Search terms, not URLs, show up in Japanese ads

Cabel Sasser is a world class tech whiz who co-founded Panic (a software company specializing in shareware applications for Macs) and travels frequently between the states and their offices in Japan. On his last trip, Cabel noticed something new on the advertising placards on board the various trains in the country. He took pictures of the signs and posted them on his blog.

various signs advertising a search bar

Instead of company URLs, the ads all show search boxes with recommended search terms.

It makes sense, right? All the good domain names are gone. Getting people to a specific page in a big site is difficult (who’s going to write down anything after the first slash?). And, most tellingly, I see increasingly more users already inadvertently put complete domain names like “gmail” and “netflix” into the Search box of their browsers out of habit — and it doesn’t even register that Google pops up and they have to click to get to their destination.

I always advise media companies to use keywords to drive people to various sections within their sites. It’s just easier on-the-air, for example, to say “enter keyword ‘cows’ ” than to give people the path to the page or, worse yet, tell them to go to a “as seen on 2” page. AOL and CompuServe created the keyword frenzy, and basically everybody knows what they are.

Clearly, advertisers in Japan see the value of using them to bring people in through the search engines, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t begin to happen here. I recall seeing Pontiac ads that encouraged people to Google the word “Pontiac,” but that has been the exception.

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