Japanese Keyword Selection for SEO

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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