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!

What I’ve Learned About Social Media Success (Whiteboard)

social media success

A few days ago you might have noticed that this blog’s uptime was a little patchy. This was because a post I wrote — 110+ Resources for Creative Minds — appeared on the front page of Digg and became popular on del.icio.us and StumbleUpon.

I created the post specifically with social media in mind, primarily as an experiment. I wanted to see if it would be possible for me to reach the front page of Digg with a resource post — something anyone with a bit of spare time can create.

If that was the case, I could return to you and outline a model of social media success. The experiment worked, and the above diagram is an attempt to communicate the results.

Keep reading for an analysis of what I’ve learned about social media success.

Time & Effort

The process for creating the post was time-consuming. It took a few hours to gather the links, a few hours to construct the post, and a little longer to make the thumbnail images.

I could have taken less time, but I set myself the target of gathering 110+ resources — mainly to see if I could do it!

One thing you might have noticed if you use Digg regularly is that not every resource post that becomes popular needs to contain so many resources.

I’ve seen posts with 37 resources reach the front page, and so on. Higher numbers maximize your chances, but you don’t need to go all out.

The key ingredient in a resource post is time. If you don’t have a big chunk of time, you can set aside a few minutes each day to work on your magnum opus.


From what I’ve observed, who you know is somewhat more important than the content you create when it comes to making the Digg front page.

Unless you have a huge readership, it takes a lot of luck to achieve success on Digg without 1) success on other social bookmarking sites or 2) a network of friends who will give your article a leg-up.

I can confidently say that my article would never have made the front page of Digg without support from my StumbleUpon friends and Skelliewag readers over at Digg.

The first lesson I’ve learned from this is that “you only get out what you put in.” Taking the time to build a network of friends on the social media service you’re targeting — even if it’s only modest — will drastically increase the momentum behind your content.

The second lesson I’ve learned is that, unless you have a large readership, you will need to do much of the beginning leg-work yourself.

Send the article to friends, send shouts across Digg, StumbleUpon messages and so on. Once enough people get behind your article things can begin to happen of their own accord.


Unlike StumbleUpon, where content can be democratically recategorized and reviewed as users vote it up, you only get one chance with Digg. Duplicate content is not allowed, so once your article is submitted, that’s it.

If you can, get someone to submit your article who you trust will give it a good headline and description, in addition to submitting in the best-match category (though this is often hard with Digg).

Bad categorizing can hurt your chances of success with a particular piece of content. Returning to StumbleUpon, if I write an article on personal finance and it’s submitted under ‘blogs’ (as is often the case), I will get badly targeted traffic.

If someone diggs your personal finance article by submitting it in ‘Video’ it will probably get buried.

What you can do

1. Get active on the social media service you’d like to experience success with. Make friends, share articles, submit good content, and so on.

2. Create a resource post, or other linkbait that relates broadly to the topic of your site.

3. Call in a favor from social media friends and ask them to vote if they like what you’ve created.

4. Before things start heating up, make sure to shore up your site against bursts of traffic. I learned this the hard way.

If you can’t afford a good host, WP-Cache is a great alternative. I’ve not had a chance to use it, as it was installed after the rush of traffic, but many people swear by it.

Why No-one is a Social Media Expert

social media expertPhoto by mikebaird

The term ‘social media expert’ has been the subject of a lot of talk and a lot of controversial articles lately.

People have written about the different types of social media expert, whether it’s OK to call yourself a social media expert and outlined who they believe are (and are not) experts in social media.

The term has never been more commonly used. This is probably because an entire industry has bubbled up around people creating businesses and services springing from their claimed expertise in social media.

There are a lot of good people in this industry and there is a lot of good work being done.

What I’d like to do in this post, though, is get people thinking about whether it is actually possible to be a ‘social media expert’. As the title of this post suggest, I believe it isn’t. Here’s why.

Branding yourself as a social media expert is as nebulous as branding yourself an expert on ‘Animals’ or ‘History’ or ‘Asia’ or ‘Sport’.

These areas are simply too big and too complicated to be truly mastered in any one lifetime. You can certainly be a student of these things and know more than most about them, but you cannot gain an extremely deep knowledge (which I believe is required to be an ‘expert’) on something so broad.

Social media is an umbrella topic covering hundreds of different platforms, mediums and means for producing and sharing user-generated content.

Within that, individual communities can have thousands (or millions) of members, distinct cultures, unspoken rules and unofficial leaders.

Digg is extremely different to Twitter. Twitter is extremely different to StumbleUpon. StumbleUpon is extremely different to FriendFeed. Tumblr is different to your WordPress blog.

Expertise in using one type of social media does not automatically transfer into all other types.

I see many people branding themselves as social media experts who are active on Twitter mainly, perhaps Friendfeed, but have never actively used Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, et al.

If expertise implies full and comprehensive knowledge then this scenario is actually incompatible with social media ‘expertise’. Does this mean these people are being deceptive?

Certainly not – I have no doubt they genuinely believe they are experts and may have different criteria than I do.

My point is not that you should sign-up to every social media service in existence, use them all for thousands of hours, and only then can you call yourself a social media expert.

I don’t think it’s possible to do this, or a wise use of time. Instead, my argument is that it is possible to have expertise within social media.

Spend thousands of hours studying, using and challenging yourself with Twitter and you will have well and truly earned the right to call yourself a Twitter expert. If you want to get really truthful, though, why not get more specific?

  • I’m an expert in using Twitter to grow and strengthen customer loyalty.
  • I’m an expert in teaching companies how to use Twitter to build relationships with customers.
  • I’m an expert in collecting large amounts of Twitter followers in a short period of time.

This type of branding is both more accurate and more powerful than claiming general expertise.

It’s more accurate because you may not truly be a Twitter expert if you have only ever used Twitter in one way (for example, to generate sales leads for your business).

In matters of using Twitter to build your own personal brand or network with people in your industry, you might know only a little. When it comes to generating sales leads for your business, though, your expertise can’t be denied.

This is the take-away point right here, and I think this will help your personal branding: getting specific about your expertise is actually a better branding strategy than a sweeping statement.

Most people are looking for an expert to solve a very specific problem. Some examples from within social media:

  • They want to learn how to create content that compels Digg users to vote, which will in turn bring them more pageviews and ad revenue.
  • They want to use Twitter to build a bigger profile in their field.
  • They want to create a blog that turns readers into customers.

Who are they going to hire, all things being equal?

  • The expert in creating and marketing Diggable content for pageviews, or the ‘social media expert’?
  • The expert in creating super-accounts on Twitter, or the ‘social media expert’?
  • The expert in business blogging for conversions, or the ‘social media expert’?

I know who I’d hire!

The broader your expert branding, the less clear it is what exactly you do and what problems you can solve.

You are also competing with hundreds, perhaps thousands of other people who have branded themselves in the same way.

By presenting yourself as a specialist you are cutting down the amount of people you have to compete with while also providing a specific answer to a specific problem.

Most importantly, you’re acknowledging that you are not an expert in your entire field and that the thing you are passionate about – whether it’s social media or technology or politics – is too complex and multi-layered to be mastered by any one person.

In my humble opinion, it’s an enlightened and authentic approach that will benefit your business.

The Sexy Girls of Tech and Politics: The Unbeatable Trio

You ever wonder how to hook into the minds of the people who vote for your articles on social media sites? The secret to writing a Diggable post?

Figure out what they like, and you’re halfway there.

There are three topics that are unbeatable in the world of social media, that almost never miss on Digg, Reddit, Delicious or elsewhere.

They are, in this order: Sex, Tech, and Politics.

Combine two or three of these, and you’ve got a winner.

If you take a look at the top articles on social media sites such as Digg and Reddit, you’ll find that almost all the popular stories fit into one of these three categories.

So it makes sense that, in order to catch the attention of Diggers, you have to appeal to their favorite topics.

Now, I’m not saying that every post you write should be about one of those three topics. But if you’re going to write about these topics anyway, make them sexier, write a great headline, and see if you don’t have a shot at social media success.

Let’s take a look at a few tips that can help you find success with social media:

1. Sex sells.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life. A large part of the Digger population, for example, is made up of younger (under 30) males … and there’s no doubt that sex appeals to that demographic.

Am I saying you should resort to pornography? Not at all. Just find things that are sexy that you can hook into. A sexy photo doesn’t hurt either.

2. Tech rules.

Let’s face it: the people who use the Internet the most tend to be tech lovers. Apple, Mac, Linux, Microsoft, the iPhone and other new gadgets … these topics are always sexy to Diggers and other social media users.

3. Controversy stirs things up.

And politics is just as controversial as anything else. Political scandal, a politician who dares to challenge the establishment, unusual political stands … these kinds of controversies are bound to catch some attention and get a discussion going. And if you can do these two things, you’ve already won.

4. Sexy headlines.

The only thing you have to catch the attention of a Digger is your headline. If it is about flowers and butterflies and kittens, you’re never going to get their attention.

The headline, of course, has to match the article, but that said, there are headlines that are just so-so, and there are headlines that kill. Ask yourself if the headline will catch attention. Ask if it appeals to any of the topics that Diggers like. Ask if it has power, if it appeals to curiosity.

5. Pack the post with great info.

You can’t just have a headline that sells and a lame post that’s about a popular topic. People will see your article, bury it as lame, and never come back again. You want to be extremely useful, extremely informative, extremely packed with great photos or videos, or packed with controversial information.

Whatever it is, make it worth the reader’s time to come and check out your post. Otherwise he will feel like he’s just wasted his time on nothing.

How to Leverage the Power of Social Media to Market Your Blog

For bloggers, these social networks are huge reserves of untapped potential readers … a new frontier that most of us have no idea how to navigate.

We know how to join and create an account, but how can we tap into that audience in an organic way, without becoming a spammer?

It’s possible. Not necessarily easy, but it can be done.Most of our blogs have perhaps a few hundred regular readers (or a few thousand if you’re lucky) … a minuscule amount of people compared to the number of people on social networks such as Facebook,MySpace, Orkut, LinkedIn, and more.

Personally, I’ve only recently created a Facebook account, but already more than 500 Facebook users have added the “Zen Habits Facebook app” to their profile pages (and that’s growing by dozens a day).

This app allows readers to see the latest Zen Habits posts, almost like a feed reader … but more importantly, it allows their friends to see these posts when they go to their profile pages, and allows the readers to share my best posts with friends.In this way, the vast power of social networks can be leveraged to take a post viral, if it’s good enough.

Facebook vs. MySpace

Before I get into specific tactics for leveraging the power of social networks, we should briefly look at which networks we should focus on. Ideally, we would be able to hook into all of them.

However, I personally don’t have the time to network in several social networks at once, so I’ve decided to focus on one, at the moment. I’d recommend the same for other bloggers, if their time is limited (and whose isn’t?).Using the famous 80/20 principle, it’s best then to focus on the network that will get us the best results with the least amount of effort.

That would be one of the two biggest networks: either MySpace (the biggest at the moment) or Facebook (the next biggest, but catching up quick).

I recommend Facebook, because of the ability to create applications (apps) such as the one I mentioned above. However, if you already have a strong MySpace presence, you might apply the tactics below to MySpace instead of Facebook (minus the app).

1. Be organic, not spammy.

I should start off with strategy instead of tactics: your overall strategy should be to grow your presence and spread your brand on these networks in an organic way, allowing people to share things that they want to share, and allowing them to see things on your profile (or product page) without you pushing it on them.

If you add a couple dozen friends on Facebook, and then start sending them messages about your blog every day, they’ll soon tire of it. And if you do it to more than just your usual friends, you’re a spammer. Don’t be a spammer — it’s a horrible way to grow your blog’s brand.

2. App creator.

If you choose Facebook as your social network, you can create an “app” for your blog. I created one very easily with the excellent new Facebook App Creator for Bloggers from BlogFuse. It’s a service that walks you through the process of creating an app (all you need is the url for your blog’s RSS feed) and then hosts the app on their server.

It took me five minutes to set up, and another minute to share with my readers. Best thing of all: the subscription price is low (starts at $5/month) and there’s a one-week free trial so you can try before paying. I recommend you give it a shot.

3. Share with your readers.

Once you’ve created your app (or even if you use a network such as MySpace without an app), you should share your app and your network presence with your readers.

This will get the ball rolling. If you’ve already got a loyal following of a few hundred or a few thousand readers, you’ll instantly have a following on the social network you choose.

4. Friends.There are a couple of theories here. One holds that you should only befriend people you actually know or have made contact with in the past. The other is that you should make friends with as many people as possible.

As I’m fairly new to the game, I chose a strategy closer to the second theory: I’m adding my readers as friends without discrimination, but not just adding a bunch of people who might not be interested in my brand.

My theory is that my readers, as my friends, will help spread the word about Zen Habits, as they are already people who enjoy my writing. If I tried to push Zen Habits on other Facebook users who don’t enjoy Zen Habits, I’d be spamming them. (Befriend me here.)

5. Networks & groups.

I think it pays to join a few of these. Again, don’t be a spammer, but be an active participant. You can develop genuine relationships with many people through these mini communities, and in the end, that helps establish your presence and power on social networks. (See the Zen Habits group.)

6. Product page.

I created a Zen Habits product page. What’s the use of that? Well, my readers are likely to make themselves “fans” of this page, so that when their friends view their profile pages, they’ll see that they’re fans of my blog. That helps spread the Zen Habits brand.

And it’s also a great way to provide updates and news regarding the blog, and allow readers to comment and add suggestions. For example, I did a thread asking for post topic suggestions … a great method of getting ideas for posts that readers want to read. (See the Zen Habits product page.)

7. Create viral posts.

In the end, all the networking and apps in the world won’t make a difference if you don’t have posts that people want to read and share. That’s the bottom line.

You need to have content that is extremely useful or interesting to people, and headlines that will capture the imagination or curiosity in a half dozen words or so. Do that, and readers will share the posts with their friends. All you need to do is make it easy for them to do so.