For years, Google has been at the center of most websites’ search engine marketing efforts. In fact, most companies only think of Google when it comes to search engine optimization.
It is also a known fact that in some countries there are other search engines that you need to take into account. I’m sure many readers of Baidu in China, Naver in South Korea and Yahoo! in Japan as popular search engines.
These sites are very heavily geared towards local audiences and are not easy to work with unless you have the language skills and an understanding of how the services are set up. Because of this, they have turned off many website owners outside of their respective countries.
Although the Asian market is by far the largest online market in the world, information about the market is not as visible as for the US or European markets.
This makes the Asian market more mysterious than it should be.
Recently, there have been some significant shifts in search engine market share and user activity that could offer opportunities for companies previously reluctant to target these countries.
First, let’s learn a little more about the locally unique search engines: Baidu, Naver, and Yahoo! Japan.
Since its launch in 2000, Baidu has been the most widely used search engine in China.
To target Chinese audiences with Baidu, you must have a Chinese-language website that meets Chinese government requirements to display the website’s registration number.
Having a “.cn” ccTLD and/or hosting websites in China are not requirements, but they definitely help with indexing and ranking.
Naver is a locally developed search engine in South Korea, launched in 1999.
Unlike Google, Naver is more of a portal site with a lot of non-search content and features. The search results on Naver are pretty unique.
It contains multiple blocks with different content types including shopping, news, blogs, videos, images, and webpages. The organic website results are not flashy and the ads are very visible. For these reasons, foreign companies often struggle to attract organic traffic from Naver.
Yahoo! Japan originally started out as Yahoo’s Japanese website and became a Japanese-owned company in 2018. It’s still one of the most popular sites in Japan.
Like Naver, Yahoo! Japan is a portal site with a lot of non-search content and services, including auctions, travel bookings, FAQs, and emails.
While the company offers its own advertising services, Google has been powering its organic search results since 2010.
The shifts in search engine popularity
While the above sites are still popular, there has been a shift in search activity recently, particularly in the last 12 months, creating new opportunities for businesses to use other search engines to enter the market.
Latest Search Engine Market Shares
Baidu’s dominance of the search landscape has declined in recent quarters, falling from 76% in June 2022 to 49% in March 2023.
Baidu continues to be strong with a share of over 64.39% in mobile search, mainly due to the good integration with mobile phone infrastructure through its numerous apps and services.
Both Bing and Sogou have cannibalized Baidu’s market share for desktop search. Bing’s share of desktop search in China has grown in recent months, rising to 28% since the deployment of the new AI capabilities.
My B2B clients have seen a measurable increase in searches and traffic from China via Bing over the past few months, fueling efforts to maximize Bing’s reach.
Western companies should also take this opportunity to expand their reach in China with Bing. Unlike Baidu’s Webmaster Tools access challenges, Bing’s English Webmaster Tools interface lets you easily submit sitemaps and monitor issues.
Naver was early to integrate AI into its platform. This was done in late 2021 to support a marked shift in South Korean search behavior, which is becoming more “exploratory” as users delve deeper into topics that match their interests and search intent.
Naver saw a significant increase in these exploratory searches, which accounted for nearly 65% of all searches.
This was followed by the launch of Naver’s AiRSearch “Smart Block Innovation”, which leverages AI analysis of content, data and deep user insights to generate blocks with highly relevant results, eliminating the need for multiple search terms to present an optimal result.
Despite Naver’s innovations, the March 2023 search engine market share The report shows that Google has gained significant ground in South Korea, capturing a 59% share versus Naver’s 35%. According to Statista, the stock split is even bigger, with Google taking 71% versus Naver’s 24%.
Google’s growth in the market creates an opportunity to directly connect with Korean searchers in a way that hasn’t been possible before.
It’s more important than ever to ensure your Japanese content is well indexed and optimized for Google. With nearly 80% market share, especially on mobile, by supporting organic search in Yahoo! Japan and its own growth as a search engine in Japan, Google is critical to connecting with Japanese consumers.
Google Japan has provided all the shopping functionality to help businesses reach consumers, but often at a significantly lower average cost-per-click (CPC) than the US or Europe.
Bing’s market share in Japan has been 3% in recent years. However, new data from Statcounter seems to indicate that its new AI capabilities have attracted some interest from Japanese users, boosting its market share to 7% and driving Yahoo! have cannibalized.
What this means for website owners (SEO/PPC)
These shifts in the growth of non-local search engines increase the ability for companies to reach these markets using the resources and techniques they already have.
It’s now more important to implement technical SEO fixes to improve indexing by Google and Bing and ensure your websites are mobile-friendly and load as fast as possible to target mobile-primarily users in those markets seek.
The growth of Bing and recent AI and technological advances make it worth a fresh look to make sure you’ve got all the bases covered and are well indexed and optimized to take advantage.
SEO Opportunities in Southeast Asia
Beyond China, Japan and Korea, significant opportunities are emerging in Southeast Asia. The region consists of 11 countries with a total population of 600 million people at different economic levels – but with growing disposable income.
Southeast Asian markets represented half of the top 10 growth markets for retail e-commerce in 2022 and are expected to generate over $100 billion in retail sales in 2023.
Covid lockdowns forced consumers to shop online, which quickly expanded e-commerce adoption and logistics infrastructures in the region.
National governments made significant investments in connectivity, digital payments, e-commerce platforms and policy changes to encourage e-commerce adoption and growth in the region.
Consumer behavior has also changed, with over 40% of consumers having tried at least one new brand since Covid, compared to just 23% in the US
In Vietnam, social e-commerce has grown significantly, with influencers driving product adoption in fashion and beauty – and price playing a secondary role.
The region offers new opportunities for brands to reach interested consumers directly through their own e-commerce initiatives as well as through several growing marketplaces such as Shopee, Tokopedia and Lazada, which sell a wide range of products and handle transactions and logistics.
Despite its focus on Southeast Asia, Shopee has quickly become the fourth largest marketplace after Amazon, eBay and Rakuten.
Digital advertising spend in the region increased by 64%, further demonstrating the digital platform’s ability and cost-effectiveness to connect and engage with consumers. The growth was in the consumer staples, fashion and electronics categories.
In recent years, Asia’s digital disruption has been significant, driven by the rapid adoption of e-commerce, technological changes and consumer demands, creating new opportunities for businesses previously challenged by language and resources to address these markets directly.
Now it’s time to review your Analytics and Google Search Console data to see if you’ve benefited from the rebalancing of search engine shares in the region and if it makes sense to invest in localized content, advertising budgets or specific initiatives to address these markets to pay extra attention.
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