How to find out who owns a domain name

Find that domain owner

You’ve run a domain name search and found the one you want, but it’s already taken. You might feel it’s time to move on and select a compromise domain, but what if you could find out who owns the domain name you want and see if they’re interested in selling it?

Here’s how to find out who owns a domain name.

1. Visit the domain name

Your first port of call when trying to find out who owns a domain name should be the domain name itself.

Type the domain name into your browser and see what happens. You’ll either find a website, a holding page or an error message.

If there’s a website, you can look through its various pages to try and find a domain name. Look for an “About me/us” page, a “Contact me/us” page, any other kind of contact form, or an email address. There may also be contact details in the website’s footer.

A holding page may include some sort of contact information and will sometimes even explicitly state that the domain is for sale.

An error message may mean that there is a website on that URL, but it is currently unavailable, or that the domain name isn’t being used.

Some error messages may include contact details, but if the one you’re seeing doesn’t you’ll need to try another method to find out who owns a domain name.

2. Look at WhoIs data

WhoIs is like a phonebook for websites. Or at least it used to be. In the past, you could enter a domain name into a WhoIs search tool like the one provided by GoDaddy and, unless the domain owner had paid for privacy, you’d likely get at least some contact details.

The introduction of new data protection rules in the shape of GDPR means that WhoIs searches now usually offer very little in the way of data.

However, if the domain you’re interested in is owned outside the EU, you might still be able to find the owner’s details with a WhoIs search. Or you may find an admin contact email address.

Just enter the domain name into the WhoIs search bar and click search.

3. Try a domain broker service

If you’re keen on buying a domain name but have struggled to make contact with the owner, then you could always try a domain broker service like the one offered by GoDaddy.

A reputable domain broker service will only access publicly available data, but as they’re experienced in finding that data they may have better luck in contacting an elusive domain owner.

They may also be able to negotiate a better price for the domain than you would on your own.

4. Search on social media

Visit popular social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook and enter the domain name into the search bar.

You’re on the lookout for an official page or account, rather than just mentions of the domain name.

If you find one, there should be some way to send a message to the account owner who may well be the person who owns the domain name.

5. Use a domain backorder service and wait

If you don’t want to use a domain broker service and you’re willing to wait, then you could always try placing a domain on backorder.

Backordering a domain means that a domain registrar will attempt to register a domain for you if the current owner does not renew it.

However, it may be that the owner renews the domain even if they don’t appear to be using it so you may have to wait a very long time.

On top of that, there is no guarantee that your back order will be successful even if the current owner allows the domain to expire. This is particularly true of in-demand domain names where multiple people may have it on backorder.

Usually, there is an additional fee for domain backorders.

You can learn more about GoDaddy’s domain backorder service here.

Summing up

It can be difficult and frustrating trying to find out who owns a domain name. Worst of all, despite your best efforts you may still come up empty handed.

If that happens, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board and select a different domain name. Check out this guide to find out what makes a good domain name.

Will joined the GoDaddy EMEA team in 2017, following the acquisition of HEG. He covers all aspects of digital marketing, from SEO to email, for the GoDaddy UK blog. Previously, he has worked in online journalism and also conducted online marketing campaigns for a number of well-known brands.