Are You Ready for the Yahoo-Google Partnership in Japan?

Yahoo Japan and Google Japan announced their plan for the search partnership in July 2010. Since then, the plan has been getting much of the attention and some criticism for allegedly violating antitrust law. In November, Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) re-opened the investigation in response to the claim by Rakuten and is interviewing several businesses including Microsoft about their views. Liberal Democratic Party members have formed the Internet Search Issues Investigation Group to create a bill for the fair search and the online advertising services in Japan.

Despite these reactions in the market, it seems that they are migrating the search services between the two. In fact, now Yahoo Japan gives results from Google Japan for most search results. I’ve been hearing from many site owners and the search engine marketers in Japan how their search ranking and the performance have changed in the past two to three weeks.

The partnership deal includes following:
1. Google will power the organic search results for both sites.
2. Yahoo will continue showing the content from its vertical data such as Yahoo Auction, Yahoo Travel, and Yahoo News in the search results.
3. These content data will be provided to Google for their use, too.
4. Each engine may customize the search results for their audience.
5. Yahoo will adopt Google’s PPC platform.
6. PPC accounts will be kept separate. The advertisers will need an account for each site.

Here’s how Yahoo’s search result pages would look like with the change. As shown here, Yahoo will place its content data from Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Q&A, etc., which will help keeping Yahoo’s feel in the search results pages. This may be the key for Yahoo to maintain the user base.

Below are the screenshots from Yahoo Japan and Google Japan for the same search term.

Currently, the shift is mainly seen in the organic results.

The results in the red boxes are from Google, and the same on both sites. The results inside the yellow boxes are unique to each site. These are content from vertical searches and properties such as news, Q&A, videos, and images. What’s interesting is that Google now shows a result from Yahoo news in Google’s search results (inside the purple box), and it shows on both sites. Each site gives a different list of related search terms (inside the green boxes.)

Your website SEO strategy needs to be focused more onto Google’s algorithms. A good content optimization and quality link building would help your site/pages to perform well in both sites. If you’ve been focusing on Yahoo’s algorithms and depending on the link building by the volume, I believe you are now seeing the decrease in the traffic from Yahoo Japan search.

With content such as videos, images, and press releases, you should continue optimizing for both engines as each uses its own content data. For example, Google shows video results from YouTube, and Yahoo shows the video results from Gyao/Yahoo video. If Yahoo’s user profile matches better to your target market, Yahoo properties such as Q&A forum may give you additional way to rank on the first result page.

If you are currently running the PPC campaigns in Yahoo Japan, you should look for the announcements in account set up, ad partners, and network sites changes in upcoming months. Once Yahoo introduces Google’s platform, some standards such as match types and the number of characters allowed in title and description may change.

Although Yahoo has been the most popular search site in Japan, most Japanese use multiple engines. If Yahoo and Google give exactly the same results, people may stop using one of the sites, and it may create the opportunity for Bing and other engines to increase their market share in Japan. This is one of the reasons why each site will add a unique flavor to the result pages. The search marketing keeps evolving and never dull, but their partnership would make it even more interesting for us search marketers in 2011.

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