There are many reasons why you might be wanting to track down the publisher of a website. These can range from sticky legal reasons such as fraud to more benign reasons like suggesting or commenting, or even friendly reasons such as wanting to collaborate on a project. Whatever your reasons are, here are a few ways we’ve found to track down the website owners.
1. The About Page and Related Pages
Sometimes, the answer really is right there in black and white. The contact us pages will often have the name of the publisher listed for contact, especially if this is a small, single-focus site.
You can also check out related pages such as “Our Story” or “Team” pages. Pages like this offer more information on the brand and team behind the site, often including individual contact links for specific team members.
If you don’t see these pages listed in the main site menu, scroll down and search for a footer menu offering more of the site. If this also comes up empty, you can try navigating to /about or /contact manually to see if either of these pages has been set up but not linked in the main menus for some reason.
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2. The Legal Pages
The Terms and Conditions page will include information about the official company registration, so it’s a great place to look if you suspect the About, Team, or Our Story pages aren’t telling the whole story.
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3. Blogs and Author Bios
If the site has an official blog, they may also have a small section for an author bio either on the side of a single post or at the bottom of the post itself, usually in italics. This can sometimes offer social media links where you can get in touch with that author directly.
If the site is a small, single-focus sort of site, the main blogger may also be the publisher. Checking the About, Contact, and Legal pages can help confirm or deny this.
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4. Official Social Media
While this method often requires a bit of detective work, official social media accounts on Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook can provide more information on the person behind the site. Website owners often keep up official social media accounts for their site, especially if they’re hoping to build a brand or branch out of an existing niche market.
Checking to see who a brand’s employees are on Linkedin, as well as others who mention the website name, publisher, or brand on their profiles. Look for connections.
Facebook is another good option as it constantly urges its users to keep up-to-date information in the ‘about’ section. Often, you’ll be able to find a verified contact email in this section.
Twitter can also be a useful source as brands sometimes mention employees who maintain their official profile in their bio, or on specific Tweets. Consider exploring their official feed and looking for any retweets that might also be a clue as to who’s running the show.
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5. The Whois Database
The most sure-fire way to track down the actual publisher of a site, especially one you feel isn’t being legitimate with their other information, is to consult the Whois database.
The database is maintained by GoDaddy. If a site owns its domain, then its owners are periodically getting emails about this information to make sure it’s up-to-date.
The tool is available for free to the public and can be easily searched with the on-site search feature. Just enter the domain name you’d like more information about, and hit the button.
The Whois database is a great tool for finding out more about a website, including publication date, but many website owners use a domain privacy feature in order to make some of their public information private. If the information you find through the Whois database is not fully redacted, it’s a good idea to see if the contact email and the registered email match.
Publisher information and registration information are often easy to find if you know where to look, so do a little digging and see what you come up with.
Remember that social media is a great asset to your detective work and can sometimes reveal things about a brand or site that you weren’t previously aware of. Sometimes, looking a little deeper into a site you were considering working with reveals discrepancies that make you think twice about reaching out. Other times it only confirms that yes, this is a site you want to be associated with.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to track down the publisher of a website, we hope these methods help you out.