Yahoo Japan added a new function to its keyword assist, which will automatically convert Roma-ji typed word into Japanese characters (Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji, see below.) as the searchers type. This could change your target keywords since many searchers tend to pick a word/phrase from a list to get the search results rather than to complete typing their original search query. (Note: When typing Japanese characters, many of us type the words in Roma-ji format using Roman letter alphabet, then select the desired format (Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji, or in many cases mix of 2 or more styles) from a list of words that have the desired character combination. I know, it’s time consuming to say the least.)
The keyword assist function was added to Yahoo search box to help searchers narrow the search results by providing a list of popular search queries including the word/phrase typed in the search box. (See below.)
This could be a reputation manager’s nightmare. If a company had some bad news, scandals, etc., the search term could long live on the keyword assist list. Since it’s a human nature to read gossip, even a person wasn’t aware of it when (s)he came to search, there’s a good possibility for him/her to click gossip related word from the list to see what comes up in the results. And since these are popular search terms, the more clicks the word gets, longer it stays on the list. See the bad cycle here?
So, how will this new function of converting Roma-ji into Japanese characters impact the target keywords? English words (company names, product names, etc.) are the ones that most likely to have the impact. For example, when I typed “shop” in the search box, the keyword assist gave me a list of Japanese words/phrases that include word “shop” such as “shop channel”, “shopping” and “shopping mall”. If English version of any of these words are on your keyword list, you may want to pay closer attention for the next a few months to see if it still makes sense to optimize against those words or to budget the same amount for those words on PPC campaign.
Next, I typed “panas” as a person may typing “panasonic” in the search box. As shown below, before I completed typing “panasonic”, it game me a list of Japanese search terms related to Panasonic. They may now want to optimize the page better for Japanese version of the brand name.
When we do the keyword research for our clients, we always check what come up in the keyword assist tool, and put them into the consideration for SEO and PPC campaigns.
About Motoko Hunt
Since Motoko established AJPR in 1998, she has been working with some of the world's well known corporations, helping them to enter Japanese market using the Internet. She is a frequent speaker at the digital marketing conferences around the world. Her articles are published at several online media sites including ClickZ and MultilingualSearch. She is a Chairperson of SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization) Asia Working Group. Visit +Motoko Hunt on Google+.