Search engines and Japanese websites
If your company is looking to expand to Japan, the creation of a Japanese website should be at the forefront of your strategy.
However, simply translating content into Japanese is not enough to get potential customers to visit your website. There are a number of ways to create touchpoints with potential customers, including search, social media, and digital advertising. Among these, search is the most cost-effective and easiest way to get started.
So, what is the best strategy to increase website traffic through search engines? SEO is the key to getting your content to the top of the search results and attracting new potential Japanese customers. In this article, we'll take a look at steps to take in order to implement a successful SEO strategy for the Japanese market.
Key points to know about Japanese SEO
Are there different metrics to keep in mind for Japanese SEO compared to English SEO? As Google states in their SEO Starter Guide, the goal is the same across languages: to create useful, high-quality content for users, but the approach is slightly different. The language, culture, and market characteristics are different between Japan and other countries, so you will need to adapt your SEO content accordingly.
The following steps should be used during the content creation process. For each step of the process, we've put together the most important points to keep in mind when creating SEO content in Japanese.
- Identify challenges and set provisional KPIs
- Identify keywords
- Develop target personas
- Conduct competitor and user intent analyses
- Plan content
- Create content and set KPIs
- Revise the content
Identify challenges and set provisional KPIs
If you already have a Japanese website, the first thing you need to do is assess its current state through data. We recommend using Google Analytics and Search Console to collect the data. Then analyse it in detail, as this will reveal search queries that are unique to the Japanese market. From this, you can anticipate the needs of your potential users and apply these as you plan your content.
Gather other potential queries by using sales data, keywords from word-of-mouth sites and competitive analyses. At this stage, you can also set some tentative KPIs. These can be as approximate or definite as you’d like. Whether it is to increase the number of sessions or conversions, setting a clear objective will change the approach in the following steps.
Related: The first step to Japanese SEO
The next step is to identify the right keywords. This can be done in a number of ways. First, you can use Search Console to pick up search queries one by one. Then, use tools provided by Google such as Keyword Planner and Google Trends to gather peripheral keywords.
Alternatively, it may be useful to organise a workshop with a marketing agency and relevant internal departments, such as sales and marketing, to flesh out more keywords. In addition to this, there are a number of other tools available that can help you to improve your Japanese SEO. For example, answerthepublic.com is a useful tool for gathering keywords from all angles.
Related: The keyword selection process
Develop target personas
Once you've gathered the keywords, it's time to select your target market and personas. There are regional cultural and linguistic differences throughout Japan, so you will need to decide which regions you’d like to target your content. This is extremely important as the lifestyle, language, and customs of the target audience will be different depending on the region.
For example, the Kansai region (which includes Osaka) of Japan has a completely different dialect than the Kanto region (which includes Tokyo). Thus, the content would likely look different depending on which area you are looking to penetrate.
The best way to set up the personas is by holding a workshop with all relevant internal departments as well as external agencies, as discussed in the previous step. We recommend that you start by setting up two or three target personas.
Conduct competitor and user intent analyses
Using the keywords you have listed, create a combination of queries based on one of your chosen target personas. Next, type them into Google. The results are your competitors' pages. In particular, look carefully at the articles on the first page of the SERPs (search results page).
Here, it is important to analyse why Google ranks them highly and what the user intent is. This is important as your competitors’ content will influence the planning of your own content. At this stage, you will need the support of bilingual or native Japanese-speaking marketers. Finding an agency with a solid understanding of the market as well as good analytical skills is a great place to start.
Related: Analysing competitor intent
Plan the content
Once you’ve completed the competitive and user intent analyses, you can start planning the content. This is when you'll need to think about how you can make your content unique and stand out from the competition, and when you will re-select your keywords.
It is also important to decide on the format of the content. It could be a blog, a fast-paced interview, or an easy-to-read explanation. Regardless, it is important to adapt your plan to the cultural context of your target market.
Create content and set KPIs
Now it's time to create your content in Japanese. Naturally, this should be done by native Japanese writers and supervised by bilingual editors. The aim is to have a team with an accurate understanding of the local context that can respond to the needs of your target audience. Always create content with Japanese readers, not English readers, in mind, and include your chosen keywords throughout.
Revise the content as needed
SEO content doesn't end when it's created and published. It needs to be maintained and updated on a regular basis to ensure that it ranks well in searches and remains readable long term. If the information needs to be updated seasonally or annually, rewrite and revise accordingly.
Alternatively, if your search rankings remain lower than expected after publication, be sure to look back and see what you can do to improve them. A regular review of Google Analytics and Search Console will help you to identify areas for improvement, which will lead to effective revisions.
Related: Revising content for Japanese SEO
This was a look at the 7-step Japanese SEO process. Whether it's in Japanese or English, it takes time to see the benefits of SEO. You will need to take the long view, but if you prioritise SEO content, you can be sure that it will become a reliable touchpoint for your users in the future. Remember to analyse, plan, produce, revise, and keep at it.