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I'm new to SEO and I'm implementing SEO-friendly URLs in my site.

The code works perfectly, however I would like to know if using Japanese characters (Kanji / Hiragana / Katakana) in the URL affects my page rank negatively?

I'm making this question as most SEO-friendly URLs (say, StackExchange's) remove all non-alphanumeric characters from the question title and replaces spaces by dashes/hyphens/minus signs (-) before putting it into the URL, which is basically the approach I'm using at the moment.

However, many thread in a forum that I manage utilize Japanese characters in their titles (e.g. anime/manga titles), which would surely serve as good search keywords.

So, are there any drawbacks in utilizing (properly url-encoded) Japanese characters in the URL or is it ok to use these?

update: Couple more details/background:

  • About 90% of our content comes from/is relative to Japan;
  • We are a medium-sized forum where users are allowed to share and discuss content;
  • We are a worldwide community, but due to the points above, users are expected to have a minimum of Japanese culture;
  • The titles which I'm referring to are (99% of the time) not random Japanese words, but rather names that generate many hits on Google from all parts of the globe.

With the points above in mind, there is no harm in adding these Japanese characters in the URL, or is there?

Even though, less than 5% of the threads contain Japanese characters in the title. Therefore it shouldn't be much of an impact on SEO, but I believe it'd look a little weird to have semantic SEO-friendly URLs in English-titled threads and "empty" names on Japanese-titled threads. This would be considered bad pattern design, am I right?

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"is it ok to use Jap chars in the URLs?" What kind of chars? –  Kenzo Feb 1 '13 at 7:37
    
@Kenzo Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana character sets. An example is in Lèse majesté's answer, though the characters are URL-encoded (% encoding) - modern browsers display the proper decoded characters in the location bar but the actual characters (received by the browser and when copying from address bar) are % encoded. –  Fabrício Matté Feb 1 '13 at 10:50
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I think you missed my point. The word "Jap" is unacceptable. –  Kenzo Feb 1 '13 at 11:28
    
@Kenzo You could very well have edited the question to correct that or be a little more direct. Fixed that now. Though, I do not understand what you mean by "unacceptable". The word is not offensive as far as I know and it was pretty clear in its context. Or is it offensive and I'm not aware of that? –  Fabrício Matté Feb 1 '13 at 11:33
    
Never mind that, there are many threads about this so I may just avoid it in future. –  Fabrício Matté Feb 1 '13 at 11:41

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Compare these URLs:

http://example.com/スター・ウォーズ×マンガ/

http://example.com/1234/

Which is going to bring in more relevant search traffic? It's possible that more people are searching for "1234" on Google than for the title of a Japanese Star Wars manga, but how likely are the "1234" searchers going to be interested in a thread about Japanese Star Wars mangas?

Yes, URL is just one factor search engines use for ranking, but it's still a factor and one of the few major ones that you can easily control. And it's always better to have a descriptive URL than a non-descriptive one.

There is no reason for Google to penalize a page just for using non-English characters in the URL. That would be rather racist without improving search results for users.

If 5% of the threads being posted on your forum consistently contain Japanese in them, then clearly at least 5% of the activity on your forums is by users who use Japanese. And if that's the case, then it's reasonable to think that ~5% of your organic search traffic is also likely to contain Japanese. After all, it's rare for an established online community to suddenly change in demographic unless the operator intentionally changes their target audience.

If for some odd reason you're being forced to choose between having good page content versus having Japanese URLs, then sure, go for the page content. But it's more likely that removing the Japanese characters won't improve any other SEO factors.

share|improve this answer
    
You made very clear points, thanks. Though, the URL comparison is a bit off as the URL I'm building would be closer to http://example.com/1234/スター・ウォーズ×マンガ. And the organic traffic should be way more than 5% as many English-titled threads contain Japanese material (which shows up on a google search). But I understood your points, they make perfect sense. –  Fabrício Matté Feb 1 '13 at 10:45
    
Seems silly to make urls based on no facts, you should be makings urls that are most used or tail longs based on FACT and not on what looks pretty or just because other people do it this way. without evidence of people finding your site using these characters I dont see how this answer can be right and maybe your answer is just what you want to hear... again i ask you to take a look at you query impressions and click rates. and comparing a numerical number url is a bad example... –  bybe Feb 1 '13 at 23:22
    
@bybe: We're talking specifically about threads by visitors of a forum. A forum has to auto-generate the URL based on the thread content. The most logical choice is the thread title/subject/topic, which contains Japanese characters. His only other options are to: use only the numeric ID, use only the part of the title that isn't Japanese (if any). Where do tail keywords come into play here? He can't choose what titles his users use for their posts. If he just injects random search keywords into the URL, that's most-likely going to hurt his SEO. –  Lèse majesté Feb 2 '13 at 4:20
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The real question is why you think having no potential search keywords in a URL is better than having foreign search keywords. Is there any logical reason to believe this would be the case? Do you really think there's any chance that an arbitrary numeric ID is going to be a more relevant search term than the Japanese anime/manga title that the thread itself is about? –  Lèse majesté Feb 2 '13 at 4:23
    
Your assumptions that Europeans who post thread titles containing Japanese are unlikely to read or search in Japanese also runs counter to common sense. –  Lèse majesté Feb 2 '13 at 4:27

Is it bad using Symbols or Foreign letters in URL

This is a yes and no answer, if your targeting people in japan then it makes sense since they will know how to enter the url via the keyboard but if you are targeting English people then using such characters in the URL is bad SEO in my honest opinion. Because its unlike people will use these characters to find your site since 99% of people or even more will not know how to input those characters into Google on the basis they do not even have these symbols on their keyboards.

But it Looks Pretty

I'm assuming at some point you think it looks pretty or some other webmasters do, it's simply not worth it because at the end of the day you can rank any URL regardless of its name.

Example:

Site A: URL /000.htm

Site B: URL /Manga-Dolls.htm

Site B isn't necessary going to rank higher than Site A because Google uses the URL field as a factor, its not essential and many sites still rank well without friendly urls. Friendly urls are just easier to begin with.

Short URLS Get More Back Links

Generally shorter urls get more back links as they look cleaner, and people can remember them and link to them without actually going to the page first and copy and pasting. While most don't do this its still a possible chance of obtaining a backlink, this is arugable but something I believe in.

Spend Time on Key Factors

Your better of worrying about how you are going to provide content that is different than every other site, nowadays its not as simple as getting the on page seo right its about getting the audience and from the SEO process is automatic. Focus on Good Content and SEO will come naturally on its own ;) - assuming you know the basics of course.

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Yes, our current system "names URLS in numbers" and it still ranks. Our page rank dropped in the last years and I'm trying to improve that though. We have an international audience, but most of it seems to be from US/Europe. Though, if an user can reach this page by copy-pasting a specific name on google, it would still be better than having no name in the URL, wouldn't it? –  Fabrício Matté Jan 31 '13 at 22:13
    
Also, I may add that about 90% of our content comes from Japan so our target audience usually have the means to search for the Japanese naming. –  Fabrício Matté Jan 31 '13 at 22:16
    
Hi Fabricio, I find it hard to believe that if most of your visitors are English most of them know how to use those characters in search. I'm pretty sure they just use the English words. Check your Google Analytics and report how the % of people in US/UK/EU that are using symbol search terms on your site. –  bybe Jan 31 '13 at 22:23
    
About your updated answer: I'll +1 (gratz on hover card ;]) for the shorter URLs, I'm also implementing a url-rewrite for short links that redirect to the SEO-friendly one but couldn't find an use to that before this. However I still have my doubts - namely, most of your argument seems to be "put good content/backlinks and earn SEO automatically" which is how the past admins have been handling the site for the last 7 years and I know it works, but I'm trying to improve where I can. –  Fabrício Matté Jan 31 '13 at 22:26
    
I'll update the question with some data from these comments to make things more clear. =] –  Fabrício Matté Jan 31 '13 at 22:29

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