A Shift From the Address Bar to the Search Box

Categories: New Web

Japanese Subway Ads

Before my days at Media Dog, I spent a few years working in Japan, and during my time there I noticed an interesting trend among subway print ads and tv commercials. In a space normally reserved for the companies url, the ads would instead have a mock up of a search box with some keywords. An interesting approach to promote the website and one which I feel speaks much more naturally to a web users browsing habits.

This method would also allow for easier access to, for example, a company's subproduct. Say Honda was promoting a new car, there's no way someone would be eager to type out http://www.honda.co.jp/cars/newcarline, but by entering just the new car into a search engine, they're allowed quick and easy access to the information, so why not advertise it that way?

Blogger Cabel over at Cabel.name has put together a nice collection of pictures of print ads he took while riding the subways of Japan to illustrate this very point. I'm also finding with our own website analytics, more and more people are putting our company name or even full url into Google before landing on our site.

In the mid 90's, AOL desperately tried to start a trend were you would enter an official Keyword to access a site. An idea ahead of its time? Perhaps. You see, today the average web user goes through their browsers search box to get where they want to go. No need to remember long urls which over time have become more complicated due to squatters snatching up 'the good ones'. Plus there's less typing involved, you get more information relating to your search and typos don't matter.

This method of advertising your company/product as a set of search terms could also do very well for your overall search ranking. If people are plugging in a certain query and clicking on your site, won't that help pull your url to the top based on organic clicks? Assuming you've advertised the right keywords, sure. There's always the risk that another site will steal your thunder and you won't have control of their message, but that's an unlikely scenario. Overall, I think it would be much more effective to ask someone to remember keywords than a url.

I believe the reason why this method has taken off in Japan and not North America is partly due to the fact that urls require Latin characters and countries that rely on a different character set have struggled with having to flip-flop their language input when dealing with urls and everything else they're doing. Why go through the trouble when you can just hit up the search box?

It was recently announced that ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) will soon allow for non-Latin character urls. Ultimately this adaption will help in the future with new users, but for now people have come to rely on the search box method of browsing.

So what are your thoughts on the subject? Are you fine with how things have been or do you think Japan's way of promoting a site by keyword searches is the way to go?

8 responses to “A Shift From the Address Bar to the Search Box”

  1. Dave Says:
    With some of the new tech on the horizon (like google goggles), you are soon going to be able to search by taking a picture of something on your mobile phone and submitting it to a search engine.

    Keywords won't help with that, especially if I don't have to type anything on the tiny keys on my phone.
  2. dale Says:
    I think we're still pretty far off from that technology. It works at a very basic level like face detection, but as identifying an object like a pen and giving you relevant results on the brand and type won't happen for a long time.

    Your example of Google Goggles works more on a GPS level than the camera identifying what it sees. Instead it knows your location by GPS and already has what's available in that area plotted out and served up to you based on what direction you're pointing the device.

    The idea of using CAPTCHA (the picture with messed up letters you have to type into a box to prove you're human) is because to a computer, the picture is just a pile of pixels and it can't decipher what the picture contains.

    The days of searching by taking pictures of stuff will be sweet indeed, provided you have the object you want to run a search on available for a photo shoot.
  3. dave Says:
    Dale - You should check your sources, you read as though you're way out of date mentioning 5+ year old capcha tech.

    The goggles site already has examples for brand, book, and artwork recognition right on the goggles website. It's pretty amazing what a programmer can do with a 'pile of pixels'... even those taken with a shoddy 5 megapixel camera phone.
  4. dale Says:
    Google Goggles and similar tech is still referencing a database with human entered data for that info. It doesn't understand what it's 'seeing' but provides the best data it can with what it has to work with which is, for the most part, parsed by people. That's why it handles books, artwork and landmarks works so well. You can't take a picture of a dog or food and expect to get relevant information because it's not consistent data. Google says so themselves. So, yes, to a computer it is a pile of pixels. It takes, like you said, a programmer to instruct the computer on how to interpret that specific pile based on all the data available.

    Getting back to the author's original point in the post, you're right, visual search will have its place, but it won't be as versatile or effective as typing in the search box for a long time. Plus, traditional search will do better for an advertisers SERP rankings, by getting people to type in a search query and clicking on their link. Which will in turn position themselves for people unaware of the product but still searching in that neighbourhood.
  5. dale Says:
    Glad to hear you're enjoying the site.

    Things have been a little quiet around here because we're all busy working on some really great projects. Hopefully we can share with you in the coming months. Stay tuned or subscribe to our twitter feed (@mediadog_ca) to keep up on our latest news.
  6. Joydayvoisa Says:
    Hey, nice site! Thank you for posting. I'll come back again.
  7. burglar alarm security systems Says:
    Excellent Info. Tweeted about it. I'll bookmark this post too.
  8. bmr Says:
    The tech is evolving but direct navi traffic still exists.

Comments now closed

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