Is Local SEO More Vital in Japan?

Local SEO — optimising content to attract and engage with local audiences across various target markets — is an essential consideration when reaching out to potential customers anywhere in the world. Even when marketing only to audiences within our own region, we’d use local SEO rather than global; we’d use the local language, discuss relevant topics, include relatable references, and utilise familiar layouts.


But is local SEO even more vital when reaching out to Japanese audiences? Perhaps. The reason for this is that there are two important aspects that we can’t afford to overlook. The first is the cultural differences between the east and west, and the second is the language, which not only varies in phonetics but also in writing systems.


●      Cultural Considerations


In addition to differences in gender roles and expectations, family units, religion, and etiquette, when thinking about SEO in Japan it’s also important to consider widespread belief, such as the bad luck of the numbers 4 and 9, and the close associations between colour and fortune (with red often associated with luck, and black with death, for example). These aspects mean that it’s not always possible to simply translate existing content into Japanese without additional thought for the subject matter itself, and even if it were a simple case of translating, which writing system would be used?


●      Alphabet & Writing Systems


Ignoring cultural considerations for a moment, a global SEO approach would be unlikely to be effective in Japan, which scores relatively low on the English Proficiency Index. In a country where 70% report that they can hardly speak any English, the use of local language is essential. Of course, this is true across many non-English speaking countries, the difference being that Japan does not use the Latin alphabet. Instead, Japan uses three distinct writing systems — Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana — so content must be optimised to ensure intentions are represented through the ‘correct’ system.


Staying Local


It’s easy to overlook the importance of local SEO in Japan due to Google’s dominance. Even those users searching through Yahoo Japan — the country’s second biggest search engine — see results generated by Google’s globalised algorithms. However, there are notable differences between rankings when searching for the same term using and, which highlights the fact that Google takes into account local SEO when delivering its SERPS, generating results local users want to see.

Tags: SEO, local SEO, local marketing, Google, Japan 

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