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For any native English speaker, Japanese is one of the most difficult languages to learn and if you want to expand your market share by doing Japanese SEO or PPC, this can be a huge challenge.

Japanese consists of 3 types of characters; “Hiragana”, “Katakana” and “Kanji”. Depending on certain keywords or phrases, certain types of characters are used which makes Japanese SEO much more complex than languages that use the Latin alphabet.

japanese-words

For example, if you want to target the keyword “Mobile Phone”, there are multiple ways of writing it. One would be “携帯電話” (Kanji), “携帯” (Kanji) and “ケータイ” (Katakana). By definition “携帯” means to carry, but if you search it as a keyword, most first page results in Yahoo and Google Japan will be about Mobile phones. Also the search volume for the word “携帯” is higher as it is more generic.

Another difficulty is that certain words in Japanese can be pronounced the same, written the same in Hiragana, and mean more or less the same. For instance, the word “あう” (Hiragana) can be written as “会う” (Kanji), “逢う” (Kanji), “遭う” (Kanji). All of these words mean “Meet”, but each word is used in a different context. There are many translation sites like Google translate that people rely on, but the translations are often out of context and only lead to further confusion and incorrect choice of keywords.

Japanese tends to make abbreviations in many words – again let’s look at “Mobile Phone” as an example. “ケータイ” is an abbreviation of “携帯電話” and when speaking most people say it in the abbreviated format rather than the full. A quick search on Google Japan will show you some proof that there are significant search results for the abbreviation ケータイ, which has 450,000 monthly local searches, while携帯電話, has 823,000 monthly local searches. There is enough demand and searches for the abbreviated term and because it has become so commonly used, the abbreviated term stands as a strong keyword that could be considered in a link building strategy.

The above examples clearly demonstrate the difficulties in selecting the right keywords to be optimized for in Japanese since translation sites or services may not often offer abbreviated terms for specific keywords.

In conclusion, keyword selection in Japanese is not always straightforward and from an SEO point of view, you really want to know what keyword will provide the best ROI which is more often than not the term given by translation software.

It is therefore very important when doing SEO in Japanese to consult an experienced multilingual SEO company. OBAN Multilingual has a wealth of knowledge working with websites in non-Latin alphabets – including Japanese, Arabic, Russian and Mandarin Chinese. So if you are thinking of expanding your business into the Middle East, Asia or beyond consult Oban – we think global, act local.

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