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Domain Names? We Don't Need No Domain Names

Japanese search trend

2:08 am on Feb 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator bill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

This is a very noticeable trend for anyone in Japan. I've become numb to it, but for people who don't live here or visit often this can be an eye opener.

Domain Names? We Don't Need No Domain Names [pcworld.com]

The advertisements that sit in front of millions of rail passengers each day often don't feature a Web address even if they're Internet-based businesses. Even Yahoo hasn't bothered to put a Web address on a current campaign for its latest credit card.

Instead, almost all of the advertisements feature a stylized search box with a phrase already entered and, just to the right, a "search" button.

Search technology has gotten so good at pinpointing desired sites from the background noise that makes up the rest of the Internet that many companies are finding it easier to tell people what to search for. And it works out for the users too. With many unable to speak English or any western language, a string of letters can quickly get forgotten but not, for example, "Tanaka lawyer" (in Japanese, of course).

7:44 am on Feb 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Yes, this is very noticeable and an interesting thing in the Japanese context. My observations:

* my ex-girlfriend even Yahoo'd (because Japanese don't use google as
much) Yahoo itself ;-D Any other site she'd want to visit would
also be done by entering the domain name (without TLD) into Yahoo.
She absolutely never used the URL bar. Drove me crazy, but I loved
her ;-)

* While I agree with "a string of letters can quickly get forgotten",
I'd be uncomfortable with the current approach. I mean, what would
I do in a Western, cut-throat competition market? Right, book the
Google adwords that my competitor is running a multi-million
campaign for. Cheaply acquired customers. I guess there may be
certain ethical restrictions holding back Japanese companies right
now. But I think, this is only a question of time until someone
gets burned. Eventually, once the dam breaks, people won't feel
bad if others are doing it (remember the Chrysanthemum, anyone?)

All in all, this may be attributed to "Japanese characters vs. ASCII", I think. Domain names for a long time allowed a subset of ASCII only. I wonder what the newly introduced complexer domain names will do here. I have to say I don't see them much, or even at all.

[edited by: Leggewie at 7:48 am (utc) on Feb. 25, 2009]

3:45 am on Feb 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

nice find, b! This is also how it is in Korea as well.. and has been for almost as long as I can remember. (Funny thing is.. been here so long I'm beginning to forget what would thought of as surprising from "fresh" non-korean internet eyes. lol.)

However, in Korea they also take this concept a bit further here (perhaps they do this in Japan as well but not apparent from the article). Here, you see search boxes with pre-written phrases in much of print and even TV commercials. And since there is competition between the big portals here you'll see either a green search box (Naver) or a blue/purpleish one (Daum).
(notably: I don't think I recall ever seeing anything else...maybe a yellow yahoo one once? +_+).

EG: if you see a "The Dark Knight" movie commercial, at the end of the commericial at the bottom of the screen you have a green search box with "dark knight" (in Korea phoenetics) get written in it.

Along that line, I give credit to Naver for activity supporting this type of branding. For example, they have bought spots on major cable stations here, showing just showing the exact time and top movie movie searches of the week .. scrolling through a big green box of course. (you know those 10-20 secs at the top of the hour or in between movies/shows). No naver name. Nothing other than the green box and showing top searches. Anyone and everyone knows exactly what that is.

I thought it was brilliant.

Naver also have book reading corner/stands/display at Starbucks and gave away green bookmarks clips in the shape of search boxes... that when clipped on the book highlighted words in the search box. Again, no blantant naver branding other than the green box.

Its interesting to see that in contrast to Google that now gives free wireless access at all Starbucks with a little table sign that basically says free wireless compliments of Google. (Its right next to the bookshelf. heh.) Funny thing is.. I thought Starbucks always had free wireless, as I always saw ppl hooked up on their notebooks surfing away, so I was like...er... "what's changed?" when I saw that. ie: I really wasn't feeling like that were adding any real value. A few random ppl I asked seemed to feel the same. Go figure.

bottomline: Green box FTW. :p

so sayeth GrendelKhan{TSU}

[edited by: GrendelKhan_TSU at 3:46 am (utc) on Feb. 26, 2009]

4:10 am on Mar 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Good way to look for keywords to target in your adwords campaigns- my little secret i've been using. Been going on a few years now.


4:23 am on Mar 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

David, just my thoughts exactly.

Are the Japanese companies really blind to this problem? Or put another way, nobody in a Japanese company smart enough to have this exact same thought?

6:31 am on Mar 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

No, they aren't blind to it... and I doubt it ever will be a problem on the scale you suggest.

so I'd be careful who you assume is "not smart" as that can be a tricky term in that way.

I assume you know things are done differently out here for reasons beyond the surface as laid out in a random article, and its certainly not a one-step jump to marketing ignorance.

Nothing personal but sooo many cultural factors as well as factors related to how internet evolved and looks out here mitigate any serious worry about some keyword freeloaders... (not the least of which is the fact that there aren't any multi-million dollar ad campaigns that would involve ONLY that type of keyword branding to the degree that they'd care much if some ma&pop did freeload some. heck, there aren't even really any multi-million dollar keyword campaigns in any case. I don't even worry about it in my non-multimillion dollar campaigns with great results EVEN when competitors creep up...but hey I've never claimed to be very smart).

The fact that your gf searching for company sites in yahoo and not typing the tdl directly into the browser drove you crazy and was weird speaks volumes. You seem to still be looking at this all a little too outside-in. In fact, I'd assert that is the default practice in Asia (perhaps all double byte language countries?). FARRR more ppl launch their favorite search site to find a site then type directly into the URL bar than reverse.

The reason is a lot simpler: Japanese is easier for Japanese. End. (and Korean for Koreans etc)

eg: Do you type in English or Japananse by default?

Its easier to simply easier to type in one's native language and click, then type in a foreign language, no? You said it yourself....the fact that internet TDLs are English by default should be explanation enough for that "frustrating" behavior. (so why is it frustrating as it IS easier from "native" typing perspective.)

ie: default page jp.yahoo.com >> type keyword I know in Japanese >> click site
> -- much easier than --->
default page jp.yahoo.com >> go to url bar >> remember and figure out how to type domain(dot)com in English >> hit enter (IF you got it right)

No, native "complex" url (double-byte) won't change that much if at all.

Case in point,
- as I said: native keyword search phrase ads, as opposed to domain name ads, has been done for a years and years here in Korea. Hasn't affected keyword market.. in fact, many reasons why it's helped.
- Both complex native language domains (double-byte)
- and url bar native language keyword redirects have been used in Korea for years.
(ie: Type a brand name IN KOREAN in IE window url bar--no domain, no url, just the word--and it redirects to a site.)

Habits are formed, the internet is what it is (ie: started in English), and giving the value-added of a double-byte characters isn't make the english part go away.

ie: English urls is the default standard in Korea and Japan, and EVERYWHERE... and I don't see that changing. Heck, Korea is famous for being the thickest of the walled gardens, but no one doesn't want to be more international, even if just in appearance of an english url. No one thinks Korean will be the standard down the road either. And portals aren't going to go native for sake of it either (the default spot of many "native users" in Korea, Japan and China). so what's the impetetus besides VALUE-ADDED to whatever branding? not much. Can't imagine someone at least not hedging their "branding-bets" and NOT get an English domain as well even if they DO have a double-byte one. Would you?

(aside: China... MAY have some potential for default tdls to be Chinese some many years down the line... if they wanted. But there are still many reasons even the potential power of a few billion going online won't make that likely.)

ok... enough blah blah from me...

-- so sayeth Grendel"ignorance is bliss"Khan{TSU}

6:40 pm on Mar 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

GrendelKhan, two comments.

First, as such a culturally-aware person, you make an awful lot of assumptions about me, especially in this low-context medium. Hint: you completely misread what I wrote.

Second, as a business person, I'd be concerned not having control over customer flow and how people reached my site.

I've been around long enough to understand that some customs are deeply engrained. I've seen many of them been thrown over board over night, though. But it's really impossible to know when that happens. There's also usually more than one layer about it. Yes, these dynamics are hard to understand, but trying is very interesting. Sorry, but "this is Asia, and that is the way things are done here and that is the end of it" is too simplistic for me.

[edited by: bill at 12:04 am (utc) on Mar. 6, 2009]
[edit reason] tidy up [/edit]

10:50 am on Mar 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tangor is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Just a query... I do not speak Japanese or Korean, but do have knowledge their alphabets are far more complex than ie. English, and might be more directed in search results?

Can't remember whether it is Kanji or not... but aren't there 5,000 characters involved? Seems to me that keywords would take on an entirely new dimension in that language.

12:16 pm on Mar 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

actually Korean has only 24 characters, proper. However, like kanji, Koreans use imported Chinese characters as well called Hanja. (kinda like latin is to English). Though no separate alphabet for phonetic Korean like you get in Japanese (or simplified Chinese).

And yah, there are AT LEAST 50,000 (not 5,000) characters of Hanja/Kanji... much less if you want to learn all the Chinese characters.

Fortunately, in common practice, there is not need to optimize or worry too much about them (dep on situation) as most web sites aren't written with much of it, and ppl don't actually search for them. (though can be useful for articles titles, etc).

in short: yah, its a whole different dimension to standard keyword issues.

Don't even get me started about Chinese. +_+

1:10 pm on Mar 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

And for the sake of the salient argument:
It seems clear you, Leggewie misread and missed-the-point of what I wrote.

I'd be concerned not having control over customer flow and how people reached my site.

* 1: One does still have control of customer flow.

However, the loss to freeloaders is nominal/not significant enough to be an issue for such campaigns--certainly not enough to preclude doing native language non-domain keyword print/broadcast ads. And not likely to ever be--especially given its not a mutually exclusive factor.

But maybe this will help unveil mysterious dynamic:

  • loss of ppl not remembering English domain > loss from keyword freeloaders
  • Visitors from native lang, keyword ads > Visitors from English domain ads


That's not exactly a bizarre cultural phenomenon and cop-out, premise to go by for advertising.

Ergo: companies often go with native language phrase keyword ads (usually across many mediums: print, broadcast, digital).

* 2: Complex urls is not and not likely to ever be a significant factor of change.
(for Japan or Korean internet or even China)

This is unlikely, imo. I explained why in other post.

-- repeated points for the back row by: GrendelKhan

[edited by: bill at 5:21 am (utc) on Mar. 5, 2009]
[edit reason] tidy up [/edit]

2:27 am on Mar 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator bill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Let's not make this too personal guys. If we could keep the discussion more in general terms it would probably be best.

I can certainly understand the differences of working with the market and working in the market. Asian markets are very unique and there is a boundary between the insider and outsider even within these markets. That boundary can make understanding challenging, but not impossible. I know that both of you have had experience in the region so I don't think you're as far apart as it may seem.

This whole search keyword advertising concept is hardly new in Japan. I've seen this for years on the advertisements, but it's getting to the point that it's sometimes tough to find a URL on an ad. Everyone is now using this keyword in a simulated search box. They haven't reached the level of sophistication as Naver has in Korea, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Yahoo or Google Japan jump on this. That's a great way for this to evolve.

Why don't competitors simply go out any buy op the top AdWords slot and take a free ride of these advertisements? That's a good question. Undoubtedly there are firms doing this, but I haven't studied this in detail, so I couldn't give much of an answer now. My initial impression was that a lot of the search terms are very specific to the company in the advertisement and the company would naturally rank well for these terms in the SERPs. I'll have to keep my eye out for some more generic terms and then see what the SERPs show.

3:32 am on Mar 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Apologies bill.

My initial impression was that a lot of the search terms are very specific to the company in the advertisement and the company would naturally rank well for these terms in the SERPs.

That is a good point and true as well. Most are very specific. So it is kinda an irrelevant concern for many. You really don't see this happening for "loan" or such "super keywords" for example.

That said, I assert based on experience, its still most a matter of simple economics and situation of it as well. As I said: given the scenario of how most of these big campaigns are run:

1. Its just not that big a deal in terms of loss to freeloaders...whom are few and far between. Even if tons of freeloaders did show up in some bizarre scenario... it would be drop in the bucket compared to the gain from (good) native language keyword ads.

2. Those that can afford to do "multi-million dollar" campaigns in Korea/Japan are NOT just doing keyword buys. Its wide media mix--usually tiered. so the loss from keyword freeloads is even less an issue looking that entire campaign. You bet they are retaining the top spots for most of them as well (particularly the super keywords).

3. AdWords is as not a deal here in Korea as Overture is (yah, I still call em overture)... though I know they fair better in Japan. And overture is quite conservative with editorial process of competitive keywords.

Again from the client side... yes, freeloaders are usually calculated into the OVERALL equation, but if I'm getting better ROI from native language search keyword ads than from urls.... the rest is kinda moot.
Of course, showing BOTH, if possible, is best... but URLs have clearly been deprecated. There are other factors... but those tend to be adequate, sufficient and persuasive with clients.


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