Quick Tips for SEO in Japanese – How to Improve Your Website’s Presence

Posted By Jim Kersey

Beating out the competition for those all important search engine rankings can seem hard enough in English, without considering how to master SEO in Japanese at the same time. And while many of the core principles of good SEO will stay true across all languages, Japanese SEO is not entirely straightforward.

Even with native language support and local expertise, the process can seem overly complicated to the uninitiated and reliant on a great deal of trial and error. Add to this a competitive market and the difficulty of working in a new cultural landscape, and finding SEO success in Japan starts to seem daunting.

Nevertheless, as SEO is a foundation piece for building an online presence that generates strong organic traffic to your website, and as over 50% of website traffic comes from organic search, the effort is an important one.

For those of you with an existing website in Japanese that needs an SEO boost, or anyone new to the game, we’ve outlined a practical starter list of actionable strategies you can start implementing today, without planning any huge overhauls.

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What Is Google Looking For?

Regardless of location or language, Google looks for similar things when deciding which pages to return in response to what people search for.

  • Pages that contain high-quality content relevant to the searcher’s query
  • A number of ranking signals such a keywords that tell Google what a page is about and how to assign it to different search queries
  • A sense of a page’s quality gathered through factor such as link profile that tell Google how to rank pages in relation to those that are similar
  • How users behave once they land on your site through indicators like bounce rate and time on page

In short, Google tries to provide the best results that match the search intent of the user. And your efforts, whether they’re quick and simple, or more long-term, should be focused around this when conducting SEO in Japanese.

But, Is SEO in Japanese Different?

In the sense that SEO in Japanese uses a whole new language to English, yes, it is different. However, Google is still Google and you will be evaluated in much the same way as you would with your English website and content. The important differences come down to how the language is used and the way people make searches in Japan.

Improve the Quality of Your Content

Man using laptop to writer better content for SEO in Japanese

SEO content is all about the audience. Content that’s highly ranked, that drives traffic and leads is always user-focused. If any of your Japanese website content does not speak to your audience, it should either be removed or adapted in a way that adds value to your brand and online presence in some way.

Identify and Improve Thin Content

If you’re publishing content on your website that doesn’t improve the quality of a search results page at least in some small way, you’re publishing thin content. These low quality pages that have no real value to the user are a problem because Google doesn’t like them. Therefore, one of the first, best ways to improve the quality of your content is to perform an on-site audit to identify any thin content that needs removing or improving.

Thin content looks like:

  • Pages that are stuffed with too many keywords
  • Pages that feature duplicate content
  • Pages that are vague, uninformative and clearly not created in a way to offer meaningful value to anyone
  • Pages that feature little to no information
  • Pages that don’t seem to serve a purpose for a specific audience
  • Pages that are unorganized, unstructured, and difficult to read
  • Pages that load too slowly
  • Pages that feature too many ads or pop-ups
  • Pages with a high bounce rate
  • Pages that have no rankings or traffic (90.63% of pages get no organic search traffic from Google!)

Write great content that provides real value to users and satisfies their search intent using effective keyword usage and you’ll be able to avoid thin content spoiling your SEO efforts!

Match Content with Japanese Search Intent

Avoiding thin content and improving your website’s SEO quality starts with understanding your audience and what they’re searching for. While some commonalities might apply across the different markets you operate in, it’s crucial that your Japanese SEO strategy is built around your Japanese audience and it’s specific characteristics and preferences.

You might have some great content that ranks really well in your home market, but this doesn’t mean Japanese users will eat it up too. Interests, values, opinions, and behavior can vary massively in Japan.

Creating a strong content marketing strategy from scratch with the help of native Japanese speakers who understand your target audience is the best way to create SEO content that truly resonates with searchers and what they’re looking for online.

Build Your Content Around the Right Keywords

Assuming that you already understand the importance of keywords to SEO, don’t fall into the trap of simply translating the same terms and phrases that work for you back home. If there’s nothing else you remember from this blog, remember that your keywords should be localized for the Japanese market (not just translated).

Ask yourself whether the keywords you’re already using are relevant to Japanese users and your site content. If not, it might be time to implement a diligent keyword research process that actually determines what your core demographics are searching for and how you can match your online content to this intent.

We believe this is the cornerstone of a Japanese SEO strategy that should be performed before you start on your website, but if you’ve already developed your site, you can still focus on adapting your existing content so that it now focuses on the right keywords, whether that’s your blogs and articles or your core service pages.

If you’re interested in what the keyword research should involve, take a look at our blog: Our Keyword Research Process for SEO in Japanese.

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Cater to Local Aesthetic Preferences

Japanese model showcasing importance of aesthetics for SEO in Japanese

The way Japanese consumers interact with websites is quite different than how their counterparts in other countries interact on the web. Understanding this from both a content and design perspective is important, after all, visuals are incredibly important to how humans interpret the world and form impressions.

Make Your Homepage and Landings Pages Enticing

Japanese consumers generally expect to see a lot more on the page in terms of text and images. One of the ways this manifests itself is through web pages, which from an outside perspective might seem more cluttered and busy than your average website in other parts of the world.

Similarly when a Japanese user looks at your English homepage, they may remark on the fact that the page seems too stark or absent of content. And what is the effect of this? Less conversions, to put it simply.

If users are acclimatized to more content and text-based information when searching online, the lack of such content will have a subconscious impact on the impression you make as an established and trustworthy company operating in the Japanese market.

For more information on Japanese UX preferences and website design trends, take a look at our blog post: Intriguing Japanese Web Design Trends and How to Cater to Users in Japan.

Use Visuals that Appeal to Japanese Users

Another mistake non-Japanese companies make when conducting SEO in Japanese is the way they approach visual graphics and media like photography, videos, and infographics. Even if you’ve already hired a professional photographer to showcase the beauty of your products, they’re useless (and potentially harmful to your brand) if they don’t cater specifically to Japanese tastes and preferences.

One important error you can fix quickly is to replace photography that only features Western models and environments. It’s true that some brands use assets like this to portray a particular kind of image that’s modern, exotic or ‘cool‘, but this should be a conscious move and simply defaulting to your existing assets could potentially be perceived as lazy or inappropriate to the people you’re trying to impress.

As well as being extremely sensitive to trends and current fashion that move quickly in Japan, consumers are aware of small details like someone’s physical appearance or how they dress (even if you’re not selling apparel!). So be careful that photos and other graphics that do well in Western markets don’t stand out in Japan and actually turn people off from your brand.

Promote the Right Aspects of Your Brand

Again, when trying to understand the Japanese mindset and how SEO can help you to connect with your core target demographics, remember that your existing approach might not work when it comes to promoting your brand’s USPs.

Japanese consumers will often prioritize quality and prestige over value and price. And while there are many interpretations for why this is the case, the important thing you need to know is that portraying your products and services as affordable and good value for money (even if this has been a successful strategy for you to-date) might not be your best move in a market that appreciates brand recognition.

HB Pro Tip: If your overall website aesthetics are portraying the wrong aspects of your brand, then try to address this quickly. It’s worth investing in things like high quality product images, banners, and model photography to showcase your important selling points for Japanese users. Also, consider leveraging your Western branding to portray your brand’s quality and prestige.

Perform Japanese On-Page Optimizations

Female athlete training is metaphor for on page optimizations using SEO in Japanese

With on-page optimizations such as titles, meta descriptions, headers, body copy, image alts and internal links, there’s really no difference from how it should be approached from your home country in terms of best practices. But again, you need to make some important allowances for the mindset of your Japanese searchers and what they’re thinking when they’re browsing online for services and products.
When addressing the below aspects of your website, always do so with the support of native Japanese speakers and backed by a localized SEO keywords list.

Title Tags

Writing title tags effectively is a fantastic low-effort, high-impact SEO task that you can quickly perform to improve your click through rate. Unique titles that incorporate keywords and important messages that resonate with your Japanese users help search engines understand that your content is valuable, and will generate greater traffic to your content.

HB Pro Tip: As Japanese users see brand prestige as an important part of online presence, consider placing your brand name at the end of the title tag if you’re not already doing so. This will help to raise brand awareness and signal to searchers that you have a familiar brand name worth recognizing, which should help to improve the click-through rate of your pages.


The way URLs are written and organized should make it easier for both Google and searchers to understand what your pages are about. Always opt for logical and clearly descriptive URLs over ones that are dynamically generated. If you can, integrate your target keyword for SEO in Japanese, as well as any other logical terms that will notify readers of key information relating to your page.

Also, make sure you separate different language versions of the same page into unique URLs, ensuring that each translation of a page has its own clearly indicated URL. Users should always be able to clearly see which version of the site they are on.

For more information on how to set up the right structure for your Japanese website, take a look at our blog post: Organizing Your Website For Multilingual SEO in Japanese.

HB Pro Tip: It’s important to get these small details right if you want to improve your discoverability and click through rates. Make sure that you are always making these changes with the user’s intent of your demographic target in mind, otherwise people will never make it from the Search Results Page to your actual pages (no matter how great your actual content is!).

Image Alt Text

Using alt text on your images can improve the user experience, but it might also help earn you both direct and indirect SEO benefits. The best format for alt text is to sufficiently describe images within context, without stuffing keywords carelessly. Use your important keywords and phrases considerately while focusing on conveying the basic meaning and relevance of images to your content’s overall purpose.

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Illustration of link building process for SEO in Japanese

Google is better able to find your website and pages when they’re linked to from somewhere else on the web. And the greater the authority of those pages, the more valuable they will be to your website’s SEO.

Internal links are also incredibly important for connecting your content together and giving Google an idea of the structure of your website. If nothing else, you should check that your current pages are all using a logical and useful linking structure that helps Google to understand the relevance of pages, the relationship between them and their individual value within your website’s structure.

This will help to establish a hierarchy on your site, allowing you to give the most important pages and posts more link value than other pages, and subsequently improving their SEO quality. Below are some simple ways to improve your website’s linking strategy:

  • Prioritize your most important content with sufficient and logical links
  • Add contextual links to your content to show that blogs, articles, or pages are topically related
  • Link hierarchical pages (parent and child pages)
  • Add a related post section to keep funneling users to more of your great content
  • Consider adding important content to the home page through navigational links or banner links
  • Ensure that anchor text is always relevant and clickable, yielding a good click-through rate
  • Organize links based on an ‘ideal’ structure of your website

What About Off-Page SEO Optimizations?

Off-page SEO is everything you do away from your actual site to get Google to see your website as trustworthy and authoritative. Many off-page activities require long-term strategies to get right, such as creating amazing editorial content that high authority sites will want to link to, but below are a few ideas you can implement quickly to give your site an off-page SEO boost.

  • Release a press release to generate mentions of your brand, backlinks, and encourage wider brand awareness
  • Create content that other blogs can use, such as infographic content featuring statistics or useful facts about your industry
  • Use Google My Business and optimize this platform for best local SEO rankings, ensuring that all information is consistent on the Google pages and your website
  • Find sites that accept guest blogs and write fresh, interesting content for backlink potential
  • Start sharing your blog content on your social media channels to funnel additional traffic to your site
  • For B2B companies, find business listings in your industry and create a profile for your company for a quick backlink

Find Ways to Enhance the Japanese User Experience

Man enjoying great user experience because of best practices for SEO in Japanese

SEO in Japanese is similar to that in other languages, in that the user experience is the key principle you need to be considering when making important changes or tweaks to your website. You’ll find hundreds of blogs telling you what you should do to improve your SEO, but always ask yourself the question: Will these changes improve the actual experience of individual users?.

The end goal is for users to come to your site and find exactly what they’re looking for with minimal stress or hassle. If you can encourage them to explore additional pages and content that’s great. But the important thing is that searchers are having a positive experience every time they interact with you.

Make Sure You Website is Mobile Friendly

The number of smartphone users in Japan has reached nearly 100 million and is forecasted to reach around 114.6 million by 2024, an increase of close to 51 million new users since 2015. While this trend is somewhat global, with smartphone usage spreading rapidly throughout both developed and less-developed parts of the world, it’s an important thing to keep in mind when embarking on SEO in Japanese.

Year Total Smartphone Users (Millions)
2015 63.63
2016 72.69
2017 80.78
2018 88.13
2019 94.55
2020 99.99

Source: Statista

Mobile SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that it looks great and functions properly on mobile devices. When doing so, you’ll provide a positive site experience to users regardless of their screen size. Getting this right means users will have a better time on your pages, and will be more likely to come back or buy your products and services.

A few important things to implement are:

  • A layout and structure that is thumb-friendly, making it easy for one-handed navigation through all your pages.
  • Make sure that your CTAs stand out on the page immediately and are easy to find.
  • Format images so that they do not stretch or distort on mobile screens.
  • Change font sizes so they are easy to read on smaller devices.
  • Reduce the chance of pop-ups frustrating users by taking up the whole screen or being difficult to close.

Improve Site Speed

Site performance is a big part of user experience. We all know how frustrating it is when we have to wait for pages to finish loading, and this is just as important for SEO in Japanese as it is for other languages. An awful site loading speed will undoubtedly lead to a high bounce rate, and subsequently a negative impact on your efforts to improve your web presence and conversions.

As it’s in Google’s best interest to cater its search results to users, it doesn’t want to direct traffic to sites that won’t load or function smoothly, whether that’s on desktop or mobile. Here are simple methods to improve your site’s performance without performing any huge overhauls to your website:

  • Optimize media files so that formats and sizes are internet friendly, meaning they won’t slow down the loading time considerably.
  • Keep your design simple and content succinct with a balanced number of images, text, and other media files. Additional assets lead to HTTP requests when users load your pages and too many can slow down load times significantly.
  • Prioritize above-the-fold content by displaying information that users want to see first at the top of the page. Making sure that this information is visible before a user scrolls down will make it appear to visitors that the website is loading quickly.

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Invest in Long-Term Strategies

Marketer planning long-term strategy for SEO in Japanese

We understand more than most how entering Japan with your brand for the first time can be a complicated and lengthy process. While the ideas and suggestions outlined in the blog should help you to enjoy some easy victories in the way of Japanese SEO, our philosophy has always been that more long-term approaches are more effective at securing the kind of consistent results you need to succeed in such a unique and challenging marke

Whether it’s building a more robust SEO strategy that encompasses a regular editorial calendar built around an in-depth keyword research process, or integrating your organic search efforts with your paid advertising and PPC initiatives, figuring out a more long-term view strategy is crucial. This will make sure you’re always building on a solid foundation and that you don’t waste your time and resources on more short-term gains. 

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