Sussy Shi 2019/03/09

Global Online Marketing Profile 2010 Forecast - Japan

Market Opportunity As a small island country, Japan has an overwhelming population of over 127,000,000. It is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. Of course, it doesn't come as a surprise that Japan's economy is the world's second largest, behind the United States. Japan's economy is highly efficient and extremely competitive. It is ranked 19th among 111 countries on productivity. Japan's purchasing power parity in 2008 was $4.348 trillion.

Japan SEO and Japanese SEO-Introduction

Japanese SEO is a great example of SEO for a language associated with just one country. If we look at Spanish, for example, it is the national language of several countries.

A Spanish site will have to take several issues into consideration:

1. Which dialect to use, since each Spanish speaking country uses a slightly different version of the language. For example, in Spain, the word for juice is "zumo" in Mexico they use the word "jugo". There are also significant differences in the grammar between the many Spanish dialects. If you are targeting only one country you need to make sure you use the proper dialect. However, if you want to localize your site to target a few countries you either have to compromise with one website - targeting the country with the biggest market - or, develop several localized websites targeting each country and respective dialect.

2. Which top-level domain (TLD) to use since each country has its own TLD: Spain, Argentina = .ar, Costa Rica = .cr, Ecuador = .ec, Mexico = .mx and so on. If you target many countries you can either compromise with one web site or develop many sites. If you pick a TLD for Argentina, you will have an advantage there but you will have a disadvantage in Mexico. If you take a TLD of .com you may overcome the disadvantage of someone from Argentina going to a Mexican URL however you then forego the advantage of having a local TLD. This can sometimes help in search engine rankings for that country as well as reassure searchers that they are dealing with a local company.

In the case of Japan SEO, there is only one language and one TLD. This makes things much easier, but before you come to the conclusion that SEO Japan is an easy task, consider this; there are 3 different Japanese alphabets.

Hiragana is a set of 46 characters representing the phonetic sounds of the Japanese language. Hiragana is used to represent native Japanese words. Often, these characters are added above or below Kanji to indicate how the Kanji should be pronounced. In this case, Hiragana is known as "Furigana" - phonetics of the Kanji.

Katakana is also a set of 46 characters used to represent the same phonetic sounds as Hiragana. So what's the difference? Katakana is used to represent foreign words most of the time, whereas Hiragana is used for the native Japanese words. Katakana is also sometimes used for emphasis.

Kanji consists of over 8000 characters imported from China. Each character is a word. Kanji is used to represent nouns, adjectives, verbs, abstract concepts, and names.

Japanese sentences typically consist of Kanji and Hiragana with Katakana sometimes mixed in. One more thing you need to know. Some words are written in English. For example, VoIP could be written in English or Katakana. Oh, and one more thing-some words can be combinations of more that one script.

How does this affect Japanese SEO? It affects the keywords. Since some words may be written in each of the different alphabets, in this case, it is important that the text and meta tags are optimized for all of the options. Let's look at the keyword Tokyo: the proper form is written in Kanji q¬, however, it may also be written in Hiragana hFM?Fand Katakana Ȧ­ç¦. The key to Japanese SEO is to determine what percentage of the time a word will be written in each script. You can then decide which form to emphasize and if it is worthwhile to optimize for additional forms.

For example, after typing q¬ (Tokyo) in the search bar at, we can see that Wikipedia has the traditional Kanji, in yellow and the Hiragana, in green.

It's important that Japanese SEO marketers recognize Japan's cultural attributes. Merely translating is not enough. Here's an example of a story I heard on the radio. An investment banker from the United States was sent to Japan to manage a branch that wasn't doing so well. After closely reviewing the situation, he told his Japanese Assistant Manager that 2 employees have to be let go from a department of 4. Out of these 4 people, 2 were great workers and 2 were not. When the investment banker came back from his meeting, he asked the Assistant Manager which 2 men he let go. To his surprise he fired the 2 great employees. When asked why, the Japanese assistant said that, the 2 men he fired would have no trouble finding another job, but nobody else would hire the incompetents, so he kept them.

What is Japan SEO?

For the keyword phrase Japan SEO there are a few meanings:

1. Someone who wants to find an SEO company to market to Japan.

2. A company in Japan that is looking for an SEO company. They enter the word Japan to localize their English search. Why are they searching in English? Because international SEO companies with English web pages are likely to have global marketing expertise whereas a Japanese only site may be less convincing. Another reason for searching in English is that the person may not know Japanese.

What is Japanese SEO?

As opposed to many other languages Japanese SEO and Japan SEO are almost identical. There is one minor difference; Japanese SEO includes Japanese people not living in Japan, whereas Japan SEO focuses on the people in Japan. In most cases you will want to use the .jp TLD on your website. This signals to searchers that you are located in Japan which may give you an advantage psychologically. In addition, some search engines may give you priority in Japan based search results.

If you want to focus on Japanese speakers who don't live in Japan a .com TLD may be better.

Popular Search Engines in Japan:

Yahoo! Japan - directory and search engine 
Google Japan - search engine 
goo - search engine 
Infoseek Japan - search engine 
Lycos Japan - search engine 
MSN search Japan - directory and search engine 
Overture Japan - search engine and PPC 
Excite Japan - search engine 
Dmoz Japan - open directory project 
Fresh eye - search engine 
Biglobe - search engine

Japan SEO Quick Facts

Overall in 2007 approximately 68% of the Japanese population surfed the internet and 54% surfed using their mobile phones. With approximately 87,540,000 internet users, Japan is a viable market for online businesses looking to expand globally. An international SEO company in Israel is a good place to find Japan SEO experts, since Israel is home to native speakers of languages from all over the world.

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How SEO in Japan Works

Japan is a unique country for so many reasons. Its culture and its people are like nowhere else in the World, and the same thing applies to the Japanese Internet. A consequence of that is that the SEO techniques used in Japan tend to be largely different from what you would see in Westerner countries.

Let's analyze, one by one, some of the most common link building tactics and see how well they perform in Japan:

Blog commenting: most of the Japanese blogs are hosted on subdomains of a few free blog providers. External and customized blogs are fairly rare. It means that even if you do comment a lot, the actual number of domains linking to your site will be small, reducing the effect of this type of links. Don't spend too much of your SEO time on it

Forums: simply put, they just don't exist in Japan. You have a few so-called message boards, that will occasionally let you drop your URL, without the choice of anchor. Again, not the best strategy to rely on

Social bookmarks: there are a couple of decent social bookmarking sites to support your SEO efforts in Japan. They help for indexing and sending a bit of juice, but once again not a big thing. Digg-likes on their side are yet to be found on the land of the rising sun...

Social networking: the big players in Japan are called Mixi, Mobage, and Gree, and few of their pages are actually even indexable by search engines. These are good sites for your online marketing efforts, but the SEO effects are low

Article/PR sites: there a few of them, usually specialized in a niche. Find 2-3 of them, write really good contents and they should provide you with a few good backlinks

Directories: few of them are truly active and of quality, but don't neglect them. They can be good to create links to your inner pages and add variety to your general link profile

Link exchange: it works pretty well if you can find related websites in your nice. Probably one of the most effective tactics to day

Conclusion: as you can see, most of the common SEO tactics don't work all that well here in Japan. In my experience, what works best is creating a good relationship with people in your industry and kindly asks them for a link, as well as your business partners. Japanese people rely a lot on their personal network. You should also focus your energy in writing good, unique and entertaining contents on your blog. Good, contextual, relevant backlinks work more than ever for your Japanese SEO.

By Anthony De Teixeira, a web marketing consultant living in Osaka and specializing in SEO in Japan. His agency, Gaijin Web, also offers web design, translation, and business consulting services in Japan.

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