When you think of search engines, the first one that comes to mind has to be Google, and with a share of 83% of the global search market in July 2022, it’s clear to see why. While it’s clear that Google currently holds the majority, there is a world of international search engines that are used across the globe that can, in some countries, outrank Google.
Search Engine Market Share September 2021 – 2022, source: Statista
For marketers and businesses that are interested in succeeding on a global scale or are trying to develop an international SEO strategy, it is important to know the best international search engines, their key differences to Google and important considerations when it comes to optimisation. So, if you’re interested in internationalisation, these are the alternatives to Google that you need to know about.
The search engine Baidu is the biggest and sometimes only choice for internet users in China. Google is currently banned in China, so unless you’re using a VPN as a workaround, Baidu will be your go-to. This explains why it has around a 73% market share and over 500 million active users. So, if you’re looking to target the Chinese market and your website isn’t on Baidu, then you’re probably not going to be very successful.
If you’re thinking about using Baidu as part of your international marketing efforts, then these are some of the main differences and considerations that you need to be aware of…
You Need to Have a Mandarin Website
One of the key differences of this international search engine is that you must have a mandarin website to rank, as it can index only simplified Chinese characters. It is possible to have your website in a different language, but Baidu isn’t very good at distinguishing multiple languages, so it tends to give priority to Chinese-written websites.
Therefore, to rank you need to work with a native speaker and write content using simplified Chinese. You should also use a Chinese ‘.cn’ domain and host the site in China.
Focus Your Efforts on Your Homepage
Another key factor in Baidu’s ranking system is based on a website’s homepage so you need to make sure that yours is of high-quality.
Prioritise Link Building
Another important consideration with the Baidu international search engine is link building, with high-quality backlinks taking priority.
To have a successful link building campaign on Baidu, you will want to focus on Chinese sites with high authority compared to sites listed in other countries. Similarly, to Google, you also need to include internal and external anchor text in your copy.
For internal linking, ensure that every page on your site links back to the homepage; however, your homepage should only link to the main category pages. Sub-category pages should then only be linked to within the main category pages.
The search engine Naver has been playfully remarked as the ‘Google of South Korea’, as it is currently their most used search engine. As of January 2022, Naver has over 50% of the South Korean market compared to Google which is estimated to share between 30% – 40%.
Like the other international search engines, Naver is so popular because it is designed around the Korean language. This means that it understands the nuances and the syntax of the language better compared to AI translation and as a result it can meet user needs more effectively.
If your target audience are using Naver, or you’re looking to branch into the South Korean market, it is important to consider this international search engine as a digital marketing option and optimise your website accordingly.
Some best practices to consider are…
Having a Korean Language Site
As mentioned previously, Naver was created around the language as a whole. This means simply having your website translated might not be enough. It is always good to work with a native speaker, who understands the culture and the nuances of how Koreans communicate with each other, which means that your site would be more localised for users.
Keep Your Content Fresh
In Naver, the time decay factor is more prominent compared to Google. This means that if you’re producing evergreen content or already have them, it is important to give them regular updates to keep them fresh.
Blog posts are very important in Naver and can help with brand awareness if you’re creating new content frequently. The international search engine also has its own digital platform for sharing and discovering new information, called Naver Blog. With over 58% of Koreans using Naver Blog, it is definitely a beneficial channel to use as part of your content strategy in order to get into the South Korean Market.
Just like writing any other kind of blog post it is important to make sure that you’re considering who your blog is for and providing relevant and useful information. However, on Naver Blog it is important to stay between 1,500 and 3,000 Korean characters, keep it active and up to date.
Naver Café is another important part of the international search engine’s experience. Similar to Reddit, the Café is a community-based platform where users share knowledge and engage in discussions around a common interest or topic.
As it is a component within the search results, it is important to engage with your community and be present in order to build authority and gain visibility.
The international search engine Yandex, is the most popular search engine in Russia and ranks 8th globally; however, it is much more than a search engine. Yandex also provides email, news, maps and translator services to Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey. The search engine did also operate in Ukraine, but it was banned in 2017.
Therefore, if you’re using Google it is possible that users from any of these countries will find your site, but if you have a specific target market as part of an international strategy, then you will want to consider using Yandex in order to have a better chance at success.
Some considerations for Yandex are…
Yandex divides all of the searches into either geo-dependent or geo-independent. A geo-independent search is a general search such as a search for a book or a historical figure, and a geo-dependent search can be services or products. This means that users from different regions in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey will see different search results.
This is great if you’re looking to target a specific region e.g., if you’re a small or local business. However, it can make it harder to target multiple regions at once. To work around this, you can indicate your region in Yandex Webmaster Tools (their version of GA), then submit your business to the Yandex Business Directory and within that you can specify up to 7 regions.
If you’re a large business that can target the entirety of the country e.g., you can ship anywhere, specifying regions is not necessary and you should not be affected by geo-targeting.
Quality Content is a Priority
Similarly to Google, this international search engine also prioritises sites that provide relevant and high-quality content to a query, but Yandex can be even stricter!
Yandex likes content that prioritises user experience over overly optimised content for SEO purposes. Therefore, it is crucial to satisfy user search intent with your content before anything else. Make sure that if you’re targeting Russian-speaking users that your content is localised, otherwise you’ll have a poor UX.
Limit your Link-Building efforts
Unlike Google and Baidu, backlinks do not carry much weight for Yandex, and they have even cut them from their ranking mechanism. This doesn’t mean that you should abandon link-building completely, but the links that you do secure only provide value if they’re bringing traffic to your site. If there’s no traffic then you won’t see a difference, no matter the authority of the site.
Patience is Key
Unfortunately, Yandex isn’t as fast as Google when it comes to indexing fresh content, as a result the search results are much more static.
This means that it can take longer for your content to be indexed in the international search engine, and therefore longer before you start to see results. You can support the index process by submitting new content via an XML sitemap in Yandex Webmaster, but most importantly be patient and don’t give up your efforts too soon.
Overall, it is clear to see that while Google continues to reign supreme over the search engines, there are other local alternatives that you need to be aware of when considering an international approach.
No matter what international search engine or where in the world you’re trying to target with your digital strategy, it is important to take the individual considerations of each market into account and localise your strategy.
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