By Mike in Tokyo Rogers
I am often simply astounded by the foolishness of companies from the west that come to Japan and think that they can control what is going on here from 6,000 miles away.
As is well-known, "Japan is a different animal altogether." What I'm talking about is how many companies have .com domains that they use for Japan and add a /jp subfolder.
I could give you a litany of examples of foolish companies that do so, there's hundreds of them in Japan. Why do they do this? It defies theory, logic, simple math and common sense... (It also completely ignores what other companies are doing and doing so well as is shown by a simple comparison of competitors on a Google search).
I wonder if the supposed "experts" on the Internet running these .com domains back in the States or Europe bother to read what Google has on their blog everyday. It seems that they don't. You'd think that they'd keep up with the latest information, but, alas, I guess not.
I found this mistake in execution the other day on a very famous airlines web site in Japan and pointed it out to their Japanese staff, who, in a flabbergasted fashion, threw their arms in the air, shrugged their shoulders and said, "We know. But HQ won't even discuss changing it."
Well, I see a problem on two sides here. One, is an HQ that is not keeping up on current information and may have a control-freak problem and the second is a Japanese staff who do not have the desire and drive to succeed enough to study up on the problem and the balls to stand up and explain such a vitally important problem to the HQ. (But, to cut the Japanese staff some slack, perhaps this is a problem of company culture). How could anyone, if they understood the problem, not be able to explain to HQ why a .jp or .co.jp site is critical to success in Japan is beyond me. It is so very simple.
I mean, seriously, whatever side you look at it from, what's the point of having boots on the ground in a local area of they do not, or cannot, report faithfully the facts on the ground to HQ?
I've heard this same sort of thing before from other airlines, "Oh, HQ absolutely won't do it...." But when we took the time to explain it to the in-charge here in Japan, and they expressed an intense interest in understanding why, once they understood then they had the guts to demand an audience with HQ...
Guess what? Those companies do have domestic domains now.
Just two of the big names include:
* Virgin Airlines (no surprise there for aggressive and smart marketing)
* Air New Zealand (ditto - painting naked ladies!? See the video that wowed over 5 million people here.)
(Also let me put in a plug here for my favorite European destination, Croatia, too)
* Croatian Government Tourism (www.croatia.jp)
Why have these organizations jumped in front of the pack to setup .co.jp or .jp domains before the rest of the foreign companies and organizations? It's just plain smart business.
How an HQ in 2010 could be so dense and protective of their jobs that they actually damage the company profitability, by being so obstinate, is a crime in my mind. The only explanation can be that they don't understand the problem.
Make no mistake about what we are talking about here. We are not talking about company politics or protecting someone's position; what we are talking about here is the absolute bottom line. We are talking about company profits. How in the world someone could be so obstinate and closed minded that they would not hear out rational argument on a subject (especially a subject that changes and evolves as fast as the Internet) is no less than incompetency or gross dereliction of duty.
Let me put on my corporate hat here and say that employees need to sacrifice and go the extra step for the good of the company. Sitting on their duff and shrugging their shoulders is not getting the job done. The Japanese staff are definitely smart enough and should be aggressively compiling irrefutable data to build their case.
You'd also think that these airlines companies that all lost huge amounts of money last year would be actively seeking out more and better ways to better their service and increase passengers while increasing profit per passenger. Especially since online bookings very profitable for an airlines... These airline's online booking business in Japan must be hurting from these poor setups.
I wrote the basic theory about this concept about .com versus .jp here. It is written so simply that I suppose even the people at airlines HQ's can understand it.
Now, I will explain mathematically why a .com/jp (or even a www.jp.airline.com site) is not effective. A .com/jp site is not effective because .com/jp is a subdomain. It is not given priority in any search. There is a good reason for it.
This is very simple math, so please pay attention airlines folks. There won't be a test after this article, but it could save your job because if you are here and do not demand this to be fixed (or, if you are in the USA and are dim enough to insist that your .com domain with a sub-folder or sub-domain is sufficient for world-wide use... Get ready for a job change, because someone is going to come along soon and bump you out of a job.) This is not just theory or wishes anymore, this is simple grade-school mathematics.
It's called persistence and striving for excellence.
But back to the problem...Google search engine, for example, uses an algorithm for search. (The new Google algorithm system is coming online in Japan in a few months. Read about the US version here. When that new system comes to Japan, companies operating in Japan had better be ready.)
If a .com is the domain, then on a Google search it gets 100% priority (this is why .co.jp and .jp sites get 100% priority in Japan)... If that very same .com domain has other languages as sub-folders, then that means each sub-folder shares in a percentage of that domain. If the .com domain is setup with japanese as the basic language - and not a sub-folder or sub-domain of English - then the .com domain works fine.
But this is a problem of language and bit space taken by hierogylphics... er, I mean kanji.
Understand? If there are five languages; then the sub-folder will give them each 20% on a search for a certain term. If there are ten languages, each will only get 10% returns... And so on...
In the case of most foreign airlines in Japan, they have dozens of languages in their sub-folder so Japanese gets about a 5% weight (if that much) in a Google search using Japanese language here in Japan. That means that these airlines voluntarily throw away 95% (more actually) of their possible Japanese customers who do random searches, using Japanese language and kanji, on the Internet.
People who search "航空" (Airlines) will get domestic airlines using a Japanese language based search as their #1 result. (Of course, but this doesn't serve the foreign airlines goals well at all.)
Try any foreign carrier and insert their SEO into a Google search (on Google.com or Google.co.jp - it doesn't matter)... The English based .com with /jp sub-folders won't even show up the foreign airlines in the top ten page returns.
Of course, in a search for a very common term such as "航空券"(airline ticket) the top four results of 24,200,000 are:
Japan Airlines: www.jal.co.jp
SkyMark Airlines: www.skymark.co.jp
Kokunaisen (a ticket aggregator): www.kokunaisen.com
All Nippon Airways: www.ana.co.jp
Notice anything special about these top returns? By the way, Kokunaisen, the aggregator site is 100% in Japanese, there is no sub-folder or sub-domain for Japan. Kokunaisen.com is the Japanese site. Like I said, any foreign carrier using a sub domain or sub-folder set-up will not show up in the first ten pages of a search.
Anyone with the most basic understanding of how SEO works (with an understanding of how Japanese language is 2 bits per character and Roman alphabet is 1 bit per character) would know that this situation for foreign carriers in Japan is intolerable. Why this continues in a tough market whereby airlines are losing passengers by the day is inconceivable.
The purpose of this blog is to help you to market Japan. I have shown the gross mistakes of many companies in the past including Pepsi, Universal Studios, Wendy's, Burger King, Carrefour, and many more. I explain the mistakes that these big companies make (and, incredibly, keep repeating over and over) so that you don't have to.
Perhaps someone at the airline's HQ in the USA or Europe will see this and wake up the troops. They should. They are losing money with this set-up...
Hopefully, they'll thank me... Doubtful... 20 years ago Otsuya Seiyaku didn't thank me either when I went on a popular late night radio program and said that their product, "Calorie-Mate" tasted like cardboard (Two years later they released Strawberry and Chocolate flavors - while improving the taste of "cardboard" and their sales of Calorie-Mate quadrupled. You know they paid R&D millions to come up with something I could have told them, and did, for the cost of less than a half-a-sandwich).
Anyhow, foreign carriers, I've pointed out that your tires are leaking air in Japan.... What are you going to do about it? Keep driving around on them? Be my guest.
This coming weekend, I will layout more mathematical evidence from a language based perspective why a .com English based site using sub-folders or sub-domains in Japan is a poor way to run any Internet site.
For a hint: Imagine that your site is in hieroglyphics... How is it possible that an English based site, with sub-folders or sub-domains, could possibly return as high of results as a site built on hieroglyphics? This is what your English based .com with sub-folder is doing... Your priority is low, so your will not show up at the top page....
If you are not in the top 5 on the first page of a search, you are not even in the game.
Japanese kanji are like hieroglyphics.
In the meantime, for proper background information that you need to comprehend this problem, (especially if you are not bilingual Japanese/English or Korean/English) see Wikipedia about Altaic languages of which Japanese is one... People who do not speak two languages probably will have a hard time grasping this concept. It is important to understanding the problem.
Google search, airlines, Japan, Yahoo, Burger King, Japan airlines, Skymark airlines, Google, Universal Studios, ANA, All Nippon Airways, Wendy's, Delta, Otsuya Seiyaku, Calorie-Mate, Pepsi, Carrefour, SEO