Domains for Japanese Web Sites
Which domain is better for Japanese web sites compared to other domains? Do search engines give preference to particular domains in search results? Here’s what you need to know about domains and Japanese search engines.
“Do I need to have ‘.co.jp’ domain to rank well in Japanese search engines?” The quick and short answer to this question is, “No, ‘.co.jp’ domain doesn’t necessarily give you any points in search ranking.”
The longer answer to the question is…
Currently, there are 2 domain extensions available for Japan, “.xx.jp (such as .co.jp for companies and .ac.jp for schools)” and “.jp”. In order to obtain “.xx.jp” domain, you must have a physical address in Japan in addition to other requirements, while “.jp” domain is available for anyone in the world. Since “.jp” domain became available only several few years ago, and it wasn’t easy to obtain “.xx.jp” domain, many website owners went (and still going) with “.com” domain extension.
According to the domain survey in Japan (against 300 internet users between 20s and 50s) , 79 people responded that they had own registered domain. 67 people had “.jp” domain and 23 people had “.com” domain. The main purposes of obtaining a domain was to have their own E-mail address (62 people) followed by to use for web site (business or non-business, 19 people).
For foreign businesses, having “.jp” domain for their Japanese web site may work well in showing the seriousness of doing business with Japanese customers… it may even give an impression that the company is in Japan, in which case, the search users may choose to come to your site instead of other “.com” sites, but less likely since average search users only read the title and the description and not the domain name.
Back to the question. “Do ‘.xx.jp and ‘.jp’ domain rank higher in the search results than other domains?” Major search engines in Japan such as Google, Yahoo and MSN all have two choices in displaying the results: “All of the web” and “Web pages in Japanese language”. Unlike engines in countries like UK, France and Germany, there isn’t a choice for “Web pages in Japan only”. It means that you don’t have to have “.xx.jp” domain in order to rank in these search engines. In fact I haven’t had any difficulties ranking my non-jp domain client pages to rank well. Only time it may give you a push is in the local search, but if you are a foreign company, that’s not your focus anyway.
I’m not stopping people from registering “.jp” domain, but what more important are to rank well in the search results, and to have a site that won’t disappoint the visitors with issues such as usability, translation quality, and customer services.