(Via Hatena.co.kr blog) Google might soon pass Yahoo Japan in the Japanese web search market. According to , Google Japan now has 41% market share, while the ruling king Yahoo Japan's market share has slided to 44%.
According to the article, the "magic formula" behind Google Japan's success include:
Aggressive marketing initiatives: Japan homepage renewal (with direct links to Gmail, Youtube, and other services), which helped Google get recognized as something more than a search service; iGoogle artists theme campaign; Offline ads
Controversial news articles about the company: Privacy issues related to Google Maps service actually helped boosting Google's brand awareness (Well, they say it's better to get criticized than to get forgotten)
Customization for local users: For example, Picasa Web Album's Japanese service displays QR codes, a Japan-only feature. It is particularly relevant, given the country's heavy mobile use.
Mobile search: Google has a strong market share in Japanese mobile search - again, particularly important in Japan where mobile search is as important as web search, if not more important.
Those look like some pretty basic strategies to me. So Google Japan didn't exactly reinvent the wheels - they rather stuck with the basics yet executed them brilliantly. Good for them.
What may also become a factor here is that, reportedly, Softbank Group (the owner of Yahoo Japan) isn't in such a good financial shape right now. The Japanese conglomerate got burnt by recent financial crisis, which came on top of Softbank Mobile's huge debts. If Yahoo Japan loses out in the market share duel and gets dethroned by the newcomer that has a colorful logo and hails from the neighboring Mountain View, it would be a quite sad day for Yahoo, whose true gem was its Japanese sibling (or the stakes therein) as everyone knows.