As a Digital Marketing agency in Japan, we are often asked this question from our clients.
Here is a research on search engine market share in Japan by StatCounter.
As you can see from the data above, Google is the most used search engine for Desktop, Tablet, and Mobile.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications indicates in this source that the search engine share in Japan as below (as of August 2018).
When we see the historical data, the results also show that Google shares most of the market share in Japan in the last 10 years. Yahoo’s market share increased up to about 37 % at the end of 2015, but it has been decreasing over the last five years. Google is now at 75% overall.
Also, as widely known, Yahoo Japan uses Google’s algorithm, so optimizing your website to Google results in SEO for Yahoo.
However, Yahoo Search will often inter additional items into the organic search results. To see how they differ, you can look at this side by side screenshot. Yahoo JP is on the left, Google is on the right. The keyword is オリジナルTシャツ。(Original T-Shirts)
If you search this term, you will get a very mixed result. Some sources might say that Yahoo is the most popular site. For example, this source by nielsen indicates the monthly numbers of users as below.
This data indicates that, Yahoo is more popular than Google in Japan.
On the other hand, data above clearly indicates Google is more popular. How can it be? Let me clarify these 2 points.
In Japan, Yahoo is one of the most used news media. In fact, Yahoo is the number 1 visited news site in Japan. It is especially popular among the users under the age of 30’s.
Besides the news, Yahoo has popular contents such as finance, weather, and other over 100 services. These services as a whole makes Yahoo the MOST VISITED SITE in Japan.
Most users consume contents on Yahoo, but do not use Yahoo as a search engine. As the data indicates, 72% of the online users in Japan use Google as their main search engine.
Google is the most popular search engine in Japan with a share of 74.5%. Yahoo Japan is the #2 search engine, however they both use Google’s core search algorithms. It should be noted, there may be differences in the search results pages due to Ads, local Maps packs, and News items and more.
In addition, Yahoo is the most popular website in Japan, which sometimes leads to some confusion.
From an SEO point of view, it is safe to treat both engines the same. However, for paid search ads (PPC ads), the ads display tools are different. As a result, there are differences in what ads are displayed.
Original article by Shinaku “Shin” Ohno. Update written by Jeff Crawford with help from Kiyoto & Yuka.
Jeff Crawford is a Digital Marketing expert, technologist and Manager. He has worked for technology companies in Silicon Valley such as Apple, WebTV and Microsoft. He has lived in Tokyo Japan since 2004, working for companies such as Microsoft KK and Adobe Systems Japan. Jeff is founder of Zo Digital Japan, an SEO and Digital Marketing agency based in Tokyo. Jeff started the Tokyo Digital Marketers Meetup in 2016, which now has over 2000 members. He has also presented about Digital Marketing at such events as Ad-Tech Tokyo, WordCamp Tokyo, Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC), and the Japan Association of Translators (JAT).