How to choose your keywords
Think about the last time you searched for anything on the net. What did you enter? A single keyword? Maybe at first, but the results for a single search word tend to number into the millions. So you refine your search by adding a second keyword, and then maybe even a third.
In a similar way, trying to use single keywords in your site won't give the best results - always use keywords in pairs or even triplets. By way of example, searching for the keyword 'design' is going to get millions of results, and for such an open search you have little chance of having your site placed with any relevancy. However if the search is confined by location, e.g. 'kitakyushu design', then you have a reasonable chance of scoring highly if those two keywords have been employed throughout your site. Which brings me neatly to my next point:
If at all possible, relate your keywords geographically.
Wherever possible, you should include any geographical reference in your pages. Repeat the location of your business in terms of town, city, prefecture, and even country. After all, even 'design Japan' will get more specific results than just 'design'. This is also a useful tip if you are listing other websites in link directories - mention their location and your keywords in their site descriptions too.
Don't forget to translate keywords into Japanese, if relevant to your site.
Some tips for choosing keywords:
- use keywords in pairs or triplets
- use Japanese-language equivalents where applicable
- repeat keyword pairs in different orders
- always use geographical location where possible
- misspellings are often overlooked, particularly words in romaji (e.g. Kyusyu)
- be specific with item names and descriptions
An alternative way to find keywords
Once you've got a list of likely keywords, it is often worth comparing yours with those of similar sites. Note that simply copying word for word ANY element of an internet site's page is technically illegal - be it text content, images or coding (including keyword tags); publishing anything to the net automatically infers copyright on the publisher (unless already owned by another). However, it is a useful technique if you are having real difficulties.
In order to view the HTML code (e.g. to find keywords tags) for any webpage on the internet, you need to open that page in your internet browser software as normal. Then go to the menus at the top of the screen, and select View > Page Source (in Japanese it's 表示 > ソース). This will usually display a page of plain text, at the top of which you will be able to see the tags used for <title>, <meta keywords> and <meta description>.
How to research keyword effectiveness
Once you've got a rough list of keyword phrases, then it's time to head back to the search engines. It is worth checking your keywords on at least two versions of any search engine (e.g. Yahoo and YahooJapan) for any discrepancies in their results. Yahoo Japan, for example, tends to confine itself more to websites related to Japan, even if a site is English-language. Which language version of a search engine are most of your visitors going to be using?
Go through your list of keywords, and note how many results are scored for each search. This will produce the number of pages on the net containing those keywords (in any order). The result count is likely to be quite high. You should check that sites being displayed on the first page of results are similar to yours - if not, perhaps your keywords need a little adjustment.
Go through your list of keywords a second time, but this time enter speech marks before and after each keyword phrase. e.g. a search for kitakyushu design now becomes "kitakyushu design". This will give you the number of results containing that exact combination of keywords, in that order. The number of results is likely to be significantly lower than before. This is perhaps a better illustration of how your keywords might perform with search engines, even though most internet users are not aware of this technique (called 'exact match searching'). Having that exact match of keywords (i.e. rather than one word at the top of a page, and the second in an unrelated context later in the page) is likely to land your site higher in the results.