Senior SEO Consultant

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Currently, Yahoo! holds around one-fifth of the Japanese search engine market and failure to accommodate the search engine into your marketing strategy could lead to you missing out on potential targets.

Yahoo! Japan was established a year after Yahoo! established prominence in the United States during the mid-90s, and came about when Softbank invested in the development of Yahoo! in the Japanese market.

However, despite the innovation and (early) adoption of internet-enabled devices in the Japanese market, other search engines looked on and regarded the Japanese market with envious eyes, and despite Yahoo! being the default search setting on early mobile devices, the other engines drew their plans – and acted.

Yahoo!’s market share currently stands at around 20%, with Google holding 75%. The remaining 5% is predominantly Bing, with small pockets of Baidu and Yandex.

Yahoo! Japan homepage circa November 2019

However, before I go into how to optimize for Yahoo it’s important to highlight two things, one major difference, and one major similarity:

  • Both Google and Yahoo! Japan use the same algorithms. Their search results are nigh identical although Yahoo! does tend to include more images within SERPs.
  • Yahoo! Japan is a web portal, and Google is a search engine.

The first point is a sign to rejoice, optimizing for Google in Japan means you’re also optimizing for Yahoo! (so it’s not twice the effort), but how users interact with both is very different, meaning you still need to take two different approaches.

So if you don’t need to do SEO for Yahoo! in Japan, what’s this article about?

Optimization for me isn’t just about rankings and traffic, it’s about making sure that the website, or alternate version of the website intended for Japan, is optimized for effectiveness.

Yahoo! is popular in Japan, just not as a search engine

Earlier in this article, I quoted current search engine market share stats, however, in 2015, Nielsen reported that, in Japan, Yahoo has an estimated 38,920,000 active users and Google has an estimated 24,910,000 active users.

However, the active users include users of Yahoo!知恵袋 (Yahoo Answers), Yahoo Transit, which is a navigation app, Yahoo Auction, Yahoo Weather Forecast, and many other Yahoo services.

2015 was a long time ago, but the current 75 / 25 / 5 split amongst the search engines hasn’t changed that much, it’s estimated that in 2015 Yahoo had 30% to Google’s ~70%, so even if that 5% swing went directly from Yahoo! to Google, Yahoo! still has more users.

Who uses Yahoo! in Japan?

When people talk about SEO for Japan, Yahoo is always brought up and how it can’t be ignored. But can it?

According to a number of studies and reports, including those conducted by Shoeisha Co, the general demographic using Yahoo! in Japan are older females, with less than average internet usage time.

However, Yahoo! still has a younger demographic and being a web-portal, a lot of users interact with what we would call the homepage for other services and other Yahoo! products.



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