How Japan’s online social restaurant guide Retty doubled its monthly visitors

How Japan’s online social restaurant guide Retty doubled its monthly visitors

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Based on the original article in Japanese

Online social restaurant guide Retty achieved 1 million unique visitors in the month of October 2013. That was pretty good, but since then the number has doubled. Retty announced on March 6th that visitors to the site has surpassed 2 million in the month of February. According to CEO Kazuya Takeda, the service sees about a 120% increase every month. Their total number of customers reviews has reached 800,000.

The company raised over 300 million yen ($3 million) in December 2013, and they recently relocated to a new office as well. To find out a little more about how Retty is doing these days, we held a short interview with their CEO Kazuya Takeda.

Takeda: It’s been about a year ago since we decided to put more resources into SEO. The renewed site was launched in May last of year, and it was about 3 months until we saw the effects when visitors coming to the site via search engines dramatically increased.

When Retty initially launched, social media was a big trend. And the team developed the service expecting most traffic to come from social media sites. The challenge of beating the existing competitors like Gurunavi and Tabelog, who see big traffic from Yahoo and Google, appeared daunting. Takeda explains:

In the early stages, we could increase our restaurant data and the amount of reviews through social media like Facebook and Twitter. But it took quite a long time to reach a certain volume.

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<p>Even though the pace was slow, Retty gradually increased its fan base. When Retty accumulated data for 150,000 restaurants with a half million reviews, they begun to work on SEO. The site appears to have been positively evaluated by Google, and the traffic increased a lot. His strategy, which was to win fans on social media and increasing visitors using SEO, seems to be working quite well.</p>
<p>Having said all that, Takeda tells us that strengthening SEO was not his original plan.</p>
<blockquote>
<p>Actually the service didn’t scale we first planned. We once aimed at scaling the service only through app downloads. But we found visitors to the site were really growing. Expanding the service using just the app would be somewhat limiting. We realized strengthening SEO would be necessary to scale the site.</p>
</blockquote>
<p>Social media and smartphone apps have been two technology developments that drove a number of food-service apps to be developed over the past few years. But in Japan, none of them have succeeded to the level where they threaten industry leaders Tabelog and Gurunavi.</p>
<p>So how far can Retty go? I asked Takeda about his future plan.</p>
<blockquote>
<p>I’d like to pursue smartphone-centered restaurant search. I’ve thought about what is necessary to offer the greatest user experience in this field. And I think the answer lies in listening to users’ voices. It’s a bit hard to explain logically, but things naturally turn around when we put top priority on our users. </p>
</blockquote>
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What is the target goal you are looking at?

I believe we can reach 30 or 40 million users domestically. And we are expanding overseas at the same time. […] I didn’t name Retty with some Japanese words because I was looking beyond Japanese market. Even though it would have been better for our Japanese users if we had done so.

Platforms like smartphones and Facebook are now available everywhere in the world. This is a very rare occasion. I think the Japan has a great advantage in the overseas market, especially in areas such as food, games and content.