Google Japan Removes Hot Keywords From Its Top

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“Google Kyuujyoushou Waado (Hot Keywords)”, which was introduced on the Japanese top page of Google on February 5th to show users recent most searched keywords, has been removed from the top page and the former top page is back (Google Japan’s announcement [J]), except “more” localization done in March.

google-redesigned-top-20090209

The page with hot keywords was used only for 7 weeks

The Japan original feature, which itself seems to have no problem when Google Japan is chasing No.1 Yahoo! by servicing rather passive (fond of links-menus) Japanese users than proactive (search-centric) western users, however was involved with unfortunate promotion mistake (2), (3). This short time recall still can be decided by that feature’s performance measurement by failing to lure new users from Yahoo! Japan, but it is possible that Google rethinks their localization strategy should not be done by letting itself resemble with their competitor Yahoo!.

So here is the current top page.

google-top-page-20090327

As you see, it now again has the button “I’m Feeling Lucky”, which is in ENGLISH. I really cannot understand why Google Japan has been trying to force regular (if they want to beat Yahoo! Japan) users to read and understand English phrase.

Apologies to Google: CyberBuzz Is Not Pay-Per-Post (so they say)

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After top Japanese online tech news sites CNET Japan, ITMedia and Internet Watch reported Google Japan’s ambiguous apology, CyberBuzz (the agency hired by Google Japan to have bloggers place links to Google Japan’s blog widget campaign) announced a press release on February 12th.

In the release, CyberBuzz states, contradicting what’s been reported, that their CyberBuzz program is NOT PAY-PER-POST, as they are running it under the following policies:

  • They do not offer to pay cash as compensation for bloggers to write blog articles.
  • They do not provide a paid-link program for the purpose of raising positions on SERP and PageRank.

Money transactions with their member bloggers only happens for:

  • Travel costs when they attend client events
  • Advertising fees when they put widgets/movies on their blogs for a limited period (ie. sidebar, header, etc., but not in the blog post itself)

Further, they do not force bloggers to update articles, or limit what bloggers write about, or arbitrarily request posts, nor is there money involved aside from the above.

If their definition of pay-per-post is true, and if Google penalized their Japanese office for using pay-per-post, I must apologize for my first report.

On the same day, blogger wackyhope pointed out that Google’s cached version of CyberBuzz’s FAQ is different from the one they currently show. In the cache, the following can be seen:

Q: How much money can we get as a reward?
A: From a couple hundred yen to thousands of yen ($1-$100 USD) depending on the campaign and your Buzz-level (akky: like karma points)

Q: What do I have to do to get a reward?
A: (snip) Registered members are paid when they write up a blog entry related to the product/service.

After this was pointed out, the FAQ page displayed a caution message, also pointed out by wackyhope:

There was an incorrect explanation which did not match with the current (since October 2007) service so we updated this FAQ on February 13th at around 11 a.m.

It is not the first time

There are also some bloggers who write that this was not the first example of this type of advertisement, but that Google was involved in another case in April 2008. This refers to the “iGoogle Art Cafe”. (Google Blog Search, 1, 2)

So it is not a one-time careless mistake caused by a non-reviewed agency but rather a consistent business habit of Google Japan.

# We covered the cafe news, too. But we were not contacted by Google Japan nor paid for our coverage. 🙂

Cyber Agent, the parent company of CyberBuzz, was penalized for using a link farm by Google in March 2006, and put the same announcement on their site.

Pay-per-post in Japan

Pay-per-post itself is a web promotion activity, and although I do not know whether the FTC restricts it in the U.S., it is not illegal in Japan (besides having poor business ethics).

Actually, CyberBuzz is (if it is counted as pay-per-post) one of the best (among the worst) agencies who, at least, asks bloggers to write that it is part of an advertising campaign, while there are many other agencies who ask to hide that fact, and instead ask bloggers to state that their blog posts are voluntarily and paid by no one.

Google Japan might buy links directly, too

This trouble was originally caused by Google Japan, not clearly defining what pay-per-post is, and more essentially, not stating what is okay and what would incur penalties. (*1 updated. see bottom.)

Besides Google Japan’s top-page’s PageRank decreasing from 9 to 5, there are almost no observable effects on Google’s search results page in Japanese.

And the blog article-like advertisement on Gigazine [J] stays as is, from whom Google Japan seemed to buy links directly and not via the agency, and to whom they provided a specially-customized Google-colored logo, which just disappeared from the site after this news.

(Proofread by Sean O’Hagan)

[Update 2009.02.18] (*1) Google Japan gave another apology [J], which is more detailed than the first one. It also refers to a new blog entry about paid link.

See Also:

CyberBuzz Press Release: “Tousha Service ‘CyberBuzz’ ni Taisuru Ichibu Houdou ni Tsuite” (About some news reporeted on our service ‘CyberBuzz’) [J]

Tatsuwo no Changelog – Google paying bloggers to write ads is against their policy [J] – link list to related news/blogs in Japanese

Google Japan Apologizes For Inappropriate Pay Per Post Use

About Google’s Marketing Activities – Google Japan Blog

Under the name of the Senior Marketing Manager Koji Baba, they announced on their official blog,


“Google Japan is running several promotional activities to let people know more about our products.

It turns out that using blogs on the part of the promotional activities violates Google’s search guidelines, so we have ended the promotion. We would like to apologize to the people concerned and to our users, and are making an effort to make our communications more transparent in order to prevent the recurrence of such an incident.”

As you can see, it does not link to any other blogs or news items, such as our report or TechCrunch’s follow-up ( I’m guessing that TechCrunch Japan’s translated article is the direct cause for this apology.) So we cannot see “which activities” were violated nor how they will be fixed. How transparent!

See Also:

Google Japan Buys Dirty Pay-Per-Post Links | Asiajin

(Proofread by Sean O’Hagan)

Google Japan Buys Dirty Pay-Per-Post Links

Google Japan seems desperate in chasing the Mighty Yahoo! (see here for example). They are now using a tainted and controversial social media optimization method called pay-per-post, provided by CyberBuzz.

Recently, Google Japan announced a top-page redesign on their official blog, in which they added a “Google Kyuujyoushou Waado (Hot Keywords)” feature. This addition displays the 5 most searched-for keywords in the previous 24 hours. Google Japan planned the new feature to help with their tough search-share fight against nemesis Yahoo! Japan.

google-redesigned-top-20090209

In the screenshot above, just below the search box section, 5 keywords are listed with links to their respective Google searches.

At the same time, there are a number of blog entries on Google’s blog widget (called “blog parts” in Japanese) reviewing this “Hot Keywords” feature, all of them strangely resembling each other.

When you search for “Google Hot Keywords Ranking” + “Blog Widget” + “CyberBuzz” in Japanese on Google Blog Search, you will see over 30 posts by bloggers writing about this new service, saying things like “I’m a part of the CyberBuzz campaign” or “You can earn some money by writing interesting stories provided by CyberBuzz”. (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4)

google-blog-cyberbuzz-results-screenshot

So Google Blog Search, which has been spammed for so long, is now spamming itself in Japan.

I have translated part of a random entry as an example:

The Google Hot Keywords blog widget [link to Google’s page] can show you what is in fashion now, and what other people are interested in.

It’s appealing that you can view buzzwords from the previous day or the previous week. I am sometimes surprised to see that such words are so popular! Personally, I like the “fortune-teller” feature from the previous week’s ranking. When I click on a keyword, I am quickly taken to Google’s result page and so I enjoy the feature.

I might not have noticed them by myself, but now I understand that these things are what people care about.

I am participating in CyberBuzz’s campaign.

CyberBuzz is one of the biggest pay-per-post agencies in Japan and are known for their high payouts. (Some blog posts fetch $100 for a single entry.)

So they are now link-building using monetary incentives to try to crook their own search results in a malicious way. I think this is a waste of money and only tarnishes their reputation for fairness.

Google Japan also does business with notorious news-clipping site Gigazine, and has been running a few ad campaigns which include special customized banners. There are many article-like advertisements on the site.

These articles, which look almost the same as regular ones, have “ad” tags (“広告” in Japanese) at bottom, which are very subtle, and will no doubt not be noticed by many readers. You can see for yourself by clicking the screenshot below, and reading the (poor) explanation at the bottom of the article that the entry is in fact an advertisement.

gigazine-google-pay-per-post

[Update 2009.02.10] Google Japan Apologizes For Inappropriate Pay Per Post Use

via Netafull

(Proofread by Sean O’Hagan)

[Update 2012-01-05] US Google did the same mistake three years later when Matt Cutts penalized Google Japan.