There are two main methods that I use to track domain name activity and today I wanted to share the details of what I use, why you may want to keep track of some domain owners or services, and why you may see activity on one but not the other.
Note: The following techniques are not only for domain name investing. I make my living as a domain name consultant and help companies with domain related needs they have. One can utilize the tools I'm about to mention for many different reasons.
My main tools are from a paid service called DomainTools.com . DomainTools has the largest database of “WHOIS history”, which are historical WHOIS records dating all the way to 2001. This database sets it apart from DomainIQ.com, but DIQ offers a similar product set.
The way I see WHOIS history, it’s a confirmation tool and difference detector from before to now. I use WHOIS history to compare current WHOIS records to past and then decide if a domain name may have sold. This method also highlights odd activity (theft) to WHOIS records and can also reveal patterns of owners. Patterns are ways to discover.
Due to privacy laws, the once almighty Registrant Monitoring was always king but no longer is. Registrant monitoring can and would monitor email addresses or business names to match exactly. If any new records would appear for a specific email address, registrant monitoring would display it in a report. It's a truly fascinating tool, considering the hundreds of millions of domain names that are registered and the many new ones that change ownership or are registered/deleted etc every day. To crunch all this data into a report still fascinates me but this is method #1 I still use today even though the majority of email address are not longer displayed in WHOIS records.
Why does registrant monitoring still work? Registrant Organization is still a field in publicly displayed WHOIS records and many companies and individuals still use it. Utilizing this data, registrant monitor works well if you select “exactly” contains and use it that way. Some WHOIS records still display email addresses if a registrant requests that they be shown with the registrar.
Name Server Monitoring
The underused, underdog in my tool kit. Name servers are not really a WHOIS record, they are a DNS record. In general, WHOIS “look ups” are harder to do and more limiting than DNS look ups, so if you can monitor DNS, you can ping data nearly as much as your heart desires!
DomainTools is now the only DNS monitoring tool (DomainIQ shut down DNS.link, which was a similar tool) that I’m aware of that functions really well. The bad thing? DomainTools has stated they are no longer supporting DailyChanges.com, which is the DNS monitoring tool I use daily. This allows you to see up to 5,000 name server movements based on name server changes. The other bad? DomainTools requires a DomainTools membership to access DailyChanges.
Why is it so helpful? Education, tracking, trend detection and a helping hand now that WHOIS records are so empty of data.
Many sites, services and people do pattern established things every day. Using the same name servers is often one of those. I can see and track expired domain names for Network Solutions by seeing what domains NS switch to when they expire. Ns1.pendingrenealdeletion.com as an example. I can see what moves in or out based on the nameservers. Doing this, I can compile my “expired domain” inventory list and not rely on another service.
I can see what GoDaddy may sell out of its NameFind domain investment portfolio by looking at name server movement on ns1.namefind.com . I can also use other tools and see all the domains on those name servers. Again, powerful data and access for you to research things as deep as you want!
Name servers are just an easy way to identify IP addresses, so you can also use different tools from DomainTools.com, DomainIQ.com and more to research based on IP Addresses.
One or the other or both?
Why do I see activity using registrant monitoring over name server monitoring? People break patterns, registrant monitoring only tracks the specific email address or registrant organization, so if a domain is put under whois privacy but still uses the common name server, it will be seen via name server and not registrant monitoring. Sometimes if a domain is being used for something right away, the more common name server may be different (hosting provider) than normal but registrant data can be the same. I even track whole registrars (smaller ones) based on the emails used in whois. This is a wide net but only can be used on smaller data activity.
Both methods work as an in and out. This doesn’t always mean a domain has sold for an example, that is why whois history is so valuable and should be used to confirm a deny a thought. Making connections and seeing other patterns are things that help you decide what is happening and why something changed. Experience will help with this.
Using domain name monitoring tools like registrant monitoring and name server monitoring can be used for a lot of different things. I use it to monitor several known corporate domain name registrars. This helps me see what clients of these services are registering, acquiring and more. Aka, intel on your competition? Yep! Find the patterns and follow them. Many do put in great efforts to hide early domain purchases, you can see that as well. I mainly report on corporate related domain name movements, so this is what I focus on.
I can tell you and often have good indication on upcoming product releases, marketing efforts, brand launches and much more just based on domain activity that I see, although none of that is really my focus. The more you do it and the wider net you put out, the more patterns you will discover.
Sites like SquadHelp, BrandBucket, Efty, BuyDomains, DomainMarket etc. all use unique and traceable name servers. Watching these with DailyChanges helps highlight what they are doing, what domains are selling, what customers are listing on their services and so much more. It’s really just the tip of the iceberg on what you want to see and monitor. DailyChanges is SUCH an undervalued tool.
Registrant Monitoring and Name Server tracking via DailyChanges.com are the two main tools I use to share what I do via @DotWeekly on Twitter. I can only continue to HOPE that DomainTools.com continues offering the amazing tools they do, including DailyChanges.com. I am also thankful for the many helpful tools offered by DomainIQ.com, which also allows specific DNS monitoring, IP tracking, registrant monitoring and more. Get creative and consider these methods, even beyond domain investing.