Japan is a major internet market and it has its share of regional search engines. Getting information on Japan search engines is little more of a challenge because most of them are written entirely in Japanese with no English option. They usually accept web pages written only in Japanese as well. Another factor that adds to the challenge is the limited amount of up-to-date English information about each search engine. However, some of them do utilize American search engine databases like Google and Yahoo so English search results are possible but limited. So what are some of the more popular Japanese search engines? Let’s take a look at a few.

Yahoo! Japan (http://www.yahoo.co.jp). This is the affiliate of the famous American Yahoo! However it is tailored for Japanese users and pages are displayed in their native language. Yahoo! Japan is reported to be the most popular search engine in the country. Users credit the popularity of this search engine because of its layout and its availability of several additional services. Getting a business website listed in its directory is expensive and costs around 52,500 Japanese Yen (about $600 U.S.). However, they do promote Internet advertising starting at 3,000 Yen. If you have a non-commercial site, you can have it listed in the Yahoo! Japan directory. Search engine experts suggest that you should focus on Yahoo! Japan as the primary place to have your web pages listed because of its significant market share in the region.

Google Japan (http://www.google.co.jp). While Google is a popular search engine throughout most of the world, it has not surpassed Yahoo! Japan in this area. Google’s popularity in other parts of the world comes from its simple interface but, in contrast, Japanese users seem to like having a portal like Yahoo! Japan with all of its additional services.

Goo Search (http://www.goo.ne.jp). Goo is a product of the Japan-based NTT laboratories and its name has no relation to Google. Some reports rank Goo as the third most popular in Japan behind Yahoo and Google. In addition to a being a search tool, it is also an index and you can register up to 10 key phrases within it. They have built an extensive portal which in some ways resembles that of the American Yahoo interface. Submitting your web pages to Goo’s search database or index requires one of their editors to review and approve them thus helping to achieve higher information quality.

Biglobe (http://www.biglobe.co.jp). This is another among the major search engine portals in Japan. In fact, it has an extensive range of information services to include a directory. It is one of Google’s Adword search partners so it is possible Japanese pages submitted to the latter will appear in Biglobe SERPs (search engine results pages). However, it appears that you can only search using Japanese text and the SERPs are returned solely in that language.

Sagool (http://sagool.jp). Sagool is a search engine innovation by Japan-based Team Lab, Inc. It advertises that it has a unique search algorithm that returns results based on the user’s interests. In other words, SERP pages will be listed in order of what it perceives to be the most to least interesting. It uses what it calls “Omo Logic” to weigh the interest level of pages. No doubt this requires analysis of what kinds of pages people are frequently reading.

Jword (http://jword.jp). Jword has a number of partnerships with other search engine and portal services like Yahoo! Japan and Sagool. Sagool entered into a partnership with them in 2007 and uses Jword’s database to feed search queries. Jword’s search is not provided by a web page but by a plug-in that you install on whatever browser you are using.

Alcarna (http://search.interconnect.co.jp). This engine is similar to Google in that it has a simple interface with a primary focus on searching. It also provides a simple interface for submitting your site for free. They advertise a turnaround time of 24 hours for accepting your site submission. It appears that Alcarna does not take its results from other search engine databases such as Google or Yahoo and submission is totally manual.

Excite Japan (http://www.excite.co.jp). Excite gets its feeds from Google’s database. So, if your web pages are indexed in Google, they can be also accessed from Excite.

Infoseek Japan (http://www.infoseek.co.jp). Infoseek has been around for quite some time and it is among the first Japanese counterparts of the U.S.-based search engines. It is said that if your web pages reside on a server with a domain of .com, .org, or .net, that you must request admission via email to Infoseek. The request should specify the URL where your pages are located.

Lycos Japan (http://www.lycos.co.jp). Lycos merged with Infoseek. Consequently, if your pages reside on Infoseek then they can be found here as well. An interesting touch in the Lycos SERPs is the screen image of the website to the left of each result.

Fresheye (http://www.fresheye.com). Fresheye is a search portal plus directory. The idea behind its name (Fresheye) is that only new or significantly changed sites are listed in its index. For a changed site to be listed, it must have gone through a 10% or greater modification. It takes 2 to 4 weeks to get your site listed and it will be deleted from its index after anywhere from 1 to 2 months.

Keep in mind that web pages submitted to these regional search engines need to be written in Japanese for best results. For this, you will probably need to hire a professional translator if your pages are in English or some other language. Also consider that Japanese characters take two bytes (two character positions) whereas an English character only takes one byte. This may require you to make significant layout changes to your pages.

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6 Responses to “Search Engines in Japan”

  1. Keith says:

    John, you may be surprised if you search for
    “Yahoo Japan to use Google search”; this news appeared
    at virtually the same time as your post.

    Part of the reason may be that Yahoo thinks Google search is superior, but another bigger part of the reason may be that Google Analytics is widely used — and if it doesn’t recognize searches on a competitor’s search engine, then individual customers have to pay someone to customize their GA profile to recognize such searches ;-) Also Google AdWords ads are often displayed on Yahoo and other portals, and (as part of the search deal) Yahoo may be agreeing to supply Google with more information (such as keywords that led to an ad being displayed and clicked through) so that AdWord users can better analyze their Ad’s effectiveness for Yahoo-linked Ad networks. Google AdWords allows you to advertise *only* on Google search results, but the default setting is to use “other” ad networks (such as Yahoo’s) as well.

    As for NEC Biglobe, if you look at http://search.biglobe.ne.jp/
    you’ll see “enhanced by Google”, and Google search is being used to index and supply results for pages inside the BigLobe portal, as well as for searches on the Internet. The checkbox is to *include* results from overseas. Below the search box you can see listings of popular searches — what is popular with men and what is popular with women.

    A “dumb” search engine will just display what it thinks are the best search results in terms of popularity and reliability, and not help you to choose between the many results, but a portal (such as Amazon or BigLobe) can be more useful in ranking, comparing, and differentiating items in a category — e.g. the best summer firework displays, the best hotspring resorts, etc. — and supplying price information and comments from satisfied or dissatisfied users, for example. Directories are less useful than comparison sites, but it looks as if the business model behind free directories with paid advertisements is pretty solid (look at hotfrog.com).

    There are several ways to improve search engine results — one is to analyze Google results for your site and for competitors, another is to use analytics such as Google Analytics to understand user intent and measure the performance of individual pages and advertising campaigns, and yet another is to add intelligence to your web site so that the most useful information (which may vary depending on individual user preferences) bubbles up into view, and out-of-date / uninteresting stuff gets archived or even deleted. I am currently reading the book “Algorithms of the Intelligent Web” which covers the last of these (and includes site-internal search using Lucene and the like). Moving such algorithms into popular PHP-based CMS and blog software such as WordPress is sounding to be a very clever way to go.

  2. John says:

    Keith,
    Thanks for the detailed feedback. Very interesting indeed!
    Interestingly enough… I actually built an interface on top of Lucene. I may release it on this site soon. It is in Java though. :)
    John

  3. Keith says:

    Mobile phone Internet usage is very high in Japan (I believe that the number of mobile Internet surfers has exceeded the number of PC surfers) — many people surf the Internet during their one-hour or so train commute — and phone makers build the URL of the carrier’s portal into their mobile phones. Of course all the web sites on such portals are lightweight mobile websites: per-packet usage fees are quite high, so it makes no sense to download big graphics from PC web sites. There’s a mobile version of Google, but it still sends people to non-mobile web sites. On the other hand, Yahoo has both PC and mobile versions of its blogs (the same posts may be viewed from PC or mobile version of its blogs). A large proportion of phones don’t support any or all of Java, Javascript and cookies.

    (Up to now all phones have been locked, but there are moves to unlock phones. Already Mobile Number Portability (MNP) is possible — you can keep your phone number if you move to another carrier.

  4. Kurt says:

    What about Baidu? Are they insignificant in Japan?

  5. John says:

    They still have a long way to go with their http://www.baidu.jp site.

  6. jdw says:

    I appreciate this article, but it certainly would be more helpful if you could kindly edit it to include more specific information. Despite my being able to read Japanese quite well, I cannot find WHERE TO SUBMIT on many of these Japanese search engines. So please point us in the right direction in that regard, with actual URLs to the submit pages or the precise procedure for submission. Otherwise, this article serves no practical purpose.