Don’t give up! Finding webmasters who don’t want to be found

by on 30th August 2012

I’m sure many of you have run into this problem – you’re trying to contact someone you have no means of contacting via their website, whose social profiles are automated and whose whois is locked down. If it’s a candidate for link removal you’re chasing, there’s a likelihood that this website has been deindexed, too. This presents some difficulties.

I’ve previously suggested that a good way to find someone like this is to see what other websites are hosted on the same ip. This isn’t too reliable for looking anywhere outside of your dataset because such a large number of websites share their hosting with thousands of others. Nonetheless, it’s worth a shot.

My method today relies on the laziness of people who don’t want to be found (or simply ‘forgot to put contact details anywhere on their website while making the whois data private’). In short, when people monetize one website, they usually do so in the exact same way somewhere else. This creates an opening in an otherwise well constructed wall of anonymity. So who tries to make money out of their websites?


Tracking down affiliates through their affiliate id’s (which need to be consistent) is pretty reliable. This can either be found appended to the URL when you click through to their product page but failing that can almost always be found at the bottom of the checkout process. Searching for this ID will find 2 things a) pages the affiliate is not in control of and b) pages the affiliate is in control of. You can ask the webmasters of the former category for contact details of the affiliate or if you’re in luck, contact the affiliate directly. But not everyone you want to contact will be an affiliate, so you’ll want to go further.

Adsense Users:

Far more widely used than affiliate offers Adsense finds itself above the fold on most of the places you aren’t thrilled about having a link from. The Adsense code looks something like this:

google_ad_client = “ca-pub-1234567898765432”

What can you do with this? With the following search operator you can use Blekko to discover other sites featuring the above code:

/adsense=[16 digit numeric string from Adsense code]

This will return some (but not all) websites attached to that particular account. These will almost certainly be run by the same person or company as your target site. I’ve had some luck in catching what Blekko misses by popping the numeric string into Google and going through the reverse lookup services that dominate the results. This can work with ad services besides Adsense, too. You’ve probably twigged where I’m going with this.

Google Analytics:

Most people even remotely serious about their websites will have an analytics package installed. The go-to for webmasters of all stripes is the wonderful Google Analytics. The user account identifier looks like this:


So how, besides whacking this into Google, do we make use of this? For our purposes the method we employ doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough. My current favourite is Enter a domain (e.g. and check out the tabs below:

SEOmoz ewhois

ewhois isn’t the only reverse analytics service available (far from it), but we’ve gotten on very well so far. Treat each of the results returned by the services as a lead on the owner. You can also check the whois email and reverse ip lookup at the same time, which is handy.

Running my own comparisons I haven’t found a service that didn’t seem to miss something out, but I wouldn’t worry about this too much. Another method to try would be a reverse lookup on their webmaster tools account when available- though I haven’t found a need to do this yet.

I think it’s worth asking in your first contact whether the person you are asking does in fact have control of the website, but proceeding as normal otherwise. They will usually be rather surprised you’ve managed to track them down. This can be useful outside of link cleanup – you know the websites you have to go through this to contact aren’t exactly going to be saturated with SEO spam.

This method won’t solve all your link cleanup problems, but it should reduce the size of your ‘could not contact’ list significantly.  We’ll be adding a column to soon so you can manually check the problem cases. I hope you find this a useful addition to your bag of tricks – what methods do you find work best for you in these tricky cases?


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  1. Great post Oliver ! These are some amazing tactics more like life lines when you want to clean up your backlink profile.

  2. I’ve used the G.A. search method many times over the years but must admit it never occurred to me to check adsense via Blekko. Thanks very much for the post.

  3. If you know the full name of the person you can use Rapportive and some tools:

  4. This is fantastic! I have a few scrapers who have taken blog content so I will be catching them now!

  5. You can find related sites through as well.

    Insert URL it will give info of all sites using similar adsense, analytics account

  6. Great post Oli!

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