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When Domain Names Aren't Enough

Paul Hoffman

A recent trend in the Japanese web advertising market may presage changes that could come to the Western world. As described here, some advertising in Japan now includes a picture of a filled-in browser search box instead of a domain name. The idea is that an advertiser can buy top-of-page advertising at the main search engines for various terms and then suggest to people reading their print ads to use those terms to search.

This strategy takes advantage of the simple fact that most people simply type into the search bar instead of the address bar. If you can control what they see on the first page of the search results, you have a good chance of getting them to your web site.

Of course, this strategy also has some huge downsides. First, you need to advertise on al the popular search sites for the duration of your "search for this" ads. Even if you do that, a canny competitor might buy ads for the same words in order to siphon off your viewers. Unless you are a huge advertiser, you cannot control the top of enough of the search engines to make this a sure-fire strategy. Sticking to good old domain names is safer, although it has the cost of knowing that people typically type them in the wrong place in their browsers.

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Re: When Domain Names Aren't Enough Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Mar 31, 2007 8:29 AM PDT

For once, the japanese are behind the curve.

Pill spammers routinely send out image spam that's a screenshot of a browser, with a URL (the pill spam URL) typed in, and the URL is circled in red.

There's hashbusting dots or other pattern breakers in there too, to confuse image recognition filters.

Re: When Domain Names Aren't Enough Frank Schilling  –  Apr 02, 2007 8:42 AM PDT

Agree with Suresh.  I've seen the subway video on IDN websites..  Advertising billboards feature a search box filled in with japanese characters.. that is how you should navigate.

How are you going to send the business email through that searchbox is beyond me. I think that dynamic was born out frustration at not having early access to International Domain Names. You can enter local characters into a search-box but you can't enter them into the address bar. Also some brand boasting: "Look, we're legitimate! you can find us in the leading engines!"

Then again maybe its a cultural difference.  Leasehold real estate works in some countries but freehold is the benchmark in the US centric world.  Would you rather build your brand by advertising a search engine's platform or would you rather own the platform by owning the name?

Re: When Domain Names Aren't Enough George Kirikos  –  Apr 02, 2007 10:33 AM PDT

It's not just a Japanese trend, though. I've seen US television ads from big companies like Pontiac where they say "go to Google (or Yahoo) and search for Pontiac." Very odd.

On the other hand, you've got savvy people who switched from, say, IdolOnFox.com to AmericanIdol.com instead, and also defensively register the domains of their future stars.

Re: When Domain Names Aren't Enough Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Apr 02, 2007 5:44 PM PDT

Hold on, are we talking about IDN keywords here?  That's very very old, in Japan / Korea.  And there's enough vendors there with enough market share that they're not the happiest of campers at IDN coming along to put them all out of business.

For example, take a look at this one single post that "Jason S" ever made on circleid .. bashing IDNs in favor of keywords, with lots of vague words about impending legal action.

http://www.circleid.com/posts/do_we_really_need_idn/

The only thing he forgot to mention, and that several circleid posters mentioned for him, that he was personal assistant to a korean keyword company's CEO.

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