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If Yahoo Exits Japan, How Will it Impact Search Marketers?

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Despite rumors that Yahoo is in advanced talks to exit its joint venture with Softbank Corp in Japan, the search company has rallied more than 105,000 Yahoo users worldwide to donate close to $6.55 million in response to the massive disaster that hit Northern Japan on March 11 at the time of writing.

Erin Carlson, senior director of Yahoo for Good, informed readers on its blog how the company has recruited its offices globally in Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, India, Philippines, Hong Kong, Canada, Brazil, and the U.S. to support disaster relief efforts on Yahoo properties.

Early this month, Reuters reported that Yahoo is sorting out "its dysfunctional Asian partnerships" to free up as much as $8 billion to fight Google and Facebook.

For Yahoo Japan that would mean a deal to transfer 35 percent of its stake to Softbank Corp, one of the largest telecom and media companies in the country, which could take place in coming weeks.

If Yahoo were to leave Japan, what would it mean for search marketers?

Motoko Hunt, chairman for Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) Asia Pacific and president of search marketing firm AJPR, says she doesn't think Yahoo's exit in Japan would be the end of Yahoo Japan.

She believes business would go on as usual under the Softbank umbrella and general site users probably would not notice any differences.

Hunt says Yahoo Japan has stated its PPC account would be managed separately by each of the sites after Yahoo Japan adopts Google's PPC platform. It means advertisers would have a convenience of managing both accounts using same or similar tools without the concern of Google monopolizing the paid search market in Japan, she explained.

Hunt hopes there would be more commonalities with the PPC account set up and management between the two sites if or when Yahoo Japan is freed from Yahoo.

"It would make the campaign management much easier for the advertisers," she adds.

In July 2010, Yahoo Japan, an independent entity from Yahoo, announced it has decided to forgo the Bing transition to use Google's organic and paid search results citing Microsoft's search technology was insufficient to serve local needs such as providing Japanese language search capabilities as an example.

Since Yahoo Japan made the switch last December, search marketers in Japan have been adjusting their SEO strategies to align with Google's algorithm. In Motoko's column on ClickZ.asia, she advised what marketers should do to leverage on the Yahoo Google partnership in the country.

Google Japan overtakes Yahoo

When Yahoo Japan announced its search alliance with Google, one of its goals was to strengthen its No. 1 position in the domestic market, but comScore's January 2011 results have shown that its searcher penetration trails Google by 0.6 percent.

While it is unclear when Yahoo Japan will complete its transition to the Google AdWords platform, the comScore results above is starting to show signs of Google dominating Japan's search market.

Rosemary Lising, head of GroupM Search Asia Pacific, says from a bidding perspective, keyword search campaigns will continue to be auction driven and that will remain the same but what it means with Google dominating is there's going to be less choice for advertisers.

She explains that it's better to have competition in the market as each search engines will have its own demographic user profiles and there'll be more innovation as well as different types of ad formats available.

"Time will tell how results will pan out," she adds.

Yahoo Microsoft Search Alliance Update for Asia

Yahoo continues to dominate in the Chinese language speaking cities of Taiwan and Hong Kong with 91 percent and 88 percent reach rate respectively, according to comScore January 2011 statistics.

As for the global Yahoo Microsoft search alliance, a Singapore based Yahoo PR spokesperson says they would start transitioning international markets this year with all global customers and partners expected to be transitioned by 2012.


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