What is the recommended way to set up a custom tracking domain?

The recommended method for setting up a custom tracking domain to use with ClickMagick is by using a CNAME DNS record to “point” your tracking domain to the ClickMagick system.

It’s quick and easy to set up, and it’s super reliable since it only uses the global DNS network, and doesn’t rely on any 3rd-party to work properly (your domain registrar, hosting company, etc.)

(If you’re reading this because you’re upgrading a domain you set up previously, you’ll want to read “What happened to Methods 1, 2, and 3?” before continuing.)


Purchase Your Domain and Choose a Format

To set up a custom tracking domain using CNAME DNS records, you first need to purchase a domain if you don’t already have one. You can purchase your domain through any domain registrar. GoDaddy.com is a very popular domain registrar, as is NameCheap.com, but any registrar will work. Just go and enter domain names until you find one that’s available.

 
Caution: When you’re buying a domain, one of the options you’ll be given is whether to “privately register” your domain. Aside from the fact that there is an extra fee for this add-on, blacklisting services treat private registration as one of the red flags they look for when scanning domains for questionable behavior. Unless you feel you really need this option, we recommend skipping it.

 

Next, you need to decide if are you going to use this custom tracking domain ONLY for tracking, and not use it for anything else such as a WordPress site. If so, then you can set up a dedicated tracking domain using the domain itself:

http://yourdomain.com
http://www.yourdomain.com


On the otherhand, if you want yourdomain.com or www.yourdomain.com to go to a website or a blog when people enter them, and you only want to use the domain for tracking when you have a /linkID on the end, then you need to point your domain at your website and use a “hostname” or “subdomain” with your domain to use for tracking.

Using a “hostname” is just a techy way of saying that you need to stick an extra word on the front of your domain, like this:

http://track.yourdomain.com
http://rotator.yourdomain.com
http://go.yourdomain.com

...

You can choose just about any word or phrase you want for the first part of your domain as long as the word (the hostname) isn’t already being used.

This way, yourdomain.com can point to any website or blog your want, but your tracking links will look like track.yourdomain.com/linkID.

You will be asked to specify the hostname when setting up the CNAME record. In the examples above, the hostnames are track, rotator, and go. The www in the first set of examples is also a hostname which, by convention, simply stands for “world wide web.” There is nothing special at all about the www hostname—it’s just another CNAME record that is usually set up automatically to point to your root domain when you purchase it.

If you’re at all unsure about which format to use, choose the second format, using the hostname track. That will make it easy to follow our examples. You can always change it later.
 
 
Note: ClickMagick’s various plans support different numbers of tracking domains. The Starter Plan, for instance, only supports two tracking domains. Since every hostname creates a new domain, yourdomain.com and www.yourdomain.com are two separate tracking domains that count toward’s your plan’s limit. If you create the additional track.yourdomain.com and rot.yourdomain.com tracking domains, that would make a total of 4 tracking domains toward your plan’s maximum number. The plan limit reflects the number of tracking domains that you enter into ClickMagick’s Domain Manager.



Step-By-Step Guides for Setting Up Your Custom Tracking Domain

Setting up your custom tracking domain will be slightly different with each registrar and control panel, but the process is always the same.

Regardless of which registrar or control panel you’re using, watch this video to see how it’s done with NameCheap. This video explains some important details that are common to every situation.

After you’ve watched the video, follow the step-by-step guide for your registrar or control panel. If we don’t have one listed, you can find generic setup instructions below.
 
How To Set Up A Custom Tracking Domain Using a CNAME DNS Record

If, after watching the video, you have any trouble getting your custom tracking domain to work properly, check out this FAQ:
 
   How do I troubleshoot my custom tracking domain setup?


Written walkthroughs for popular domain registrars and control panels:
 
  How do I set up a custom tracking domain with NameCheap?
 
  How do I set up a custom tracking domain with GoDaddy?
 
  How do I set up a custom tracking domain with cPanel?
 
  How do I set up a custom tracking domain with Plesk? 
 
  How do I set up a custom tracking domain with CloudFlare? 

If you’re using a domain registrar other than those listed above and you can’t figure out how to add a CNAME record, a quick Google search will show lots of walkthroughs and tutorials no matter what domain registrar or hosting company you’re using …

“set up CNAME 1&1”
“set up CNAME HostGator”
“set up CNAME BlueHost” 
etc.


Generic Instructions for Setting Up Your Tracking Domain

If we don’t have a step-by-step guide for your domain registrar or control panel (most registrars use either cPanel or Plesk) and you can’t find instructions by searching for the information online, then you’ll have to set up your domain using the generic instructions here…

Setting up a CNAME DNS record is easy to do if you understand some terminology that your DNS control panel will ask you about. Let’s cover those.


The Hostname

When you set up a CNAME record, you will be asked what the “hostname” is, often shortened to just “host” or “name”.

In the examples above, the hostname values are www, track, rotator, and go. The hostname is whatever goes in front of your domain name.
 
Note: You do not want to use a CNAME record for your root domain yourdomain.com. There are subtle problems with using a CNAME record to set up a root domain. You need to use an “A” record for that, which will be explained in a moment.



The Target Domain field

You will be asked for the target domain which is the domain that your CNAME record will point to. For ClickMagick, there are two target domains, one for links (which includes split tests), and one for rotators. You will need to enter one of these two domains when your create your CNAME record:

For use with tracking links:  www.clkmg.com

For use with rotators:  www.clkmr.com


The “TTL” Field

The TTL field is an expiration time, in seconds. The TTL value tells the Internet how often to check your DNS settings to see if they’ve changed. A smaller value updates your settings faster when you make changes, but a larger value makes the Internet more efficient since it doesn’t have to check for changes as often. GoDaddy recommends ½ hour (1,800 seconds) to an hour (3,600 seconds).

If you’ve ever wondered what causes “Internet propagation delays,” it’s this setting.

Note: Depending upon your DNS editor, you may not be asked for a TTL value. Don’t freak out if you can’t find a place to enter this value.


Setting up your custom domain …

These are the steps to setting up your custom domain. These steps are written to handle any DNS editor that you may encounter.

Before you can get started, you need to find the DNS Zone editor that your system uses. Once you’ve found that, you can create your domain. Let’s get started.


Step 1: Create a CNAME record

From within your DNS editor, add a new “record”. There will be a button somewhere to do this.

If you want your custom tracking domain to be www.yourdomain.com, you would enter www in the hostname section of the DNS entry, and point it to ClickMagick like this:

Record Type:  CNAME

Hostname:  www (or whatever you want in front of .yourdomain.com)

Points to / Target / Address:  www.clkmg.com  (or www.clkmr.com if it’s for rotators)

TTL:  Choose ½ hour   (or 1800 seconds)

Simply add a new record with the information above. You might not be asked for a TTL value.

If you already have an existing entry for www.yourdomain.com, either delete it, or just use something else instead of www for the hostname setting.

For example, if you wanted your custom tracking domain to be track.yourdomain.com you’d simply use track instead of www as the hostname of the CNAME record.


Step 2: Add your custom domain to ClickMagick

Once you complete Step 1 above, the only other thing you need to do is add your custom domain to your ClickMagick account using the Domain Manager.

Be sure to add your custom domain exactly as you’ve set it up in Step 1 above e.g. either www.yourdomain.com or track.yourdomain.com in the examples above.
 
Tip: Remember to choose Yes for the question Enable cloaking? if you need to create a cloaked custom domain for use with Google Ads or some other advertiser.

This process is pretty straightforward, and about the only other thing you need to know is that you can also enter an optional Error URL, which is where ClickMagick will redirect your visitors if there’s an error with any of your custom domain tracking links e.g. the Link ID is invalid or missing.

ClickMagick’s Domain Manager will thoroughly test your domain when you try to add it.

If the Domain Manager accepts the domain, then you’ve set it up correctly and it’s working perfectly! Otherwise, read and follow any error messages you get. 


Step 3: Add an “A” Record to create your domain without “www.”  (optional)

If you’re using your custom domain only for tracking purposes, you’ll probably want to also set up the non-www. version (e.g., yourdomain.com) of your domain. This would typically be the case if you’ve just bought your domain specifically for tracking purposes.

For example, if you just set up a CNAME record with a hostname of www as in Step 1 above, your tracking links will look like this:

http://www.yourdomain.com/linkID

However, if you leave off the www. like this…

http://yourdomain.com/linkID

… the tracking domain will NOT work.

You have to set up the non-www. version as well, and because the non-www. domain does not have a hostname, you cannot use a CNAME record to properly set it up. Instead, you need to use an “A” record.
 
Caution: You cannot use an “A” record if you have any existing content at yourdomain.com. The second you add the “A” record, your entire domain will point at ClickMagick and not to your original website. This will break your existing website if you have one, and that includes a WordPress blog.

If you’re unsure whether you have existing content, just enter your domain without the www. and see what pulls up. If it’s a website you want to keep, then you can’t add the “A” record or you will lose that website…


To get started, if there’s an existing “A” record that has just your domain with nothing in front of it, then you’ll need to delete it. You will almost certainly have to do this step. Review the step-by-step guides above to see actual examples of how this might look in your DNS editor.

Next, add a new “A” record with just your domain (no hostname) that points to one of our IP addresses here …

If your domain is for regular tracking links (or split tests) use one of these:

50.97.212.250
50.97.244.203

If your domain is for rotator links use one of these:

50.97.212.251
50.23.66.138

When creating an “A” record, you will be asked for the hostname. Some DNS editors require that you leave this field blank, while others require that you use the “@” character. See the step-by-step guides to see how different DNS editors handle this.


Step 4: Add your custom domain (without “www.”) to ClickMagick

Finally, you have to also add the non-www. version of your domain to your Domain Manager and you’ll be all set.

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