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September 18, 2012

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
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The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

Google's View of My Hometown - What Are All of These Strange Domains Doing In My Search Results?

A couple of time each year I go back to the small Midwestern town where I grew up, Delaware, Ohio, to see my mother who still lives in my childhood home. I'll be going up again next weekend and in the course of deciding what Diana and I  might want to do on this trip, I did a casual search on Google for "Delaware, Ohio" to see what might be going on while we were in the area (Delaware is 25 miles north of the state capital - Columbus (home of the Ohio State Buckeyes). A little known fact is that in 1812 the state capital was relocated with Columbus and Delaware competing for the honor. Columbus wound up winning by one vote). In addition to finding some

Downtown Delaware, Ohio

entertainment ideas (the County Fair, which I haven't been to in decades, will be going on so there is one nostalgic option) I also found a domain story.

From a domain nut/internet entrepreneur's perspective, what I found interesting was which ten websites Google put on page 1 (out of more than 1.5 million pages for the term "Delaware, Ohio" in quotes) in a search request for this particular geographic location. To get relevant results you have to include both the city and state name - if you enter "Delaware" alone most of the results will be about the State of Delaware rather than the Ohio town that is predominantly known for three things - the Little Brown Jug (part of harness racing's Triple Crown - this year's race will be held the day before we get to town), Ohio Wesleyan University and Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the U.S. who was born in Delaware (and for whom my high school was named). 

The top result on page 1 of Google is DelawareOhio.net - the city's official website. After a Wikipedia entry about the town, The 3rd entry is Delaware.org (DelawareOhio.org also redirects to this site, an independent city guide that has been online since 1995). With the .net and the .org versions of DelawareOhio leading the results,

I of course wondered what was going on with DelawareOhio.com and why it was nowhere to be found? It turns out that domain, the one you would generally expect to be dominant, remains undeveloped, even though it was registered back in 1997.  It was also interesting to see that the domain is owned by a small business in a similarly sized Ohio town, Marion, that is 20 miles north of Delaware (Marion is also the birthplace of a U.S. President, Warren G. Harding). The same company owns MarionOhio.com, registered the same year, so they likely had an idea to corner some Central Ohio community domain names for future use - too bad the future still has not arrived for those names.

By now, I was finding this little exercise to be more and more interesting. Studying page 1 of Google results for a term that interests you is a good way to while away a rainy day and at the same time learn a good bit about about how certain domains are used (or not used) and the value Google places on the ones that have been developed. 

One thing that stands out is how many different extensions show up in a world that is dominated by .com. The #4 result was a .US domain (America's country code) - the official Delaware County website at http://www.co.delaware.oh.us/.  That kind of convoluted addressing is common with governmental sites (prior to 2002 .US was reserved for government use but since then it has been open to all U.S. citizens). DelawareCounty.us (which I happen to own) would have been a more elegant and memorable solution, as would DelawareOhio.us, however the latter domain redirects to a page about the city's best-known cemetery (presumably aimed at someone other than the current occupants)!

Image from Bigstock

I didn't find any other developed websites for the term DelawareOhio (one of the undeveloped ones, DelawareOhio.info, is another of mine). The balance of Google's 1st page included the local Convention and Visitors Bureau site - VisitDelOhio.com at #5 (they do not appear to own the  unabbreviated VisitDelawareOhio.com and it is not developed), a  page about Delaware from the ubiquitous City-Data.com at #6 and  the Delaware County Fair's website at #7 (located at DelawareCountyFair.com).

Rounding out the 10 entries on page 1 were the Ohio Wesleyan website at OWU.edu, the local newspaper's website - DelGazette.com (the Delaware Gazette has been published continually since it was founded in 1818 and is still in business despite challenges on ever side from the Internet. They also own the unabbreviated domain, DelawareGazette.com, but choose to forward it to the shorter version) and DelawareOhioRealEstate.com, a blog operated by a local real estate agent (that high ranking will be appreciated by Rob Grant who owns the world's biggest portfolio of .com city-realestate domains). 

The late, great Eckel's Lake in Delaware, Ohio 
billed itself as "The World's Unique Water Gym"

While I felt like I knew a lot about my hometown, I left a long time ago so that quick search on Google gave me a lot of insight into how the world sees the city  through search engine results today. It also reminded me how much things have changed. If Google had existed when I lived there (Yes kids, there really was a time when there was no Google!) the top results might have included Sharon Phillian, a Delaware native from my era who competed in the Miss America contest, Eckel's Lake and the A&W root beer stand 

where everyone liked to cruise on Saturday nights. Sharon is still with us but Eckel's Lake and the A&W no longer exist.

Though Google generates mixed feelings in the domain world (due to their dominance of pay per click advertising and a widespread suspicion that they do not share revenues equitably with their domain partners) you have to give them props for serving up a wealth of information on any topic you can think of and (whether you feel the criteria they use to rank sites is fair or not) the price is certainly right (and if you still don't like them, there is always Bing).

(Posted Sept. 17, 2012) 

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