Google Apps, GoDaddy, Rackspace, or Yahoo Business Email.

If your email provider is not listed in this drop-down menu, select "Custom Email" and email help@nationbuilder.com for additional support. We will add your specific MX records manually. Do not continue these instructions until you have received confirmation from NationBuilder that your MX records have been created. 

It is very important to do the steps in this order. By adding your domain to your nation first, you create a place for the domain to land once you point your name servers to NationBuilder.

domain settings in NationBuilder

Confirm your email provider. Then add the six name servers listed in the "required value" column to your domain registrar's control panel. If you don't see text boxes for inserting six, there is usually an option to add additional name servers. Including all six provides insurance in case one gets overloaded — like having six doors to your site rather than two or four. Learn how to configure your name servers if your domain is registered with 1&1, GoDaddy, NameCheap, or Rackspace. Domain registrars usually have help sections that will provide information on how to update your name servers.

Note: Some domain providers, such as GoDaddy, do not require a trailing dot (.) at the end of the name server. Please refer to your domain provider's documentation for clarification on how to add name servers. 

You can check the current value of your name servers by clicking the refresh button. NationBuilder will check the internet to see what name servers are connected to your domain. Name server changes usually take effect within an hour. Remember that it can take up to 48 hours for your changes to propagate across the internet. It is not possible for NationBuilder to expedite this process and clicking the refresh button does not speed up the process. 

Once your name servers resolve to NationBuilder, you need to re-save your primary site to complete the process. 


Connecting a site and managing subdomains

After the domain name servers resolve to the required values, you can finalize attaching a site to the domain. 

This step is required -- any site added before the name servers resolve to NationBuilder will not be completely attached until you re-save the site. 

First, go to the settings section of the domain and confirm that the current name server values are the required values, at Settings > Domains > [specific domain] > Settings.

Then click on the word "Sites," and you will see the list of websites attached to the domain.

List of sites attached to a domain

Click the edit icon Edit_icon.png next to your primary website. 

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Click the "Save" button at the bottom of the screen.

Now your site is attached! Your website will be viewable on your custom domain.

If you need to add another subdomain or if you did not attach a site when connecting the domain, click the "+ New site" link.

create a subdomain in NationBuilder

1. URL: To connect your primary domain to a site, enter "www" in the text field. Otherwise, enter the subdomain you wish to create.

2. Select the appropriate site from the drop-down field.

3. Click the save button.

You will be taken back to the full lists of sites using that domain. All sites added before your name servers resolve to the correct values must be re-saved once the name servers resolve. This means you need to edit the site and click the save button as described above.

Note - each website can only be attached to one domain. And a website must already exist in the Website section of your control panel before it can be attached to a domain. If you see this message:

no sites to attach to a domain

That means that all websites in your nation are already attached to a domain. You will need to first create a new site. 

Congratulations! You're done and you do not need to read the rest of the instructions.

Reasons to contact NationBuilder Support:

  • If your site does not display your custom domain after 48 hours, first make sure you re-saved your site. That step is required to complete the connection process. 
  • If you would like to create a subdomain and attach it to a site not hosted by NationBuilder.

Email help@nationbuilder.com if you have additional questions about this process.


Maintain DNS elsewhere

You can keep your DNS hosting where it is. You log into your DNS provider and add new DNS records. Often your DNS provider and your domain registrar are the same. Adding the domain to your nation will create the email authentication records necessary for email blasting. These records help keep email servers from flagging your blast emails as spam. You can also connect the domain to a website in your nation, though this is not required. 

This is a good option if you have an IT department or are comfortable with domain management. In particular, if you're already using custom domain email, this will help ensure the mail sent to your custom domain addresses is correctly handled by the internet. This is also a great option for connecting a subdomain (action.example.com) to your nation's website.


Handling your root domain

If you are going to connect your primary domain to a website in your nation, be sure you can redirect the root domain correctly. The root domain is example.com - your primary domain on NationBuilder will always display as www.example.com. While root domain forwarding is not a DNS record, most DNS providers include this service. Ultimately, you’re looking to create a 301 permanent redirect (no masking).

To help secure your site against denial of service attacks, a dedicated IP address is not available in the domain connection process.


Add your domain to your nation

Login to your control panel and go to Settings > Domains > + New domain

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1. In the Domain text box, enter the domain you want associated with your nation (e.g. example.com). Do not include www or any other subdomain.

2. Uncheck the box next to "Allow NationBuilder to manage this domain."

3. If you have subnations, you will have the option to allow them to use the domain.

4. If you want to connect a site to www.example.com, select the site from the dropdown menu.

Note: If you want to connect a subdomain (e.g. action.example.com), do not select a site from this screen.

5. Click the "Add domain" button.


Prepare for email blasts

When you manage your DNS records elsewhere, records need to be added to authenticate your email blasts. If NationBuilder is managing your domain, this section does not apply. 

Once you add a domain to your nation, you will be taken to a list of domains connected to your nation. Click the edit button next to the domain, which will take you to the Settings section for the domain. 

The Settings section of a domain managed elsewhere provides records needed to authenticate your domain and to prevent damage to your email reputation. These records are unique -- they will be different for each domain connected to a nation. It will take some time for these records to be generated and displayed in your nation. If you do not see email records in the domain settings two hours after attaching the domain, please email help@nationbuilder.com for assistance.

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Copy these records and go to where you manage your DNS records. Add the records as new CNAME records for your domain. Once you add the records to your domain manager, it can take up to 48 hours for those changes to propagate. You can check the current value by clicking the refresh button. 

If you do not authenticate your broadcaster, we will automatically send your blast from a generic sender domain. Blast emails from your broadcaster will show up with a “via nationsend1-25.com” line in your “from” information.

Once you have completed all of the above steps, you can attach a specific email address to your nation. You'll connect the email address to a broadcaster to send email blasts. You are able to send email from your domain whether or not you authenticate your broadcaster.

There is a quick way to check if your broadcaster is authenticated: when you draft and save an email blast you should not see a flash message at the top of your screen. If you broadcaster is not authenticated, this notification will appear:

Mailing_created__but_not_authenticated.png 

Note: You may have selected to receive incoming mail for your broadcaster. Your incoming mail will be delivered to your broadcaster whether or not your broadcaster is authenticated.


Connect a domain managed elsewhere to a site

If you want to connect a domain managed elsewhere to a site hosted by NationBuilder, edit the domain and click on +New site.

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1. Enter the subdomain to connect. If you are connecting the primary domain, enter www in the text field. You could also type "action" or any other phrase. Do not include a period at the end of the subdomain.

2. Select the site in your nation that should be connected from the drop-down menu. This drop-down menu includes all sites in your nation not attached to a custom domain.

3. Click the "Save" button.

If you do not see this screen, all sites in your nation are already attached to a custom domain. You will need to create a new site in the Website section of the control panel to continue.

Next, go to your domain registrar and add a CNAME.

If you are connecting your top-level domain to your nation, create the following record:

www CNAME name proxy (copy and paste the whole value found under 'Required value')

If you are connecting a subdomain to your nation (e.g. action.example.com), create the following record:

action CNAME name proxy (copy and paste the whole value found under 'Required value')

Your DNS provider may require a trailing dot (.) at the end of the URL. Please refer to your DNS provider's documentation for clarification on how to add a CNAME.

If you see a “No” icon in the “Attached?” column for the site you just connected to your domain, the CNAME you set up has probably not propagated yet. This means that it has not been pushed out to the entire internet. This usually occurs within an hour of creating the CNAME, but can take up to 48 hours. Click the "edit" icon next to the site to check the current value for the CNAME. You can click the refresh button under these settings to check if NationBuilder is able to make the connection.

*Note that your website will be attached to the domain via http://subdomain.domain.com (such as www.domain.com). Often times domain registrar and hosts will autogenerate what's called a 301 permanent redirects or domain forwarding so if someone types in the URL domain.com, they are automatically redirected or forwarded to http://subdomain.domain.com which will land on your site. If you receive reports that http://subdomain.domain.com is connecting, but domain.com is not, contact your registrar or domain host to make sure that the 301 redirect/domain forwarding record exists. It may need to be manually created. If NationBuilder is hosting your DNS, we will automatically create this record.  

Since only one domain can be attached to a single NationBuilder site, redirects can also be used if you own many domains. An example would be if www.domain.com is attached to your site, but you also own domain.info and domain.net. A redirect would need to be created so that people going to the URLs domain.info or domain.net are redirected to http://www.domain.com.


Understand how custom domains work

Authenticate a broadcaster

How to connect an email address to a broadcaster

If you’re unclear on how this feature works, please ask a question. If you would like to see changes to this feature, please submit a suggestion.