7 Reasons Why You’d Never Succeed at SEO in Japan

Are you a SEO practitioner looking to enter the Japanese market or already working with Japanese clients?

Then take note, you need to read this article to find out what’s stopping you from success!   

1. You don’t focus enough on mobile

Japan has a high internet penetration of 86%, and a mobile penetration of 122%! This means that on average, each person owns more than one mobile device.

Many searches take place on mobile. And majority of the people who use social media use it on mobile as well as desktops.

Are you making mobile the focus of your SEO strategy?


Source: We Are Social


2. You are not using the most popular Japanese search engines

Two search engines (Google and Yahoo) control nearly 97% of the market share. Yahoo used to be the dominant search engine until mid 2011, when Google took over.

That said, Yahoo still accounts for almost 40% of the search market. Are you optimizing your website for Yahoo SERPs?   

036Source: Global Analysts  


3. You ignore the top Japanese social media networks

If you have Japanese friends, you’d know that Line is the Japanese Facebook in terms of market dominance. Line is a mobile platform with approx 54m users in its home market of Japan.

It’s especially popular with the ladies because of its cute characters. Young people often swap Line IDs the way they swap phone numbers a few years ago.

Below is an overall ranking of the most popular social media networks and messaging apps in Japan for all ages. The results are based on a survey published in 2014.

Facebook has been growing in popularity, but its growth has not been as fast as Line’s over the past years. The key reason being it’s not a service born on mobile.


When you segment the different age groups (by decade, from people in their teens to those in their 60s), the results look very different.

  • Those in their 20s are the most avid social media users across the board.
  • Twitter is disproportionately popular among Japanese teens.
  • Facebook is more popular with millennials and less popular with teens.
  • Millennials still use mixi but teens don’t really anymore.
  • Line is the most popular social media network across the board except for seniors in their 60s.

Source: 2014 Institute for Information and Communications Policy

In another study, people were polled and asked “Out of Facebook, Twitter, and Line, which would present the most trouble if it were suddenly taken away from you?”


Source: 2014 Fast Ask

Almost half of respondents (49.0%) chose Line as their most essential service, with the rest of the respondents split between Twitter, Facebook, and “I don’t know.”


Are you using the right social media networks for your target age groups?

4. You don’t use local domain and hosting

Search engines give more value to websites hosted on local web servers. Hosting your website locally, as well as having local ccTLDs will give you a significant advantage to rank in Japan.

Using local domain and hosting is an important geo-targeting indicator of trust and local authority to search engines.


Source: Ginza Metrics


Google understands Japanese characters and displays them properly in SERPs if they have been correctly encoded. You want to ensure that your URLs are UTF-8 encoded.

You can also consider using Japanese character keywords in subfolders if they draw search volumes. For example, “yourwebsite.co.jp/folder/ここにキーワード.html”.

This will give you a better chance of ranking for your target keywords.

As Japanese users see trust as an important element of an online presence, consider placing your brand name at the end of the title tag.

This will help to raise brand awareness and create a good click-through rate for users who are familiar with your brand.

Are you using local domain and hosting?


5. You don’t localize your websites or have a Japan-specific content strategy   

Unlike the Western mantra of “less is more,” Japanese users expect to see lots of information. To them, more is better.

You need to adapt global templates to Japanese visual aesthetics and UI preferences.

Here’s a screenshot of Rakuten, Japan’s biggest ecommerce site. It might look busy and cluttered to Western eyes. But to Japanese people, the huge amount of content builds trust.


Don’t just (Google) translate existing English content, Japanese users will know. Create content specifically for the Japanese user.

Highlight local management (if any) to build trust. Japanese consumers value quality and brand recognition.

The “About” page is particularly important for foreign companies so display your achievements and experience.

Localize forms, especially for dates, credit card input, names and addresses. For example, don’t insist on having users fill in “zip codes.” This American term is not familiar to Japanese users.

Avoid the typical multi-racial corporate imagery common in the West. Instead, show Japanese people who are fashionably and smartly dressed.  

Are you localizing your websites based on Japanese sensibilities?  

6. You don’t optimize your keyword strategy for Japanese characters

There are 4 character sets to optimize for in Japan–kanji, hiragana, katakana and romaji. And spacing matters, there’s a difference in search volumes between single byte and double byte.

Additionally, Japanese grammar rarely matches how searches are formatted. Japanese tend to search in the infinitive, which can be hard to naturally work into the copy.

Are you optimizing your keyword strategy for the various Japanese character sets?

7. You build links to/from non-Japanese sites

Search engines value links originating from Japanese IP addresses and sites with Japanese content. Japanese anchor text is essential, back links with English anchor text are not ideal.

Yahoo Chiebukuro (Q&A) is a great place to engage users and build back links. You can create a brand ambassador who answers product, service or brand questions.


Also, Pay Per Post back linking programs on top blog networks and directory listings are popular in Japan. Japanese users are not turned off by sponsored blogging the way Americans tend to be.  

Are you building links to/from Japanese sites?


If you take care of these 7 points above, you’d have a fighting chance to make it in the SEO world in Japan. Good luck!

13 Reasons Bloggers Should Use a Tumblelog for Links

It’s been one of the best things I’ve done on my blog, for a number of good reasons, and I highly recommend it to any blogger.

Let’s start by talking a little about tumblelogs. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re about the simplest blogs there are — basically a collection of links, quotes, photos, videos, dialogue, snippets of text, or anything else you might run into while surfing the net.

A tumblelog can contain regular blog posts, but for the most part it’s links and other media you stumble across that you want to share with others. And it’s easy: you can use a service like Tumblr and get a free tumblelog running in minutes.

Using their bookmarklet, you can link to a post or photo or video within seconds. No hassle, no wasted time.

From my blog’s main page, I have a prominent link to the Zen Habits tumblelog that says “Links”. This lets my readers know that if they’d like to see links that I want to share with them, they can go to my tumblelog … or even subscribe to it separately if they want.

Not every Zen Habits reader looks at the tumblelog regularly, or

So why use a tumblelog? The reasons are many and good:

1. Links for your readers.

A tumblelog is an additional service you’re providing to your readers, for free, and without a lot of hassle. A good segment of your readers will appreciate the interesting and useful links you find for them, and those who don’t want the links don’t need to be bothered by them.

It’s a perfect solution for everyone. It’s added value to the readers, which makes your blog more valuable, and more worthy of their time.

2. Doesn’t dilute your blog.

However, posting a bunch of links from your blog every day dilutes your content. Many bloggers do link posts, of course, along with featured content. Sometimes the link posts outnumber the featured content.

But here’s the thing: the featured content is most likely the reason they come to your blog. Sure, there are some who come for the links, especially if you’re a huge blog that finds great posts for people.

But in general, they want the really interesting and useful content that you write. So by separating the links from the content, you are essentially strengthening the content portion of your blog (the main part) while still providing the links in a separate tumblelog.

3. Less clutter.

I’m a fan of simplicity, and while not everything I do on my blog is simple and uncluttered, I think that clutter is visually distracting and turns off the reader.

Simple, uncluttered design is the ideal — think Macintosh aesthetics. By removing the links, and putting them on your tumblelog, you are removing clutter from your main blog. And that’s a good thing.

4. Help other bloggers, without any harm.

Many times other bloggers will write to me and ask me to link to their posts. And they are often great posts, but again, I don’t like to dilute my main content with link posts … so I link to them from the tumblelog, which makes them happy because my readers can still find their post, and makes me happy because I’ve helped another blogger without harming my blog.

And helping other bloggers is desirable, because we are a community and we should cooperate, not compete.

5. Easy bookmarking.

There are many bookmarking services, including the ever-popular del.icio.us, and they’re all excellent. However, a tumblelog can also be a form of bookmarking.

As I’m already posting links to my favorite articles, for my readers, I can also use those links as a way to find something interesting I read a few days ago. Just quickly look through the tumblelog, and I’m on my way. It’s two birds, one stone.

6. Easy web journal.

Actually, it’s three birds with that one stone, because a tumblelog is like a journal of your web exploits over time.

Want to see what you were reading a year ago? Just browse through your tumblelog. It’s a journal without the hassle.

7. Releases the urge to share.

Many times I’ll stumble across a great post, or a funny video, or an amazing photo. I can’t wait to share it with people, especially my readers.

What is a blogger to do? In the past, I’d have to either do a whole post about it, or a post with a bunch of links, both of which would take time … or not share it at all.

It was a dilemma, solved by my tumblelog. Now when I want to share, I press a button, and it’s done.

8. Let’s you focus on the essential.

By taking care of your links in a separate and hassle-free way, the tumblelog frees you to focus on what’s really important on your blog: your content.

I know this was mentioned in Item #2, but it’s another way of looking at it — instead of thinking about links diluting your blog, think about what you should focus on. And that’s creating great content.

Tumblelogs give you more time for that (see next item), and reminds you of what you should be doing.

9. Saves time.

I’ve mentioned several times how easy it is to link, but it’s so important it deserves a separate item. Doing link posts, with a bunch of links to your favorite posts on other blogs, takes time.

Not a huge amount of time, but still time. And effort. Tumblelogs are super easy, and don’t take much time or effort. That gives you time to do other things, like creating great content, or reading great content on other blogs. Or playing WoW.

10. Helps network.

As I mentioned above, you can help other bloggers in a painless way by linking to them with your tumblelog. And they, in turn, might link back to you out of gratitude.

Either way, you’ve made a friend, and that’s a valuable thing to a blogger. A tumblelog makes it easy to create a network of blogger friends, by quickly linking to each other’s best posts, helping each other reach new readers.

11. Satisfies reader curiosity … about you.

Weird as it may seem, my readers seem to want to know more about me (well some of them do). I guess that’s a natural human tendency, to be curious about an author, whether that’s a novelist or a blogger.

While I’m not comfortable telling them too much about my personal life — more than I already share on my blog, anyway — by providing links of stuff I like to read about, I’m giving my readers a way to get insight into me as a person. And so their curiosity is satisfied, without having to share too much.

12. It’s fun.

It doesn’t take much time to maintain (a minute or two total a day, to post links as I read stuff), but having a tumblelog has been a lot of fun for me.

I like to look at my tumblelog once in awhile, see what I’ve put on there, enjoy the simplicity of it.

13. Drives traffic back to your blog.

It might seem that having a separate tumblelog will separate your traffic, or dilute it somehow.

However, I’ve found a couple of things to be true: 1) people find the tumblelog, enjoy it and link to it, which sends traffic to the tumblelog, which drives traffic back to my main blog — I’ve actually seen traffic from the tumblelog to the main blog; and 2) people who I link to are grateful for the links, so they link to my main blog out of gratitude.

I’ve found a lot of traffic from those links too.

Link Karma: How Linking to Others Can Get You Lots of Links in Return

Linking is a two way street. Give and you shall receive. This is the unwritten rule that most successful bloggers follow.

One of the things that makes a blog a blog is that it links to other blogs and websites, and comments on them. That’s pretty basic.

But what many bloggers don’t realize is how to leverage the power of the outbound link to create even more inbound links. “Link Karma” is a real phenomenon, and while you shouldn’t overdo it, don’t underestimate it either.

Why does it work? Well, first of all, because bloggers love it when you link to them … and out of gratitude, they will likely link back to you. That’s basic human nature.

But second, a list of links to a whole bunch of blogs, when done properly, can create a buzz of talk about your link post that will multiply that first effect.

Let’s take an example: One of the most popular posts on NorthxEast.com I’ve ever written is the Top 50 Most Influential Bloggers. It took a look at the 50 bloggers that have the most influence on the rest of the blogging world, and linked to each of them.

Well, it worked brilliantly. A number of those top bloggers linked back to the original post … including the amazing Darren Rowse (I’m a big fan of his), who called the post the best example of linkbait (that week).

In addition, because of the nature of the post, a bunch of other blogs talked about the list, and it hit the front page of Digg and other social bookmarking services.

Each success built upon the previous one, with big blogs linking to it, small blogs linking to it, and people bookmarking it, until soon it was seen by a large portion of the blogging world.

So how can you use that on your blog? It’s not difficult, and if done right, the payoff can be huge. Here’s how to do it:

1. Find a hot topic. You can’t just start linking to other blogs randomly — you have to organize the links around a topic that people will want to read about. What’s hot in your niche? Don’t do something that’s been done too many times before — look for topics that are ripe for the plucking.

Example: Makeuseof.com is a great example of a site that finds hot topics and creates link posts. See 13 Bargain Websites That are Cheaper than eBay for one example.

2. Create a resource. Another key point in creating a link post is to create a list of some of the most useful sites (organized around the hot topic mentioned above). If it’s useful to people, they’ll bookmark it to read or refer to later. So your resource should have more than 10 sites to be a reference source that others will refer to when they need it.

Example: Probably the best website for resource posts is Smashing Magazine, which regularly churns out great resources. See 80+ AJAX Solutions for Professional Coders for just one example.

3. Link to big blogs. So you’ve created a resource, which is only useful if you link to useful sites and blogs. But it’s most useful to you, as a blogger, if you link to bigger blogs than your own. Because those blogs might link back to you, and they have audiences that you’d like to reach.

Example: In the blogging for bloggers world, some of my favorites in this field includeProBlogger, Copyblogger and Dosh Dosh. If you’re in this niche, link to them and other big blogs.

4. Bloggers and coders. Your ideal target audience in Link Karma is people who can link back to you — namely, other bloggers, and people who code websites. Regular people with no blog or website can’t link back to you. You want to reach those who can link back. So if you create resources that bloggers and coders can use, you have a better chance for success. Now, you don’t have to appeal to all bloggers — you can just aim at those in your niche. (See my Top 50 Productivity Blogs for an example).

Example: Another great website for creating resources for bloggers and website coders isMashable. See their recent 30+ Joomla Tools and Resources for one example.

5. The Delicious Factor. One of the best things about creating a resource post, besides the Link Karma factor, is that people bookmark it. And of course, the most popular bookmarking service is del.icio.us … which can send major traffic to your blog. A good resource page, with some incoming traffic from Link Karma, can get bookmarked on delicious a bunch of times … and if you get bookmarked enough times, you can get on the del.icio.us popular page, which can send good traffic.

The popular page can also be a springboard to other social bookmarking services. For example, if you make the popular page, the extra traffic can help your page get to the front page of Digg, which sends even more traffic.

Example: Just recently, the Graphic Design Blog had a post called 99 Useful Resources for Graphic Designers that hit the popular page of del.icio.us and then hit the front page of Digg. Of course, it then ran into the Digg Effect and was crashed.