reverse dns lookup

What is Reverse DNS & Why Should You Care?

Do you want to dive into a tech topic that puts marketers and sales representatives to sleep faster than a dose of Ambien? 

We’re about to talk about how a forward domain name system (DNS) lookup can help your business-to-business (B2B) company capitalize on a reverse DNS (rDNS) lookup.

Are you still fully awake? If that last sentence didn’t knock you out, then maybe you can make it through this. 

To be fair, it’s super important information — just maybe avoid operating any heavy machinery until we’re done.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, immediately, before you change your mind:

With a forward DNS lookup, the DNS is queried for the IP address of a certain hostname. 

A reverse DNS is exactly what you’d expect. It’s where the hostname of a certain IP address is queried.

Basically, a reverse DNS lookup returns the hostname of an IP address.

Information about where an IP address came from is useful to B2B companies in particular. When they can track who visits their website, they can translate that data into sales prospects.

leadfeeder-reverse-dns

Knowing who’s looking at what you have to offer is the kind of information Tinder charges a premium for. 

Note: Want to identify the B2B sales leads lurking within your website? Sign up and try Leadfeeder free for 14 days.

What does a reverse DNS lookup tool do?

Unlike a chainsaw (which does not saw chains), a reverse DNS lookup tool does exactly what you’d expect it to. 

It allows you to perform reverse DNS lookups. 

Of course, it does a little bit more than that. A reverse DNS lookup tool provides additional information, such as the country and city the IP address is attached to.

Not a believer? Try it yourself.


Results for your DNS lookup

IP address:
Organization:
Country:
City:

What is your IP address

IP address:
Organization:
Country:
City:

You can use the form above to make reverse DNS lookups. Type in an IP address (for example 8.8.8.8) and press enter and the tool will make a reverse DNS lookup and return the name record for that IP address.

Want to see this kind of data for all of your website visitors? Leadfeeder is a reverse DNS tool that can show you every company that is visiting your website. Simply connect your Google Analytics and install the Leadfeeder Tracker script to see the companies visiting your site. Get started with a 14 day free trial.

What is reverse DNS in laymans terms

You can use the above form to do reverse DNS lookups. 

Type in an IP address (for example, 8.8.8.8) and press enter. The tool will perform a reverse DNS lookup and return the name record for that IP address.

If you’re operating a B2B business, there’s a huge advantage to knowing what companies are accessing your website — these are the people who are most likely buying what you’re selling.

According to a 2018 report by CSO Insights, more than 70 percent of B2B purchasers know exactly what they need before they reach out to a sales representative. 

On top of that, nearly half of B2B purchasers have already identified a specific solution for their pain point before getting in touch. 

b2b-sales-reverse-dns

When you identify a B2B buyer early in the process, you have a chance to swoop in with a solution (your solution). Even if it’s not a product the purchaser has fully embraced — yet.

So, you want to see this kind of data for all of your website visitors?  Of course, you do. You’re not opposed to making money — this is America, after all (or whatever country you’re in).

Leadfeeder offers a reverse DNS tool that can show you every company that is visiting your website. 

Simply install the Leadfeeder Tracker script to see the companies visiting your site. Get your toes wet (with leads) with a 14-day free trial.

Breaking down reverse DNS so your sales team gets it

Whenever you navigate to a certain webpage, your browser checks for the IP address of that domain name and uses that address to find the correct page.

All right, buckle up — we’re about to get into the types of acronyms and phrases Silicon Valley bros use to trick rich people out of venture capital.

DNS stands for Domain Name System. It’s an address list of computers connected to the internet. 

If you go to Google, you’ll ask the DNS where the company is located online. 

Just as you would use a Rolodex to find an address in real life. Just kidding, no one uses a Rolodex in real life.

What you can’t do with a Rolodex is find a person’s name by searching their address. 

However, thanks to the digital revolution, reverse DNS (rDNS) lookup now lets you find someone’s name based on their (internet) address. 

An rDNS lookup is the act of looking up internet hosts by their IP address.

Hence the “reverse” distinction in the name. 

Besides searching for what Google’s IP address is, you can also determine which company operates from the IP address 8.8.8.8.

If you spend any time on the internet (particularly in the YouTube comments section) it can sometimes feel like a chaotic, anarchic hellscape. 

However, the DNS address book is a stable system that everyone on the internet must agree upon. 

So, at least until Skynet takes over, you can trust that if the DNS says a company is Google.com, it’s really Google.com.

reverse-dns-example

Every single internet-connected device has an IP address. 

Yes. That means your phone, Roomba vacuum, Amazon Echo, and — most importantly in the B2B world — work computers all have their own IP address.

Though not every single IP address has a reverse DNS record, most of them do. 

To give an example, when you accessed this blog post, your device provided your IP address to our server, and your browser knew our IP address. All thanks to the DNS! 

If it wasn’t for this system, you’d need to remember the IP address for any website you wanted to visit. This would be a problem if, like most of us, you remember names better than numbers.

Now that you’re up to speed with how the internet works, you’ll be able to understand how Leadfeeder works to help with reverse DNS lookup.

Leadfeeder is a tool that can help you determine which companies have indicated that they are interested in your services or products based on their employees having visited your website.

By running a reverse DNS, Leadfeeder traces the IP address of those who visit your website right back to their company.

It’s not rocket science — but it gets the job done.

What are “ptr-record” and “in-addr.arpa?”

Sorry, we’re not done with the technical lingo of understanding a reverse DNS yet. 

The DNS is defined by zones. A zone is a separate portion of the domain name space. It was historically administered as one zone file

Most often a domain is one zone.

The owner of the zone maps different addresses to different domain names in their zone. 

For example, it maps the IP address 23.25.62.12 to point to hostname “www” in zone “example.com.” This is done with DNS records.

This would mean that writing www.example.com would direct your browser to address 23.25.62.12. This is usually done with an A (or ALIAS) record and is the usual forward DNS.

How about reverse DNS? 

A PTR record is the record for reverse DNS. 

So, does the zone owner just add that IP address to their zone and it’s all good? No. Reverse DNS works the other way around.

PTR record is stored in a special zone called .in-addr.arpa. 

This zone is administered by whoever owns the block of IP addresses. In the example case, the zone for the PTR record would be 12.62.25.23.in-addr.arpa. The owner of the IP address is usually the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and if you want to add a PTR record to your IP address, you need to contact your ISP.

Wait. Fight the glaze spreading across your eyes! We’ve still got a few more related concepts to discuss.

Why does anybody care about how to do reverse lookup DNS?

Well, to be honest, most people don’t care. 

But anyone running a B2B business should care because failing to take notice is like running $100 bills through the shredder — except more legal.

Let’s break it down:

You have a website. We know this because you’re running a business in the 21st century.

This website is constantly gathering IP addresses from the devices that visit it.

With a reverse DNS tool, you can translate these IP addresses into hostnames — many of which can result in meaningful leads. 

Now, the person doing the first round of research isn’t likely to be the same person with the power to make purchasing decisions for their company.

However, because the business can be identified through a reverse DNS search, Leadfeeder can draw data about the company from LinkedIn. 

We’ll even give you the necessary information you need to reach out to the executives who will be making the final decision about a purchase. Of course, this is not always the case. While most IP addresses can be translated into hostnames, a lot of the time, that hostname is not very useful. 

The thing is, most normal people don’t own their IP address. 

That’s because there’s a finite number of IP addresses available and a seemingly infinite number of new mobile phones, laptops, refrigerators, and other smart devices. 

According to a 2019 study from Deloitte, the average U.S. home already has 11 internet-connected devices

So most people are basically renting an IP address from their ISP. That’s usually the case for mobile phones and home broadband connections. Your hostname will be something like 62.78.145.65.bb.dnainternet.fi. 

Surprisingly, there’s still a lot of information hidden in that IP address. You can suss it out with WHOIS.

For example, that address tells you the user is from Helsinki, Finland, and their ISP is DNA. 

You can even use this data to pinpoint a more accurate location inside Helsinki where the connection was made. 

That’s nice, but there’s still no way you can identify the exact individual with this information.

reverse-dns-code

For business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers, that’s the end of the line when it comes to what a reverse DNS search can accomplish. 

You can use the location data to better target regions with your marketing efforts or expand your business in those areas.

However, things are very different when it comes to B2B sales and marketing.

Unlike the average Joe Rando, most companies have their own IP addresses. So, put on your thinking cap and consider what that means for your B2B marketing team looking to fully utilize the power of reverse DNS searches.

If you managed to put on the correct hat (not the cone-shaped one with “dunce” written on it) you probably figured out the obvious: with a reverse DNS lookup, it’s possible to see exactly which companies visited your website. 

If the IP address is from a larger company, you can even see which offices their connection came from.

Then, all you have to do is launch that LinkedIn retargeting campaign to zero in on the people with power — purchasing power!

Reverse DNS and email

Though it might not have an impact on your marketing efforts (unless you’re doing something wrong), it’s worth understanding the role reverse DNS plays in spam filtering.

Email servers use reverse DNS (among other systems) to verify that the sending server is not a malicious spammer. 

When someone sends an email from the address john.doe@example.com, the receiving server checks whether the IP address of that server has a reverse DNS record that is tied to example.com.

If the sending email server doesn’t have a reverse DNS record at all, it might as well be packaged in blue tin — because it’s probably spam.  In such cases, most servers reject the email.

If you are running your own mail servers, you can avoid problems like this by setting up a PTR record for your server.

If the email server has a reverse DNS but it’s not for your domain, that’s not a problem. 

Just remember that under such circumstances it’s even more important to set up correct DKIM and SPF records.

Why generic web analytics software will fail your reverse DNS efforts

Most web analytics tools have some form of reverse DNS built-in into their system — and it sucks.

Google Analytics (yes, the web analytics tool you and everyone else uses) realized how useless its reverse DNS feature was and terminated it in February 2020.

Even if your web analytics tool is capable of showing you reverse DNS data, it’s often so convoluted that it’s ultimately worthless. 

The primary issue is that the reports are filled with home broadband and mobile phone visitors. This pile of useless leads skew your data and make it harder for your sales and marketing team to identify genuine prospects.

If you are serious about discovering which companies are visiting your website, try out a 14-day trial of Leadfeeder.

Leadfeeder uses machine learning to filter out ISPs and non-relevant hostnames from your data. It also effortlessly integrates with other marketing and sales tools for better data sharing.

Final thoughts: What is reverse DNS lookup & why should you care?

Congratulations! You’re still awake.

Don’t worry, there won’t be a pop quiz at the end — because the real test is how well you implement your understanding of reverse DNS searches to unlock the vast amount of commercial potential they provide to your B2B company.

Note: Want to identify the B2B sales leads lurking within your website? Sign up and try Leadfeeder free for 14 days.


Anna Crowe
By Anna Crowe

Anna is the Assistant Editor for Search Engine Journal and Content Strategy Lead at Leadfeeder. Over the last 9 years, Anna has successfully developed and implemented online marketing strategies, SEO, and conversion campaigns for 100+ businesses of all sizes; from the Fortune 500, to startups, and nonprofits. She enjoys burritos and puppies (in that order).


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