It is sometimes a daunting task to find the owner of a domain name. Daunting as it is, it's a crucial skill to have when you’re looking to buy a domain. The first step is to use an online whois lookup tool, a service similar to your local town or city’s registry of deeds where all homeownership documents are kept. There are hundreds of providers that offer whois lookup tools, including registrars such as GoDaddy and Enom. All are relatively easy to access and use, but my favorite whois service is whois.sc. Whois.sc is owned and operated by Domain Tools, and they provide additional services on top of just whois information. Others include whois.com, whois.net, and who.godaddy.com. Godaddy typically blocks whois information of their customers unless you use their whois search.
A whois lookup provides details about that domain name, including the name of the registrar, the state or country where it is registered, and the name of the organization or individual who owns it. whois tools also provide interesting details such as the date created, and the date updated. For example, if you do a whois search of cars.com, you will see the registration organization, registration country, that it was first registered on February 11, 1998, and that it was last updated on April 23, 2019. If anything is changed in the whois it will change the updated date. That could be the middle initial of an owner or a change in registrar to a new server.
See below for an example of the information provided by a whois lookup on cars.com:
MarkMonitor, Inc. MarkMonitor Inc.
IANA ID: 292
clientDeleteProhibited, clientTransferProhibited, clientUpdateProhibited
7,891 days old
Created on 1998-02-11
Expires on 2020-02-10
Updated on 2019-04-23
NS-1005.AWSDNS-61.NET (has 13,385 domains)
NS-1142.AWSDNS-14.ORG (has 12,019 domains)
NS-1879.AWSDNS-42.CO.UK (has 510 domains)
NS-285.AWSDNS-35.COM (has 15,981 domains)
22.214.171.124 is hosted on a dedicated server
United States - Virginia - Ashburn - Akamai Technologies Inc.
United States AS16625 AKAMAI-AS - Akamai Technologies, Inc., US
Registered And Active Website
36 changes on 36 unique IP addresses over 14 years
2 registrars with 1 drop
6 changes on 6 unique name servers over 17 years
As you can see, whois searches can provide a wealth of information. However, sometimes the information is blocked or made private by the domain owner. We have been seeing this more and more in the domain industry due to privacy laws such as GDPR. If the domain is private, the whois will provide an email or a contact form to contact the owner.
Before you perform a whois search and submit a message to the domain owner, keep in mind a few important things:
#1 - A lot of domain owners with sought after domains get an immense amount of spam mail and bad offers. Approaching with a close to fair market offer usually helps give that person an indication that you are serious.
#2 - Before you send an offer, it’s a good idea to look at the more popular marketplaces and see if it already has a listed price for sale.
#3 - It’s a good idea to consider hiring an experienced professional. Have you ever attempted to do a home project only to spend your day going back and forth to the hardware store only to have to hire a professional to do the job in the end? I’ve seen this same situation happen in the world of domains. Sometimes, instead of wasting time and effort due to lack of knowledge or experience, it’s better to hire an experienced broker.
They know where to look, what to say, and might already have a relationship with the owner. They might be able to get you a better price in a shorter period. In the case of private domains, our brokers can use the communication options that are available or use other methods like looking back at past whois history, in addition to many other tools of the trade. In the end, our experienced brokers will find the domain owner and acquire the domain name at a fair market price. We use tools and investigative skills to analyze the domain’s ownership history. For example, we may contact past owners to find out whom the domain was sold to and how to find the current owner. In other cases, it may take some extra time and effort to find the decision-maker at the company. Again, this is something that we are experienced and specialized in doing. To set up a consultation with one of our experienced brokers, click here.
Once you find the owner, the next step is to make an offer for the domain name. If you have not already done so, you may want to read my article on appraising domain names. When you’re looking to contact the owner of a domain name to make an offer, the first thing you should do is visit the website and look around. It’s important to determine how the company is using the domain (even if the appraisal tells you the domain is worth x amount). If the domain takes you to a bona fide working business, the company’s livelihood is probably tied to the brand name of the domain and it will cost significantly more than fair market value. Additionally, even if it’s just a landing page or a dead page, it might be in the company’s plans for a future project. If this is the case, the appraisal may be incorrect, or it may cost a little more to convince the company to change its plans or to purchase something else. Whatever the case, be prepared to negotiate the domain’s price by researching the domain before you contact the owner.