Not long after the first time I arrived in Tokyo I noticed (amongst a vast array of other wierd and wonderful things) a common trend among the advertisements on the metro, TV and just about anywhere, and that was the ‘search term’ call to action. Although most of the paper adverts will at least list a URL the real call to action is search box with the keywords inside and a mouse pointer hovering over the search button.
This struck me as a dangerous strategy – intstantly you’re telling your competition which terms to bid on and in many cases these terms are quite esoteric and not particularly hard to get natural rankings for. In fact I actually did a little experiment, and for the keyword of one particular advert I put up an almost empty page with the japanese keyword as the title and within a few weeks start receiving search traffic, I think the page still ranks about 6th (look for anglojapanese.net): search for てんるす.
However I have since come to the realisation that this search call to action is much easier for the Japanese customers to remember than a URL using the (less familiar) Roman alphabet, therefore it’s a risk advertisers have to take. So why not use japanese words in the domain? Anyone West of Turkey will be familiar with the heavy use of keyword domains – www.cheapfilghts.co.uk etc. Can’t the japanese do this aswell?
Well they can, as any ‘domainer’ out there will tell you, one has been able to register “International Domain Names” (i.e. domains with non-roman alphabets – chinese, cyrillic etc.) for a number of years now. But (a big but) good old microsoft have only started to support use of IDNs with IE7, so this is probably a key factor.
Anyway I would expect this trend to change in the near future as IE6 usuage shrinks while more modern browsers with IDN support, such as firefox and IE7 take hold. So I’d hazzard a guess Japanese Language urls start cropping up on the metro ads. In fact I’ve taken a punt myself: インテリアアート.jp