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Japanese Keyword Selection for SEO

  |  November 8, 2010   |  Comments   |  

To optimise your site for the Japan market, you must select the right keywords in the local language. Here are three tips to get you started.

Search marketing success depends heavily on keyword selection. If you select the wrong word or phrase as your target keyword, the success of your perfectly optimised site and pages will be limited by the market potential from the wrong keyword. We should know this by now, but sadly, it is still the case that keyword research for foreign languages are often overlooked or neglected.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when selecting keywords and how to use them for SEO in Japanese.

1. Localise your website In Japan, we speak and write in Japanese. The good thing is we are the only country that speaks the language, so you won't need to worry too much about geo-targeting as you would with other languages such as English, Spanish, and Chinese. The disadvantage is because we speak in Japanese, there is no such thing as "non-U.S." or "APAC". To target the Japan market, you need to have a site and pages in Japanese. Even when your target keywords may be English or spelled with acronyms such as "SEO" or "CRM", you'll need a Japanese website and pages to be visible in search in the country.

2. Invest in keyword research It is OK to use your English (source language) keyword list as a base for Japanese keyword research. But, it's just the beginning. Japanese language uses four different sets of letters and characters to write, Katakana, Hiragana, Kanji, and Romani. We combine them to write sentences. Having four different sets of letters and characters mean that one word in English or any other language may be written in multiple letters and characters. If you simply translate the keyword into Japanese, it would only give one of the variations.

An English word may translate into multiple Japanese words. To find these variations, use keyword tools for keyword suggestions and check competitor sites to see what words they are using. You may see good keywords in the list of "related search terms" on the search result pages too.

Example: Spelling variation (search volume estimate in Japan) – "Search Engine" サーチエンジン (27100) 検索エンジン (20100)

Example: Translation variation (search volume estimate in Japan) – "HD camera" HDカメラ (14800) – HD camera ハイビジョンカメラ (6600) – High vision camera ハイデフィニションカメラ (N/A) – High definition camera

3. Consult market professionals and Japanese native speakers Tools will only give you the data and there's always a limitation. It is always good to consult native Japanese speakers for keyword research. Some words may have a good amount of search volume, but may not work for your website depending on how it is used or where it is used. Some popular words may not be appropriate for your business. Your target market may prefer another word with lesser search volume. If your company has a branch or a partner company in Japan, ask them to review your keyword list and for suggestions.

Keyword research can be a very time consuming process but it will reward you if are successful. These are the basic tips to get you started.

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Motoko Hunt

Since Motoko established AJPR in 1998, she has been providing the online marketing services targeting Japan and Asia to companies from around the world, helping them to enter the regional market using the Internet. Her search marketing consulting services with her extensive knowledge of Asia and Japanese market have been highly valued and made big impact on some of the world's popular multi-national brands' search marketing campaigns.

A number of her articles have been published on industry websites and printed media including Multilingual Computing and International Journal of Localization. She also writes about the Japanese online market on her blog and Multilingual-Search.com. She's a frequent speaker at search marketing conferences globally, and gives seminars and trainings about search marketing targeting Japan and Asia.

Prior to entering the online marketing industry in the mid 90's, she worked as a senior marketing manager at a traditional marketing and trading firm, marketing U.S. products to Japanese government and heavy industries.

She believes in giving back to the community and volunteers her time for industry organizations. She served as a member of Board of Directors of SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization), and is a Chairman of SEMPO Asia-Pacific Committee. In March 2009, she received the first SEMPO President Award for her support and dedication to the search industry and SEMPO organization.

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