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Custom Domains and SSL with Vercel: A Complete Guide

February 17, 2024 by Sara Wahba
  • User Experience

Creating a solid online presence in the digital age is crucial for businesses and individuals. Vercel, a leading platform in the web hosting sphere, offers a seamless solution for quickly deploying, hosting, and managing custom websites. This guide from Kapsys delves into the intricacies of utilizing custom-made domains and SSL certificates with Vercel, ensuring your website is professional and secure.

What is Vercel?

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Vercel Hosting: A Primer

Vercel is a cloud platform for static sites and Serverless Functions that enables developers to host websites and web services that deploy instantly, scale automatically, and require minimal oversight. With its focus on front-end developers, Vercel provides features such as continuous deployment from Git across all of its plans, including its free tier.

Why Custom Domains are Important?

A custom domain is a unique brand identifier that sets your website apart. It enhances your brand's professionalism and improves visibility and searchability on the internet. Vercel simplifies linking custom domains to your website, whether you're purchasing a new domain or linking an existing one. 

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How to Set Up a Custom Domain with Vercel

Setting up a custom domain with Vercel involves a few straightforward steps, ensuring your website is accessible via a unique and professional web address. Here’s a detailed guide on how to do it:

Step 1: Purchase or Identify Your Custom Domain

Before anything else, you need a custom domain. You can purchase one from domain registrars like GoDaddy, Namecheap, or even through Vercel itself, which offers domain registration services. If you already own a domain, you're set to move on to the next step.

Step 2: Add Your Custom Domain to Your Vercel Project

  1. Log into Your Vercel Dashboard: Navigate to the Vercel Dashboard and select the project you want to link with your custom domain.
  2. Navigate to Settings: Within your project, go to the "Settings" tab, then find the "Domains" section.
  3. Add Domain: Click on the "Add" button next to "Domains". Enter your custom domain name in the prompt and click "Add".

Step 3: Verify Domain Ownership

After adding your domain, Vercel will require you to verify ownership. This is usually done by adding a DNS record (TXT or CNAME) to your domain’s DNS settings. Vercel will provide the specific details for the record you need to add.

  1. Access Your Domain Registrar's DNS Settings: Log into the account where your domain is registered and locate the DNS settings section.
  2. Add the DNS Record: Based on Vercel’s instructions, add the required DNS record. The process varies slightly depending on the registrar but generally involves selecting the type of DNS record (e.g., TXT, CNAME), entering the host (often your domain or a subdomain), and then entering the value provided by Vercel.

Step 4: Configure DNS to Point to Vercel

For your custom domain to resolve to your Vercel project, you need to update your DNS settings to point to Vercel’s nameservers or add an A record/CNAME record as directed by Vercel.

  • A Record: If Vercel instructs you to use an A record, you'll enter an "@" as the host and point it to Vercel’s IP address.
  • CNAME Record: For subdomains or certain setups, you might be asked to add a CNAME record instead, pointing to a Vercel-provided address.

Step 5: Wait for DNS Propagation

DNS changes can take anywhere from a few minutes to 48 hours to propagate worldwide. You can check the status of DNS propagation using tools like DNSChecker.org.

Step 6: Check SSL Certification

Once your domain is verified and the DNS has propagated, Vercel automatically generates and configures an SSL certificate for your domain, ensuring secure connections via HTTPS. You can verify this by accessing your site and looking for the padlock icon in the browser’s address bar.

Step 7: Final Verification and Deployment

After the SSL certificate is active, your custom domain setup is essentially complete. Make sure to:

  • Verify Site Accessibility: Open a web browser and navigate to your custom domain to ensure it loads your Vercel project correctly.
  • Check for SSL: Confirm that the site is served over HTTPS and that there are no security warnings.

Additional Tips

  • Manage Subdomains: If you plan to use subdomains (e.g., blog.yoursite.com), you can add them similarly through the Vercel dashboard. Each subdomain can be directed to different Vercel projects if needed.
  • Monitor Domain and SSL Status: Keep an eye on your domain and SSL status from the Vercel dashboard. Vercel automatically renews SSL certificates, but it's good practice to periodically check the health of your domain’s configuration. 

SSL with Vercel

SSL with Vercel

What are SSL Certificates

An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a digital certificate that provides authentication for a website and enables an encrypted connection. This is paramount for protecting sensitive information and ensuring user trust.

Vercel and SSL: Secure Your Website

Vercel automatically provides SSL certificates for all domains, including custom domains, linked to your Vercel projects. This process, managed through Let's Encrypt, ensures that your website is secure from the get-go, without the need for manual SSL certificate installations.

Benefits of SSL with Vercel

  • Enhanced Security: Protects your website's data and your users' privacy.
  • SEO Improvement: Google gives a ranking boost to SSL-secured websites.
  • Increased Trust: Visitors are more likely to trust and complete transactions on SSL-secured websites.

Conclusion

Vercel offers a comprehensive and user-friendly platform for hosting custom websites, with the added benefits of custom domains and SSL certificates. Following the steps outlined in this guide and adhering to best practices, you can enhance your online presence, secure your website, and build trust with your audience. Whether you're a seasoned developer or a novice in web hosting, Vercel simplifies the process, allowing you to focus on what matters most: creating and deploying high-quality content for your visitors.