What are the tools that we can use to check domain name information and its history? This is important so we can see where the domain has been, how many times it’s moved around (hosting companies) and how long it’s actually been in service. We can also research who owns it, and how many other sites they own that might be a conflict of interest.
The first tool we are going to use is “whois”. You can use this from a terminal (MacOS or Linux), or you can use an online one like:
Type in the domain name or run “whois domain.com” from a command line and you can see the details. Important fields:
Updated Date: 2017-01-19T08:19:54.000Z
Creation Date: 2006-01-18T14:10:49.000Z
Here we can see when the domain was last renewed and when it was originally created. If the seller is claiming the business is five years old but the domain creation date is only two years old, they will have to explain. There are circumstances where the domain is dropped and re-purchased from another provider, but that is rare if it’s a real business (everything is auto-renew these days).
Also check the owner of record, this is typically private so you won’t see much there.
The next tool is a whois history. This will show the information above, but how many times the domain has changed accounts and been renewed. Many of these are paid services now, so purchasing a domain report from domaintools is the way to go. If you are doing due-diligence on a website and have already submitted an LOI, this report could save you so it’s worth the $49.
There is some basis for SEO purposes on domain history. It is believed that google looks for clean domain history as a ranking signal. So if the domain has moved around a bunch, it might look spammy to them.
When doing domain research, it is also useful to see other domains registered to the same person or company. This is called reverse whois. Type in a name or email address, and their database will show other domains they might own. If they use privacy mode, then you probably won’t find much useful information.
Reverse whois: http://viewdns.info/
The next step on checking domain health is looking at blacklists. This can tell you if their domain has been reported for email spam in the past and can cause harm down the road.
An all encompassing tool: https://mxtoolbox.com/SuperTool.aspx
Run the blacklist check and make sure it comes back OK for all the lists. If there are some issues here, it could take time to fix them. If the business depends on email marketing, this will cause issues down the road.
The last step we recommend it checking the hosting history. See how many different IP addresses it’s had over the years will tell you if it has been moved around a lot. Ideally you want just a couple moves as this signifies a stable site. If it’s been sold a bunch of times, you will most likely see different IP addresses across many hosting providers.
Tool here: Viewdns Tools
Type in the domain name in the IP history box and it will show the different providers used. We like to see at least 1 year between hosting providers, better if its only a couple for the entire history. If it is an e-commerce site, they are most likely sticking with one of the big players (Shopify, BigCommerce, etc) so they are not going to move the site. It takes too much work and lost sales.
We hope these tools provide some value in your business!