1. Major Difference in Japanese Search Engines
Despite Google’s top search engine market share in Japan, Yahoo has remained a strong competitor from its quality integration with several individual platforms such as Yahoo! Chiebukuro and NAVER Matome. The popularity of Yahoo! Japan may lie on the differences between the two search engines. As shown below, Google focuses on minimalism, whereas Yahoo! Japan follows a traditional web portal format that allows users to immediately access a variety of content.
Google Japan Homepage (left) & Yahoo! Japan Homepage (right)
In fact, some of the most successful websites in Japan such as Rakuten and DMM utilize similar design. This indicates that the format is popular among Japanese users, which may be the reason why the Yahoo platform consists of shopping, online games, auctions, finance, and many other categories that provide recent and popular information.
Yahoo has several contrasting features on the vertical search results that Google does not implement on their search engine platform in Japan. In this article, I will introduce some of the internal and external SERP features that could help you further understand the characteristics of Yahoo! Japan.
2. Internal Vertical Search Results
The Japanese search engine has several useful features that generate external sources that are popular amongst local internet users: Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Auctions, Yahoo! Shopping, Yahoo! Chiebukuro, Yahoo! Maps, and Yahoo! Loco. Each of these platforms has different aspects which provide users a comprehensive search experience.
2.1 Yahoo! Chiebukuro
Like Quora.com and Yahoo Answers, Yahoo! Chiebukuro is a question and answer (Q&A) platform that allows you to communicate with other users by asking and answering any type of question. There are over 500 million Q&A pages (January 2017), which makes it one of the most popular knowledge community platforms in Japan. Although the ranking factors have not been revealed by the Japanese search engine, pages with “Chiebukuro” domains are often displayed when typing long-tail search queries (especially in a question form).
Yahoo! Chiebukuro – Search Results (overseas travels)
In this case, the search query is “how much would I need to go on vacation overseas?”. As you can see, the keywords that are implemented for the search is written in bold to emphasize the relation with the indexed Q&A pages.
The screenshot below shows other elements that are displayed on Yahoo! Chiebukuro SERP feature.
Yahoo! Chiebukuro – SERP Features
Many of the posts that are being displayed on the search results are from high quality ranked account users. This indicates that the better score you have on a profile, the more likely your contents will be indexed on the search results. Activity data is measured based on the quantity and the quality of Q&A.
Yahoo! Chiebukuro – Q&A Criteria
In some cases, despite a low-quality score, a page is shown on the search results due to a large number of answers and views on a thread. In addition, recent publishing dates are likely considered as a factor for Yahoo! Japan to pick up your landing pages.
To improve quality score, you must meet Chiebukuro’s quality criteria by answering questions on other users’ threads or creating quality threads to engage with other users.
2.2 Yahoo! Shopping
Yahoo! Shopping is an online shopping mall service that provides items from a variety of shops and individual sellers. Like Amazon and eBay, you can sell products at any cost or purchase items at any time. This vertical search result has 2 features that direct users from the SERP to the Yahoo! Shopping platform.
A. Singular Keywords
Categories of a product are often displayed on the vertical search results when a user utilizes generic keywords on the search queries. Like the sitelinks on Yahoo! AdWords and Quicklinks on Yahoo! Promotional Ads (paid search platforms), they provide users with an easier access to what they are looking for. For example, when a person searches for “bags” on Yahoo! Japan, the SERP feature displays types, targets, brand names, and the characteristics of each bag.
Yahoo! Shopping – SERP Features (bags)
Depending on the search query, Yahoo! Shopping displays differentiated results. Using “hats” as another example, the SERP features displays the fabrics of hats instead of the brand (comparing with the categories shown for the search term “bags”).
Note: This SERP feature only activates on certain keywords.
Yahoo! Shopping – SERP Features (hats)
B. Descriptive Keywords
When utilizing descriptive and more specific keywords such as “shoulder bags” on search queries, Yahoo! Shopping feature displays 10 popular items being sold on the platform. It convinces users to click on the link by displaying the picture, price, characteristics, and ratings of the product.
Yahoo! Shopping – SERP Features (shoulder bags)
Since Yahoo! Shopping ranking is calculated by its individual algorithm, there is not much you can do organically for your product to be displayed on the SERP feature. According to Yahoo! Shopping, the ranking factor is based on the product demand and purchase history of each customer, and also sales promotion expenses paid by stores.
One way that may help your product to be at the top of the page and to be displayed on the SERP feature is to run a paid ad called “Store Ichioshi” (ストアのイチオシ). Like Google AdWords and Yahoo! Promotional Ads, it focuses only on Yahoo! Shopping platform, where you can bid on keywords related to your product. This will generate your product to rank higher on certain keywords, which will provide a better chance to be displayed on the vertical search results of Yahoo! Japan.
Clicking the product link on this feature will send you to a specific landing page of the product on Yahoo! Shopping.
Yahoo! Shopping – Landing Page (shoulder bags)
2.3 Yahoo! Loco & Yahoo! Maps
Yahoo! Loco is a regional information website integrated with Yahoo! Maps to inform users about location specific queries. Like Google Maps vertical search results, the feature displays popular places or services in a nearby or exact location depending on the search query.
Google Maps (left) & Yahoo! Maps/Loco (Right) – SERP Features (akasaka yakiniku)
By submitting business information on Google My Business account, it will increase the chance of your business to be shown on Google Japan. On the other hand, to get your business on Yahoo! Loco, you can submit business information by registering for Yahoo! Japan ID. In addition, if you are an owner of a restaurant or a café, registering for Yahoo! Dining may be useful to improve the rankings displayed on vertical search results.
2.4 Yahoo! News
Google Japan displays recent top stories mainly from authoritative online sources such as Nikkei, Sankei, and NHK. According to Telapost, Google algorithms demand “newsworthy” content for an article to be indexed on vertical search results. Despite the use of Google algorithms, Yahoo! News does not index external sources for its vertical news search result. Instead, the search engine utilizes its internal source Yahoo! News to promote its news content.
Google Japan – Top Stories
Yahoo! News – Topics
From this, Yahoo! Japan can acquire a large amount of traffic and increase page views within their own domain.
2.5 Yahoo! Auction
Yahoo! Auction is an online auction service where any users can sell or buy a product through the process of bidding. It is the most used auction service in Japan with over 50 million items (December 2017). Like Yahoo! Chiebukuro, there are many ranking factors that need to be considered. To display your product on the vertical search results, the number of users bidding on the product and the rating on the user profile must be high. It also helps if the date of the last bidding day is close (up to 5 days).
Yahoo! Auction – SERP Results (bikes)
3. External Vertical Search Results
3.1 NAVER Matome
In 2013, Yahoo! Japan announced a partnership with NAVER Matome, a curation platform where users can create articles on any topic they desire by gathering information through links, videos, and images. With approximately 2.6 billion monthly users (June 2016) on this platform, it is hugely popular among Japanese internet users. Users can even receive remuneration on NAVER Matome by writing high-quality content, which in turn benefits searchers who have more useful content available to them online. Yahoo! implemented a new algorithm to generate crawl and index on the vertical search results to increase the number of users.
Yahoo! Japan – NAVER Matome (travels)
Although there is no specific data on ranking factors, one of the most common assumptions is the amount views on the content page. As you can see above, all three pages have over 500,000 views. In addition, like Yahoo! Auctions and Yahoo! Chiebukuro, you can assume that content freshness is an important factor for the pages to be displayed.
3.2 Real-Time Search
Yahoo! Japan also implemented a real-time search service that displays posts from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This special algorithm is only used on Yahoo! in Japan, that started off with only Twitter in 2011, but with a significant increase on Facebook and Instagram users, the company introduced an update on all three social media platforms.
For a social media post to be shown on this platform, each account must be set as public for Yahoo! algorithms to crawl and index. Here are a few criteria that must be :
- Twitter posts must be in Japanese.
- Instagram accounts must be popular with at least thousands of followers.
- Facebook account must be set to “public”.
Yahoo! Real Time – Twitter SERP Results (overseas travels)
Yahoo! Real Time – Facebook SERP Results (overseas travels)
Yahoo! Real Time – Instagram SERP Results (overseas travels)
4. Popularity of Yahoo! Japan
Yahoo! Japan’s constant updates on internal and external vertical search result features may be the reason behind the popularity of Yahoo! in Japan. The search engine leaves searchers with a positive user experience by generating a variety of content through both internal and external platforms. These effective vertical search results provide users with faster access to the information they are looking for.
Do you think there are any other reasons why Yahoo! is so popular in Japan?
Let us know what you think!