Japan SEO

Japan SEO: Best SEO Practices for Digital Marketing in Japan

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If you’re an international business trying to expand your service across borders, it’s important to have strong online visibility to get noticed by consumers. Japan’s unique blend of tradition and innovation makes it an interesting landscape for SEO. 

Let’s understand the nuances of doing SEO in Japan and look at the best Japanese SEO practices.

Insights From The Article

• Understand the nuances of Japanese SEO, including unique keyword research methods and cultural preferences for content, to effectively reach and engage the Japanese audience. 

• While organic traffic is valuable, effective SEO requires significant investment in time and resources, including content creation, keyword research, and SEO. Consider hiring a specialized agency to navigate the complexities of global expansion and maximize your digital presence.

Digital Marketing and SEO in Japan

Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and has a booming E-Commerce market. Due to its growing economy, strong preference for certain types of products, and authenticity, Japan is one of the most alluring markets to do business in

Digital marketing engagement in Japan.

Digital marketing engagement in Japan.

If you lack digital marketing experience in Asia, you might find the Japanese market dynamic and consumer preferences hard to break into. But if you manage to win their trust, this can help your company’s long-term revenue and provide you with a sustainable income.

Japanese SEO Strategies

When doing SEO for an Asian market like Japan, there are certain things to keep in mind.

Japanese Keyword Research

If you are not a local, you can’t afford to miss out on Japanese keyword research. SEO revolves around search queries, and without doing keyword research, reaching potential customers is impossible. Here’s why:

Japan’s writing system is unique. They use three different systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. 

Different writing systems in Japan. 

Different writing systems in Japan.

Hence, the same word can be written in many different ways, which can affect accessibility.

For example, the word ‘sushi’ can be written as:
“すし (sushi),” スシ (sushi), “寿司 (sushi),” “鮨 (sushi),” “寿し (sushi),” and of course, Sushi.”

Google’s smart enough to recognize four versions of a word as the same, but its capabilities are not flawless. So, there’s a chance that the Japanese search results may vary. Hence, if you want your website to do well, you’ve got to use all three types of characters in your content.

However, I don’t recommend using keyword research tools like SEMrush and others that you normally use because although it has a Japanese database, it can’t grasp the linguistic nuances well, and this can be damaging to the credibility of your site.

Instead, use a locally developed SEO tool like Meiruca and GMO Rank Checker to focus on finding the specific words and phrases that Japanese internet users type when searching for your products, services, or brand.

Tip: Use a Keyword research tool to find the most searched keyword expressions and incorporate them into your content. For example, in the image below ‘Sushi’ has the highest number of monthly searches of all Japanese expressions of the same word. 

Japanese keyword research. 

Japanese keyword research.

Content Strategies for Japanese Audience

Japanese consumers are known for doing a lot of research before buying a product and preferring long-form, quality content that is visually appealing with text and images. They also expect longer content than an average American consumer (2000- 4000 words).

Keyword localization. 

Keyword localization.

Localization is key. Invest the time and resources to truly understand your Japanese audience, or hire professionals to do it for you. Create a holistic user experience that meets consumer expectations without compromising on your brand’s identity. 

After working hard on crafting quality content, the last thing you want to do is directly translate into Japanese language using Google Translate because it can backfire. While this site works well for simple translations, it shouldn’t be used for translating complex, long-form content.

Google Translate failing to translate a Japanese verb. 

Google Translate failing to translate a Japanese verb.

Relying on machine translations for websites aimed at the Japanese audience can result in unnatural, awkward sentences and lead to a subpar user experience for a native speaker. In Japanese business culture, trust is everything, and mistakes in grammar can damage your credibility.

Given the high regard Japanese consumers have for top-notch content, opting for professional translations can enhance Japanese user engagement and boost click-through rates.

Optimize Your Title and Meta Description

Although title and meta description serve the same purpose, they vary from English SEO. When optimizing titles and meta descriptions for Japanese SEO, I suggest keeping the title within 28 characters and the meta description within 46 characters.

Page title and meta description.

Page title and meta description.

Since Japanese characters tend to occupy more horizontal space (wider pixel space) compared to English characters, limiting the character count ensures the text displays properly on search engine results pages (SERPs) and remains visually appealing to Japanese users.

Different Search Engines in Japan

SEO mostly revolves around pleasing Google, given its worldwide search domination. However, Yahoo! is the second most widely used search engine in Japan. 

Popular search engines used in Japan. 

Popular search engines used in Japan.

The actions you take to optimize your site according to the two search engines will be more or less the same. Here’s why:

Yahoo Japan has started using Google’s search index to show search results. That means most of the time, the search results you see on Yahoo Japan will be pretty similar to what you’d see on Google, along with some algorithmic tweaks from Yahoo!.

Hence, you should treat traffic from Yahoo! Japan just as seriously as traffic from Google. Google and Yahoo are both big sources of organic search traffic, so it’s a good idea to pay attention to both of them equally.

Japanese Domains and URL

Getting a ccTLD like a .jp domain may be expensive, but it is better than a non-Japanese ccTLD because such domains are not only used to identify the site’s nationality but also help establish trust and credibility since they are usually reserved for companies registered in Japan. 

There are two top-level domains in Japan: .co.jp and .jp.

Note: You have to keep renewing these domains regularly. Plus, you’ll need to build separate links for each of these domains, which adds to the workload and expenses.

If your company operates worldwide and mainly serves English-speaking customers but wants to grow in Japan, you could also place your Japanese content in a separate folder. This approach lets you maintain good rankings for keywords used by your non-Japanese audience.

Using a different folder for a different demographic. 

Using a different folder for a different demographic.

Having a Japanese URL is not recommended, and for non-English URLs, it is recommended to use the Romaji reading or Latin characters instead. Let me tell you why this is.

Romaji or Latin characters. 

Romaji/Latin characters.

Say you are using a Japanese URL (e.g. コンピューター.com). When copy-pasted onto a search engine, a process called parent-encoding is applied to help represent the Japanese characters in the URL, which makes the URL look something like this:

http://xn--eckwd4c7c5976acvb2w6i.com/ 

Since the site has gotten longer with letters, numbers, and special characters, the risk of mistakes and broken links is possible.

Getting High-Quality Japanese Backlinks

Link building is one of the most important aspects of SEO. It helps build your digital presence by increasing organic traffic and improving your site’s credibility online.

Getting high-quality local backlinks using guest posting, broken link building and listing your company in local directories can help build trust among the local audience.

Visual Appeal

Although a clean and minimalistic website design is usually preferred, the Japanese have a different approach based on different consumer behaviors.

Since they tend to have a high bounce rate and low dwell time, the focus is on many visually appealing images, anime-style characters, and, ultimately, a lot more text and images on the page. 

For instance, let’s analyze the homepage of Rakuten, Japan’s largest E-commerce portal. As you can see, they tend to value detailed explanations and vibrant visuals, leading to Japanese websites that are more content-rich and visually stimulating.

Rakuten Japan

On the other hand, below is the American version of the same site.

Rakuten U.S

A lot less busy with a clean, minimalistic design and precise information. 

The Japanese domain is much busier in terms of text and images than the American version because Japanese web design often prioritizes information density and visual richness to cater to the preferences of the Japanese audience. 

Social Media Marketing

Considering the increasingly wide usage of social media, it should be leveraged to help your brand reach a broader audience, especially in a market as digitally connected and socially engaged as Japan.

All brands, new and old, resort to social media to build brand identity because people are starting to become more reliant on social media to stay updated on trending information. 

To stand out on social media in Japan, you must be mindful of how and where you connect with people. Learn about their preferences and online habits, then adjust your strategy accordingly.

Widely used social media platforms in Japan.

Widely used social media platforms in Japan.

LINE is highly popular in Japan as a social media platform. It serves as a messaging application, providing various features, including friend lists, group chats, and a timeline for sharing updates and photos.

Besides LINE, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook stand out as go-to platforms for marketing in Japan.

Their knack for creative and captivating content marketing makes them favorites. With lively user communities in the country, these platforms offer effective avenues for targeting specific audiences.

SEO and Mobile Optimization

In Japan, mobile technology gained widespread adoption long before smartphones were even a thing. As a result, there’s a rich tradition of crafting content tailored specifically for mobile devices.

Benefits of mobile optimization. 

Benefits of mobile optimization.

Ensuring your mobile site is fully optimized for search engines is important because Google’s mobile-first indexing gives priority to the mobile version of your Japanese website in search results. 

Optimize your website’s loading times by minimizing server response times, compressing images, and utilizing browser caching to enhance the user experience.

SEO Isn’t Cheap

Running an international business comes with its own set of costs and investments. The same goes for SEO.

Even if organic traffic is free, SEO strategies that go into gaining organic traffic, like creating high-quality content, keyword research, on-page optimization, and link building, require time and resources.

If you want to scale globally and reap its benefits, it’s always suggested that you hire a link building agency to do the digital marketing and SEO for you. They bring specialized expertise in acquiring high-quality backlinks from authoritative sites locally and worldwide, saving you time and ensuring effective strategies tailored to each market.

Final Thoughts

Expanding your business globally means having a strong online presence, especially in places like Japan, where tradition meets modernity in unique ways. To succeed there, you need to understand Japanese SEO tricks.

Understanding Japanese search term nuances, creating visually rich content, and optimizing for mobile is key.

Mastering Japanese SEO is essential for tapping into Japan’s dynamic and lucrative market and ensuring your global expansion efforts yield maximum impact and success.

FAQ

  1. Why is SEO important for international businesses, especially in Japan? Expanding globally requires a strong online presence to attract consumers. Japan’s unique blend of tradition and innovation makes it a compelling market. SEO helps businesses get noticed by Japanese consumers, leading to long-term revenue growth and sustainability.
  2. What are the key considerations for SEO in Japan?
    Understanding Japanese consumer preferences and cultural nuances is crucial. Focus on Japanese keyword research, create localized content, optimize titles and meta descriptions for Japanese search engines, and consider the importance of high-quality backlinks from local sources.
  3. Is hiring a link building agency worth it for global expansion?
    Yes, hiring a link building agency can be very beneficial. They offer specialized expertise in acquiring high-quality backlinks from authoritative sites worldwide, saving time and ensuring effective strategies tailored to each market, ultimately enhancing your digital presence and driving organic traffic.

Gaby Alexander

Gaby Alexander

Gaby is a search marketing enthusiast with a passion for helping agencies improve their ROI through effective link-building strategies. With expertise in Google Campaign Manager, HubSpot Inbound Marketing, and SEMrush, Gaby provides valuable insights and guidance to optimize search marketing campaigns.

Gaby Alexander

Gaby Alexander

Gaby is a search marketing enthusiast with a passion for helping agencies improve their ROI through effective link-building strategies. With expertise in Google Campaign Manager, HubSpot Inbound Marketing, and SEMrush, Gaby provides valuable insights and guidance to optimize search marketing campaigns.

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