Why Google Is Not Popular in Korea

  |  February 29, 2012   |  Comments   |  

And how it is different from Korea's top search engine Naver.

Recently, there was a big surprise visit from Google in Korea. He is software engineer, Matt Cutts. Actually, I only knew on the day he was leaving the country after very short notice and other search professionals were not aware of his visit.

The Difference Between Google and Naver

Before I discuss why Google only has 5 percent search market share in Korea, I want to explain the difference between Naver and Google.

Fundamentally, there is a huge discrepancy in ability such as crawling and indexing for deep search. If you see the two SERP screenshots below, we can easily know the difference between Google and Naver.

From the two different search engine results, we can conclude through syllogistic reasoning that:

  • Matt Cutts is still not as well known in Korea as he is in the United States.
  • Google's crawling ability is superior to Naver.
  • There is not enough Korean content to show search engine results.

What about Naver's algorithm? Below is a section from blended search engine results of Naver and it is equal to Google web search engine results. You probably see the marked target keyword in yellow color that is the national ID card in Korea and they are repeated meaninglessly as keyword stuffing.

I heard there are lots of trials with hacking and spamming attacks from China to Naver and the captured image is actually one of them. The spammer attacked the bulletin boards of some sites that lack basic security and left the same posting as "making counterfeit Korean national ID card." If Google search results are the same as above and someone started to chat on Twitter or Facebook, Google stock could dive and it is not hard to expect the following story.

So, we can draw new conclusions from these situations:

  • Naver is insensitive to new algorithms or at least behind the times.
  • Naver's web SERP is hard to get attention from users.
  • Naver users do not mind the web search engine results as much as other countries.

Why Google Only Has 5 percent Market Share in Korea

While Google did not reveal Matt Cutt's sudden visit, we can easily guess why he has to come to Korea. Since last year, Google Korea was investigating the prosecution and needs to get the message out to the Korean public.

I also think Matt is the right person. He seems to give a good impression to key people through his presentation in Korea. This article by The Wall Street Journal on "Google to Korea: Show Yourself on the Web" is very interesting but also shows some ignorance of the Korean market.

First, the author's insistence that Korean websites have intended to block access to global search engines like Google and Bing. This is caused by powerful crawling and indexing ability in Google. Unlike Google's auto crawling system by bot, if you want to show your site in Naver, the only way is through paid listing. And it was only a few years ago that Naver changed to free listings.

Google is different because it can crawl via any links on the web page and index automatically. Most Korean webmasters neglect to care for the Google bot because they see Google as a new global search engine and the locals only care about Naver in those days.

The big problem caused from privacy when exposing on Google search results such as national identity registration number and sensitive personal information. Most webmasters in Korea didn't care about Google because of low market share and didn't know how to block sensitive content properly from Google-bot until it was handled by major newspapers. Then Google became a public enemy to Korean webmasters whether they intended to or not.

Perception Law of Marketing

Ever since Google came to Korea, I don't remember hearing the public relations share how it is really different from Naver and the difference in the algorithm. Most Google employees I have ever met with always take out budget for advertising with trends. I hope they understand their marketing is perception not a product.

If clients and the public really know the difference between Google and Naver, they'll spend more money on Google to promote themselves. And there is no doubt that the Korean search market is rapidly changing.

From the reporter to the senior judge on The Wall Street Journal, we know where the public stands. Naver doesn't do a better job of protecting privacy than Google and sometimes it even does it semi-manually! Because of the lack of ability to crawl websites, it looks like Naver is doing a better job in privacy to the public.

Construct a Google Ecosystem in Korea!

It's not only the language barrier but most Korean websites are still built with flash links and full text images. It is not a good situation for Google to crawl information from websites in Korea and it leads to lack of quality results on Google's SERP in the country anyway.

Even some web hosting companies blocked access of Google-bot to avoid overload of traffic from Google. The worst thing is most clients didn't know that the web hosting company has blocked their sites.

The Korea-U.S. FTA will take effect on March 15 after nearly six years of negotiation. When we consider the fact that Korea has a high level of dependence on exports and it's hard to depend only on local market, it is obvious that Google is the gateway to the growth of the economy for the future whether Korea likes it or not.

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Mark  Kum

Mark Kum is search director at GroupM Korea. He formerly worked at EC21, a leading digital agency for the B2B sector in Korea. Before that, in iProspect Korea with an in-depth understanding of SEO/SEM and was involved with top Korean brands such as Samsung Printer, Samsung Camera, Samsung mobile, Hyundai Motor Company, and Samsung Tesco. Kum always returns great results with re-contract and retaining clients. Unlike other online marketers, his career is based on manufacturing that provided him a deep understanding in B2B marketing. Kum also gives profound insights to clients because he is not only a search marketer but his background includes global marketing and economics.

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