What are the Dominant Search Engines in Japan?

Digital marketing across Europe and the United States is heavily influenced by Google’s search algorithms. After all, it’s natural to want to focus on optimising content for the most frequently used search engine that web users in these locations will be utilising.


With an 87% market share in the US, Google is the clear leader, followed by Bing and Yahoo. And with less than 1% market share, the likes of MSN and DuckDuckGo rarely hit the radar. But is Google SEO as important when reaching out to Japanese audiences?


Google in Japan


Interestingly, Google still dominates in Japan with a market share of 70%, followed by Yahoo with a 24% market share. This is somewhat surprising given that many Asian countries tend to show their own unique preferences for search engines, with China primarily using Baidu, and Yandex dominating in the Russian Federation. Use of Google has been growing significantly over the past few years, rising from a 31% market share in 2012 at a time when Yahoo was the firm favourite. So why is Google so popular today?


Why Does Google Dominate?


Google’s place at the top of the search engine leaderboard in Japan is the combined result of popular Asian search engines discontinuing their Japanese language capabilities, and Google absorbing many of the other once-popular services.


While both Baidu and South Korea’s Naver both discontinued their services in Japan, others such as Yahoo Japan, goo, Infoseek, and Excite have all been ‘absorbed’ into the Google sphere through the implementation of Google technology. ‘Powered by Google’, these services use Google’s engine to deliver SERPs, driving market share up.


Why, then, does Yahoo still hold a much greater market share in Japan than it does in the western world? The answer is simple: it’s all about branding and familiarisation. Prior to Yahoo Japan’s use of the Google engine, this independent search engine was thrust into the limelight when it was added as the default browser setting on Japanese mobile devices. Although Google now provides the SERPs, the Yahoo name is still very popular.


But It’s Not ALL About Google…


One of the biggest mistakes that global marketers can make is to focus exclusively on Google SEO, especially with Japan’s second largest search engine, Yahoo, being powered by the search engine giant. It’s important to understand that ‘powered by Google’ and ‘Google’ are two very different things, and that there are notable ranking differences for the same keyword when searching for phrases using both services.


This is due to Yahoo Japan’s status as a portal website. While SERPs are provided by Google, other aspects such as hotel bookings are provided by Ikyu, and video streaming is provided by Gyao. This can affect how websites on the SERPs are ranked. Yahoo Japan also modifies its rankings based on ‘category’ searches (images, finance, and shopping categories, for example), and Google Ads are not visible on Yahoo.


In order to tailor your SEO approach for Japan’s dominant search engines, it’s essential to consider both Google and Yahoo Japan as separate entities, closely monitoring performance through both services rather than focusing specifically on Google.

Join Our Community of Awesome Subscribers

Get blogs, industry news, updates, and how-to articles delivered right to your inbox. We email once a week with curated topics just for you. No spam, just fun. 

Sign Up