When you think of paid search platforms, most people automatically think of either Google Ads or Bing. However, if you take a look at popular paid search platforms across the globe, you will quickly realise that in some markets Google Ads or Bing are not the preferred options.
At Croud, we’ve found that it’s important to have a local touch so that we are able to deliver the best results using the most relevant tools for our international clients. Croud has a global network of digital experts (our Croudies) who are able to respond on the ground in real time, so that we never miss an opportunity.
Expanding into Japan
If you’re considering expanding your business into a new market, it’s important to have local insights on consumer behaviour and trends. This cultural knowledge could be the difference between a roaring success and a flop. So if you’re hoping to break into the Japanese market, there’s one search engine you really can’t ignore – Yahoo! Japan.
1. Yahoo! Japan has the biggest online market reach
Yahoo! Japan has the biggest share of search queries in Japan (around 64%), followed by Google. The latest data shows that Yahoo! Japan garners around 81 million monthly active users, the largest user volume in Japan. User numbers especially rose in 2020, as people increasingly sought out news and information online throughout the ongoing pandemic. In fact, in April 2020, they had a record number of monthly present value (PV), totalling 22.5 billion – this was a 186% increase from the previous year. Here lies the strength of this long-beloved local platform through which most Japanese people gain answers to their search queries.
If we look at the online advertising market, Google is increasing its share. However, Yahoo! Japan continues to dominate one-third of the search market share. Failing to use Yahoo! Japan means that you could be missing out on at least one-third of market opportunities, and if considering the overall share, you may be missing out on a lot more than that.
Why is Yahoo! Japan popular in Japan?
It’s a popular misconception that Yahoo! Japan is run by Yahoo! Inc. in the US. However, it’s important to note that the two search engines are from very different companies.
Yahoo! Japan is owned and operated by Yahoo! Japan Corporation, a Japanese company which was formed as a joint venture between Yahoo! Inc, and SoftBank (a giant Japanese telecommunications company). Yahoo! Japan was the first internet portal site founded in 1996 and since then, it has been a preferred site amongst the Japanese. It offers more than 100 popular services which are bespoke to Japanese customers.
One of their most popular sites is Yahuoku, which translates to Yahoo! Japan Auction.
Previously, eBay had tried to expand into the Japanese market but quickly withdrew because they were unable to compete with Yahuoku. This is a prime example as to why it’s important to do your research beforehand.
Other popular services include Yahoo! Japan News and Yahoo! Japan Shopping
The Yahoo! Japan homepage enables convenient one-stop browsing, where consumers are able to search various topics including the news, weather, travel, and shopping. Among them, Yahoo! Japan News offers a wide variety of articles, delivering about 6,000 articles a day. The average number of comments posted per day is around 340,000 and it can be as high as 500,000 on busy days. This shows the sheer scale of engagement. Moreover, the audience is still increasing – the daily average PV increased by 31% in 2020, compared to the previous year.
Another popular site is Yahoo! Shopping, which is one of the three biggest shopping sites in Japan (the others include Amazon and Rakuten). Many consumers tend to browse around to see which site has the best offers. Similar to Yahoo! Japan News, the Yahoo! Shopping PV has also increased in 2020 by 35%.
These are just a few examples of popular services offered by Yahoo! Japan. With more than 100 services, it can be said that Yahoo! Japan is a key component in Japanese people’s daily lives.
2. Increase coverage by using Yahoo! Japan
By using both Yahoo! Japan and Google Ads, you can increase your brand’s visibility. It is said that Google is widely used for business purposes, whereas Yahoo! Japan is often used during leisure time, break time, after work, or weekends. Also, it is said that women have a preference for Yahoo! Japan, along with the older generation, whereas the younger generation prefers Google. Recent data suggests that “homemakers” and “company owners and managers” prefer to use Yahoo! Japan. This indicates that, by using Yahoo! Japan along with Google Ads, you can target various groups of people at different times and dates by age or gender groups.
Market share between Google Ads and Yahoo! Japan tends to vary depending on the industry. For example, when we look at one of our B2B client’s data, pay-per-click (PPC) traffic of Google versus Yahoo! Japan is 60:40 percent. On the other hand, for one of our retail clients, the ratio is 40:60 percent. Thus, we’d recommend to not allocate budget strictly between search engines, but to examine the traffic and performance, and then gradually find the best balance between them. This way, you can maximise the opportunities of both platforms.
Yahoo! Japan has its own partner network meaning that you can increase coverage quickly and easily, as their network operates differently from Google’s. From my experience, the date and time of increased lead volume are different on Yahoo! Japan and Google Ads. Usually, I see the expected trends on Google Ads, such as low volume of leads during holidays; however, we sometimes see unexpected peaks during weekends on Yahoo! Japan.
Search engine optimisation
From a search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective, you probably want to optimise organic search on Yahoo! Japan. The good news is that Yahoo! Japan uses the same algorithm as Google. If you are ranking highly in Google, you are also ranking highly in Yahoo! Japan. However, both engines have their own services or their partner’s services to show on their search result pages, and search results are optimised based on user behaviours – this causes slight differences between the two platforms.
All in all, if you optimise your websites to rank higher on Google, then you probably do not have to worry about Yahoo! Japan. However, we recommend that you make sure your website is attractive to Japanese users by localising it with cultural insights.
3. Less competition on Yahoo! Japan
I have been working in digital marketing for Japan for many years and have found that the majority of global companies are still only using Google Ads when advertising to a Japanese audience. There could be various reasons behind this, such as limited budgets or a lack of Japanese speaking staff. However, I believe the true reason is that many of these brands just don’t know about Yahoo! Japan.
As many global companies’ first choice is Google Ads, most of them are not advertising on Yahoo! Japan, meaning that there’s less competition in the market.
Yahoo! Japan is a more cost-effective option than Google Ads. For example, when I look at the data of one of our clients, the average cost-per-click (CPC) of the Google Ads account is 615 JPY. On the other hand, the average CPC of Yahoo! Japan is 520 JPY, which is 15.4% less than Google Ads. Both accounts have very similar structures and keywords, meaning you can get a higher return on investment (ROI) by using Yahoo! Japan.
4. Unique ad options
Yahoo! Japan search
This is a paid search advertising platform, with most functions being very similar to Google Ads. As the basics are similar to Google Ads, you can optimise your Yahoo! Japan account in a similar way (although admittedly, it takes more work). You can use this platform to target by location, time and date. However, as it’s specifically a Japanese service, there aren’t any language or country options.
Yahoo! Japan display
Yahoo! Japan display is a separate platform from search ads. If you visit the Yahoo! Japan top page, you will see the huge banners on both sides.
They offer various ad options, from placement on the Yahoo! Japan top page to their display network, in both large and small image sizes.
One of the unique ad options of Yahoo! Japan display is in-feed ads. These are shown on the timeline of Yahoo! Japan’s top page for smartphones and allow longer descriptions so they look like one of the articles.
We have been using in-feed ads for our clients and have seen positive results of much higher click-through rates (CTRs) (+443%) and conversion rates (+104%) than standard display ads. As the use of smartphones increases in Japan, ads that specifically target mobile users will be in higher demand.
Brand panel (image & video)
Another unique feature is the brand panel ad, which is a placement ad on Yahoo! Japan’s home page. As you can see in the below image, the ad is shown in a prime position, meaning nobody can ignore the ads. Naturally, brand panel ads enjoy much higher CTRs. Our data shows that CTRs from brand panel ads (image) are 767% higher than standard display ads, with a 26% lower average CPC. Yahoo! Japan released the brand panel for smartphones in 2020, where the ads are shown on the top page of Yahoo! Japan’s app or site. The brand panel is a must-use feature on Yahoo! Japan display if you want to raise brand awareness.
5. Localised services
One of Yahoo! Japan’s core strengths is that it’s run by a local Japanese company. When I think of my online life in Japan, I notice that I am constantly surrounded by Yahoo! Japan’s services, whether I’m reading news articles, browsing auction sites or shopping online.
They understand Japanese consumer habits, and are constantly introducing new and relevant services. As they hold the largest share of the online market, they have access to a bounty of data which is used to inform their advertising strategies.
I have been in the industry for many years, and have first-handedly witnessed the benefits of utilising both Google Ads and Yahoo! Japan. However, as noted previously, performances between the two are usually different despite having very similar structures and keywords. This is possibly due to the different audiences and how they are used.
Merger with LINE
On 1st March 2021, Yahoo! Japan merged with LINE, the biggest social media platform in Japan. The merger of these two giant digital companies will probably have a big impact on Japan’s online market. We cannot ignore what will happen!
Are you considering expanding into the Japanese market? Are you using Google Ads only? Why not try Yahoo! Japan? Otherwise, you might be missing out. Contact our team to get started on Yahoo! Japan or find out more about marketing in Japan with Croud.
Updated April 2021