Webandrank is back to finish what it started. There is so much money to be made from search engine marketing and optimisation in Japan that it seems ridiculous that more companies don’t already exploit these prospects.
In the first article the Webandrank team explored four ideas; they were the language barrier and especially the written word; focusing on one specific search engine, and in the case of Japan it is Yahoo! Japan that rules the roost; next it was the importance of mobile search, so many Japanese people use Smartphone’s and it should not be ignored that again it is Yahoo! Japan that controls this market; finally SEM & SEO marketers must have a good understanding of website layout in Japan, in Western Europe and America simple and elegant design is desired but in Japan it is hectic, busy and jammed packed with text, graphics and images.
The Growing Influence of Google
The previous article argues that Google is not as important as Yahoo! Japan, but I would say that a recent study maybe destroys this idea.
The retail giant PCworld has just reported that Google has overtaken Microsoft to take the top place in Japan corporate brand ranking (all corporate brands). Every year Google becomes a little more popular in Japan and of course attracts more search users then Microsoft, but Microsoft has always been the leading corporate brand in the computing world (not just the online world). Microsoft is deeply embedded with Japanese IT vendors so it is a massive surprise that Google could wrestle them away from the top spot.
The research was carried out by Nikkei Research and included the responses from 33,033 consumers and 14,184 business people. Nikkei Research asked respondents about how they perceive major brands and experiences they gain from using a company’s products and services.
The strange thing is that Yahoo! Japan is only in fourth place behind Sony, but Yahoo! Japan is the most popular web portal with 56.2% of the search share. Maybe tools such as Google maps and images make it a little more functional (but as far as I’m aware most consumers use Yahoo! Japan, making it the web portal for business).
IT is big business in Japan and this is clear to see from this study as IT corporations fill the first four places (Google, Microsoft, Sony, Yahoo!), with Canon at sixth place, Panasonic at eighth, Casio at ninth and Sharp at eighteenth.
Paid links are considered as not good practice in Western countries but in Japan it is an accepted practice. This is a double edged sword because paid links obscure organic search results but at the same time, why should it be a bad thing to profit from the popularity of your website?
A few years back paid links became a very popular and common practice in Japan, which of course annoyed the hell out of the existing search optimisers as the new link-broking generation stormed ahead placing the companies they worked for at the top positions. It also killed the ethical link business as many websites would only sell their links rather than give them to sites they liked.
This is still the situation today in Japan, it is a kind of grey area and people do not talk about it. There are some genuine link builders left in Japan but our guess is that it’s not many. The bottom line is that Yahoo! does not penalise paid links and Yahoo! holds the market share.
Hosting & Top Level Domains
It is not essential but hosting your website through a server in Japan can be beneficial. Benefits are two fold, first it will give you a more reliable connection and it gives your website a feeling that you’re local.
The two TLD’s in Japan are ‘.jp’ and ‘co.jp’; some people reckon that the ‘co.jp’ is the better one to choose as it has a better trust value internationally and locally. There is not much evidence to support this idea but it is most likely true.
Kanji in Domain Names
The English language has already pushed many languages into obscurity and the Internet has placed the English as the number one language of the future. Webandrank as many people think, it is important to protect the languages of the world as diversity is important for survival. It certainly helps for global communication if we all share a second language but it is important to protect all languages.
It used to be the case that only Latin characters were allowed in domain names but this is massively discriminating to languages that have their own symbols such as China, Japan and Korea. ICANN finally allowed non-Latin characters and so some domains exist that use Kanji but this has yet to become popular in Japan, but that is not to say that it won’t in the future. So keep an ear to the ground on this one.
All in all Japan is a tough nut to crack but it can be done.