It dawned on the Webandrank team that nobody talks about SEO Japan. There is something daunting about crossing over the Pacific and doing SEO marketing in the land of the ultra-tech.
The truth is that Japan is very similar to Western Europe and North America, Japan has a predominate use of Google and Yahoo, has a similar e-commerce infrastructure, has a huge blogging community and is the world leader in 3G mobile usage. Working one year in Japan teaching and picking up the odd copywriting job, it is amazing the prevalent use of hand-held electronic devices. If you use a train in Japan it is common to look up and see that everybody (I mean everybody) using either a Nintendo DS or smartphone (mostly streaming TV and browsing the Internet).
As the future world of neo-Tokyo becomes a reality it is strange to think about the amount of multinational search marketers that fail to break into the world of SEO Japan.
What is it that makes it so hard for SEO firms to break into the Japanese market?
The first and most obvious problem is the language. Everybody thinks that Japan is super difficult to learn and in a sense it is. Speaking and listening is not actually that hard but it’s the kanji, katakana and hiragana that are the real stumbling block for SEO firms. Considering words are the most important thing in creating a website and in SEO/SEM work this is not something that can be overlooked. Many Japanese people themselves do not understand all of the Chinese characters (Kanji) this does not leave much hope for adult learners of the writing system. If you add the hiragana (symbols for all sounds in Japanese) and katakana (symbols for all sounds in Japanese for foreign words) into the equation you start to really give up hope when choosing keywords and key phrases.
Choosing a Search Engine
Before starting an SEM campaign it is essential that you know what is the most popular search engine in that particular country and focus your campaign there. Google is the Godfather worldwide but in Japan it is all about Yahoo! Japan. 56.2% of Japanese people prefer to use Yahoo! Japan, 31.3% use Google, 3.8% use BIGLOBE and 2.8% use Microsoft. If you take a look at Paid search, Overture (Yahoo! Japan) has 63.6% of the market where as Google has only 36.4%.
For all those people out there who think Big G is number one in Japan, think again because Yahoo is the real giant out there. Google is generally used by the Japanese for news and Yahoo! Japan is used by businesses and shoppers.
The amount of smartphone owners in Japan is enormous at 50 million users and continues to grow. Google Japan has a partnership with Docomo and KDDI and together these firms have 80% of the mobile market share, the Softbank network which has Yahoo! Japan as its majority share holder has only 20%. If you look at the smartphone figures it shows a different picture, Softbank has 62% of the market with Docomo having only 15%, it is the smartphone market that matters and these figures show that once again it is Yahoo that is the winner.
Have you ever looked at a Japanese website? If you have you might think that web designers in Japan have OCD, they are so busy filled to the brim with pictures, texts and graphics. Check out the screen shot below:
The Asian people like the busy website look, it is important that any SEO firm knows how to appeal to the Asian market.
There is so much to think about when trying to conquer the Japanese SEO market, above are just a few of the things. Webandrank will be back again with another instalment on how to break the back of SEO and SEM in Japan.