The Future of SEO in Japan


On my last day in Japan, I can report that there is a huge market for Japanese SEO services. And there are many companies not only with this understanding, but actively pursuing technologies to help them with their own SEO efforts, and to assist their clients better SEO their sites for more search powered success in Japan. SEO is a big buzz word in Japan, but I was surprised to find out that Yahoo! Japan is the dominant search player here. Google Japan has a presence, but at the present time Yahoo! Japan controls about 80% of the Japanese search industry.

Another aspect many may or may not know is over 60% of the connections made to the Internet in Japan are via a cell phone. I had not been to Japan for a few years, so I was looking forward to see just how small the cell phones had become. On previous trips I had been amazed at just how small they were getting. So, I was quite surprised to find that Japanese cell phones have become quite chunky, and surprisingly large. I guess with so much on the Internet being done on the phone, they decided larger screens and keypads were worth the larger phone sizes. Most of the styles we were seeing were of the clamshell variety, like these.

I also found it interesting to see so many ads around Tokyo for Excite Japan. I had thought Excite was long since gone. I even navigated to, just to see if the US version was still around…they are!! I used to love Excite, like 7 years ago when setting up your own, “customized” home page was a new and exciting thing to do. I even had weather and movies on my home page. 🙂 I noticed that search in Excite is powered by Yahoo in the states, and although I couldn’t confirm this, I would suspect the same is true in Japan. Not too far a stretch, with the remaining popularity of Excite in Japan, and Yahoo controlling 80% of the Japanese search market, it is a pretty safe assumption.

Anyway, Japan is ripe and ready for SEO services and solutions. It is a hot market that will continue to grow. There is much to do for US companies to capitalize here…localization, which can be quite tricky. You can’t just have your web pages translated by a native Japanese speaker, it really needs to be done by someone who understand the SEM/SEO market in Japan. Many of the words being used are Japanese versions of English words, as in the case in much of the Japanese technology industry. So translating directly, word for word, isn’t always going to communicate the message intended, especially to those who know Japanese SEO terms. Additionally, we need to determine the difference in the Yahoo US versus Yahoo Japan APIs, etc. That will be a challenge. The idea of doing SEO on your phone, or receiving SEO reports on your phone, or just how to SEO a site to perform well on a phone, those are also issues that need to be further researched and clarified. Obviously with less room on a cell phone to show SERPs, being number 3 just might be as bad as being number 11 on a desktop. Finally, and probably most importantly, finding a good Japanese partner to help a US firm navigate through the differences in doing business in Japan will be of paramount importance. The reasons an excellent Japanese partner is needed are too many to list, but rest assured any mistake made by a foreign company along the way could prove fatal for their aspirations to do well in a very, very Internet savvy, and SEO prepared country.

The Japanese SEO industry will be very interesting to watch over the next coming years. I think we are in for a wild ride, and nothing is better than that.

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