We’re so used to thinking of Google as the number one search engine, that it can be hard to remember that this isn’t the case everywhere. In the USA, for example, Google’s market share stands at about 71.5%. In the UK, it’s more like 90%, which explains the way we talk of ‘Googling’ something as easily as we talk about ‘Hoovering’: both brand names have come to stand for their generic actions.
In Japan, Google really hasn’t gripped the market with anything like as much success as either of these countries: a mere 33.7% turn to Google, with Yahoo! being the preferred search engine. The news is that Google, famous and praised for its iconic almost-blank homepage, is looking at adding a multitude of links to its interface, all the better to fit in with Japanese cultural expectations.
It’s a salutary lesson for us all, on a number of fronts: number one, localization is important. If you hope to sell to foreign markets, never underestimate the value of a little research. Number two, optimize for all search engines, not just Google. You’ll reap the benefits of potential visits from 10% of UK users, 30% of US ones and 70% of Japanese! And finally, well, it is sometimes nice to think that Google hasn’t got quite everything right.