Daily Archives: March 2, 2009

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‘Domain names? We don’t need them’, say Japanese

This article first appeared over on Computer World last week.

If you’re an online marketer and you use AdWords to drive traffic to your website, it can be frustrating (and expensive) when your current customers click on your sponsored listing just to navigate to your website.

For example, lets say that you want to buy something from John Lewis, and you’re previously bought stuff from John Lewis before.

Do you go to your address bar and type in ‘http://www.johnlewis.com’ or do you go to Google and search for ‘john lewis’? If you do the latter, and you click on the ‘sponsored listing’ at the top of the page, then you’re costing John Lewis money. They have to pay Google a few pence each time someone clicks on their sponsored listing. These costs really mount up! A well known brand like John Lewis might get more than 10,000 clicks per day on their sponsored link from people who are just clicking as an easy way to navigate to the website, rather than genuinely searching for a product that John Lewis might stock.

In an ideal world, online marketers spend money on advertising to drive new customers to their websites, not current customers.

But if that’s a frustration here in the UK, just imagine how annoying it is in Japan. Over there, hardly anyone makes use of the address bar when navigating to a website, and almost always use a search engine, even when they know the exact web address of the site that they’re going to.

They continue to do this even when its a site that they use all the time. For example, many people in Japan have Yahoo as their homepage, and they like using Google to search for things. Rather than deleting ‘Yahoo.com’ out of their  address bar and writing ‘Google.com’, they search for ‘Google’ in the Yahoo search engine.

Last year there were so many people searching for Google in the Yahoo search  engine that the word ‘Google’ was the 4th most searched for term in Yahoo!

This preference for the search box rather than address bar is used by advertisers in Japan, At the end of TV or radio adverts, the user is invited to  search for their product using particular keywords. For print and outdoor adverts, a small picture of a search box with the keywords already inside it is usually printed on the bottom right hand corner, as a call to action.

The only time we’ve seen anything like that in the UK is in a recent advertising campaign by Orange, who invited users to search for ‘i am’.

The reason this is so common in Japan originates from the relative rarity of domain names (the bit that goes in the address bar) using Japanese characters. Early Japanese sites used English (Latin) letters instead. Its obviously a really long winded process for broadcasters to phonetically spell out the Latin characters of a domain name at the end of every advert. Just imagine a call to action for Webeden.co.uk. It would go something like this: ‘Visit duh-bul-yoo-ee-bee-ee-dee-ee-en-dot-coa-dot-yoo-kay’.

Thanks to this preference for using search engines to navigate the web, rather than the address bar, just imagine how much money the major search engines are making from people clicking on sponsored links for websites that they use every day!

Its not going be long however until domain names in Japanese characters become much more common. But now the search habit is so ingrained, will it ever change?

If you’re not clear yourself on the difference between a domain name, an address bar and a search engine then we’ll shortly be producing a ‘what is tutorial’ for browser basics.

In the meantime, feel free to search for a domain name to go with your Webeden website!

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