There have been significant shifts in the market share of search engines in Asia. We examine the dominant Japanese search engines, Baidu, Naver, and Yahoo!
Google has been the primary focus of most websites’ search engine optimisation efforts for years. When it comes to search engine optimisation, the majority of businesses only consider Google.
It is also common knowledge that in some countries, there are additional search engines to consider. I’m confident that the most prominent search engines in China, South Korea, and Japan are Baidu, Naver, and Yahoo!, respectively.
These websites are extremely localised and difficult to use unless you have language skills and a comprehension of how the services are structured. As a result, many website proprietors from outside their respective countries have fled.
Even though the Asian market is by far the largest online market in the world, market information is not as visible as it is for the American and European markets.
This renders the Asian market more enigmatic than it ought to be.
Recent changes in search engine market shares and user activities may present opportunities for businesses previously hesitant to target these nations.
First, let’s gain a better understanding of the locally distinct search engines: Baidu, Naver, and Yahoo! Japan.
Since its inception in 2000, Baidu has been China’s most popular search engine.
To target Chinese audiences on Baidu, you must have a Chinese-language website that displays its registration number, as required by the Chinese government.
Having a ccTLD ending in “.cn” and/or hosting websites in China are not requirements, but they do aid in indexing and ranking.
Naver is a South Korean search engine that was founded locally in 1999.
Naver, unlike Google, resembles a portal site with a variety of non-search content and functions. The search results on Naver are quite unique.
It includes commerce, news, blog, video, image, and web page sections, among others. The organic search results are not conspicuous, whereas the advertisements are highly visible. Due to these factors, it can be difficult for foreign companies to acquire organic traffic from Naver.
Yahoo! Japan began as Yahoo’s Japanese website and, in 2018, became a Japanese-owned company. It remains one of Japan’s most prominent websites.
Yahoo! Japan, like Naver, is a portal site with an abundance of non-search content and services, including auctions, travel reservations, frequently asked questions, and communications.
Since 2010, Google has powered the company’s organic search results, while the company itself provides ad services.
Changes in Search Engine Utilisation
Although the aforementioned sites remain popular, search activity has shifted in recent years, particularly over the past year, creating new opportunities for businesses to leverage other search engines for market access.
Latest Market Shares for Search Engines
Baidu’s search landscape dominance has been declining over the past few quarters, falling from 76% in June 2022 to 49% in March 2023.
Baidu maintains a market share of over 64.39 percent in mobile search, primarily due to the seamless integration of its numerous apps and services with handset infrastructure.
Both Bing and Sogou have eroded Baidu’s market share in desktop search. Bing’s desktop search market share in China has increased over the past few months, reaching 28% since the implementation of its new AI features.
In the past few months, my B2B clients have seen a quantifiable increase in searches and traffic from China via Bing, increasing their efforts to maximise Bing’s reach.
Businesses from the West should also use Bing to expand their presence in China. Unlike Baidu’s Webmaster Tools, Bing’s English Webmaster Tools interface makes it simple to submit sitemaps and monitor issues.
Republic of Korea
Naver was an early adopter of artificial intelligence on its platform. It did so in late 2021 to support a significant shift in South Korean search behaviours towards becoming more “exploratory,” with users delving deeper into topics related to their interests and search intent.
These exploratory searches increased significantly on Naver, accounting for nearly 65 percent of all queries.
This was followed by the introduction of Naver’s AiRSearch “Smart Block Innovation,” which utilises AI analysis of content, data, and deep user insights to generate blocks of highly pertinent results, thereby eliminating the need for multiple search terms to present the optimal result.
Despite Naver’s innovations, according to the March 2023 Search Engine Market Share report, Google has made significant gains in South Korea, achieving 59% market share compared to Naver’s 35%. According to Statista, Google holds 71% of the market share compared to Naver’s 24%.
Google’s development in the market presents a previously unavailable opportunity to interact directly with Korean searchers.
It is more crucial than ever to ensure that your Japanese content is well-indexed and Google-optimised. Google is essential for connecting with Japanese consumers due to its nearly 80% market share, particularly on mobile, from powering organic search in Yahoo! Japan and its own development as a search engine in Japan.
Google Japan has implemented all purchasing features to assist businesses in reaching consumers, but typically at a substantially lower average cost per click (CPC) than in the United States and Europe.
In Japan, Bing’s market share has trended towards 3% over the past few years. However, new data from Statcounter suggests that its new AI features have attracted some Japanese users, increasing its market share to 7% and cannibalising Yahoo!’s traffic.
What This Implies for Webmasters (SEO/PPC)
These adjustments in the growth of non-local search engines expand opportunities for businesses to reach these markets using existing assets and techniques.
It is now more important to implement technical SEO adjustments to increase indexing by both Google and Bing, as well as to ensure that your websites are mobile-friendly and render as quickly as possible, in order to attract users who conduct the majority of their searches on mobile devices in these markets.
Bing’s growth and recent artificial intelligence (AI) and technological advancements warrant a new look to ensure that you have covered all aspects and are well-indexed and optimised to reap the benefits.
SEO Opportunities in Southeastern Asia
Southeast Asia offers significant opportunities beyond China, Japan, and Korea. The region is comprised of eleven countries with a combined population of 600 million people at varying economic levels but with rising discretionary income.
In 2022, Southeast Asian markets accounted for fifty percent of the top ten retail e-commerce growth markets, and they are expected to generate over $100 billion in retail sales by 2023.
COVID lockdowns compelled consumers to purchase online, accelerating the region’s e-commerce adoption and logistics infrastructure.
To facilitate e-commerce adoption and development in the region, national governments made significant investments in connectivity, digital payments, e-commerce platforms, and policy modifications.
Over forty percent of consumers have tried at least one new brand since COVID, compared to only 23 percent in the United States.In Vietnam, social e-commerce has developed considerably, with fashion and beauty influencers driving product adoption and price being a secondary factor.
The region provides new opportunities for brands to reach interested consumers directly through their own e-commerce initiatives as well as through a growing number of marketplaces such as Shopee, Tokopedia, and Lazada, which sell a broad variety of products and manage transactions and logistics.
Despite its concentration in Southeast Asia, Shopee has rapidly become the fourth largest online marketplace behind Amazon, eBay, and Rakuten.
The region’s 64% increase in digital ad spending demonstrates the digital platform’s capacity and cost-effectiveness to communicate with and engage consumers. The expansion has occurred in the CPG, fashion, and electronic product categories.
In recent years, the digital disruption in Asia has been significant due to the rapid adoption of e-commerce, technological shifts, and consumer demands, creating new opportunities for businesses that previously lacked the language and resources to directly target these markets.
Now is the time to review your analytics and Google Search Console data to determine if you have benefited from the search engine share realignment in the region and if it makes sense to pay more attention to localised content, ad budgets, or initiatives that specifically target these markets.