I was talking with a friend today who recently raised a new round of financing and is looking at buying a new domain name. The first thing he did when he wanted to buy a domain was to type it into his browser, half the names he tried didn’t resolve, the other half was a split between “For Sale” landers and existing websites.
For the domains that didn’t resolve he just passed, his thinking was, if the domain doesn’t resolve, he didn’t really know where to go from there. Existing websites also were a no-go since well, someone already had a business there. This meant the “For Sale” landers got his attention, but back-and-forth with brokers made him feel like he was being ripped off.
So he reached out to me and asked, “how the heck do you find out who owns a domain name?!?!”
I think a lot of people miss the complexities of being a domain investor – at the end of the day we end up becoming detectives, doing our best to track down people through online breadcrumbs. With WHOIS no longer an option, tracking down domain name owners is harder than ever before.
For many of us, this detective work pays off, it’s how we end up with some of our best names. For brokers, it pays off as well, it’s how they close their best deals. What most people miss is the amount of time it can take to track down a domain owner. It’s not as easy as sending an email and instantly starting a dialog. Domains change hands all the time, email addresses change, and finding out who actually owns the name can take more than a few steps and weeks, or months in some cases.
As for how to track down a domain owner, I’ve found things like DomainTools can be pretty darn handy since I can look back to see how owned the domain before the WHOIS information went away and start there. Honestly, that’s been the best starting place for me most of the time, but when that’s a dead end, then you really have to get creative. Everyone has a different set of steps they take, but it’s not trivial and very few people understand the complexity involved in actually starting a conversation with a domain owner.
Brokers probably appreciate this more than anyone since a good chunk of their lives is spent trying to track down domain owners to kick off negotiations. This is also another reason why I tell people – if you actually want to sell your domains, using a service like Efty where the domain owner can quickly and easily contact you directly can make a big difference.
I’m currently trying to track down three different domain owners, and on that note, it’s time to end this post and put on my detective hat.