Although Japanese SEO is a great example of SEO for a language associated with just one country, it has a uniqueness in its language that make optimizing websites for the Japanese market difficult. 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 =.es, 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 doing SEO for Japan is an easy task, consider this; there are 3 different sets of Japanese characters.
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 東京, however, it may also be written in Hiragana とうきょうand Katakana トウキョウ.
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 東京 (Tokyo) in the search bar at www.google.co.jp, 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