Koreans are among the most active searchers in the world and the amount of search conducted in Korea on our clients’ keywords is high, relative to other countries, as we would expect. So, why do our clients get relatively few site visits from their paid search efforts in a highly connected market, where they are popular? The unique way that Korean search engines source and display content significantly impacts searchers’ subsequent actions. After the submission of the initial query, Korean searchers’ intentions are likely to change, splintering across a variety of related topics and pulling them down an infinite number of paths. Therefore, Korea requires a unique approach to marketing. Rather than jump straight to marketing implications though (wait for Part 2!), let’s explore what this means for consumers; you know, what we are when we’re not at work.
Following a query submission, Naver, Korea’s dominant search engine at 70 percent+ market share, serves up bite-sized information in a wide variety of dynamic formats, including conversation bits, blog snippets, photos, videos, book covers, academic and business papers, maps, product listings and more, all splashed out across a long page of results… so long that I can’t insert a screenshot, so please, try it yourself. A search on “Ralph Lauren” this morning produced a predictable 10 organic and 1 paid listing on Google.com and Google.com.hk and did not include any non-text listings; not even a map, showing the many Ralph Lauren stores near me. The same search on Naver delivered 75 results complete with runway shots displaying the latest collection and a short bio of the man himself!
This may sound like information overload, but the information is extremely well organized, by format. The sections are neatly labeled, ordered and displayed in equal-size slots on the page, so that a daily user knows how to scroll directly to the information sought. Sometimes that information is pulled right into the page; the ultimate convenience! However, with so many interesting options available, she might allow related content to distract and entice her, resulting in abandonment of her original mission entirely.
While Naver serves up an incredible buffet of high quality, relevant content from which to choose, it gives significant priority to social content, which appears in the top sections of organic results. A searcher can easily dive into a conversation about the brand she is researching, read a review by a blogger who’s considered a subject expert, flip through pictures posted by brand-lovers or view product demos. There are so many opportunities to engage with a brand (including within the search results page itself) that the likelihood of visiting an official brand site, directly after conducting the search, is bound to decrease.
Some might say that this experience is not unique; that one can get format-specific recommendations from Google by using “maps” or “video” or “image” search. However, the searcher would have to make the decision to focus on that particular format, rather than be introduced to the full variety. No one would take the time to conduct multiple, format-specific searches in order to add dimension to the search experience. Some might say that “universal search” is delivering pages like I’ve described, but not even close. The real estate on a Google page is limited, which has its benefits, but within the few organic results, there’s very little space devoted to non-text formats. Naver serves up significant content per format (average 5 listings) across a wider variety of formats, assuming availability and relevance.
Naver does more than get people to the information they seek, it broadens their view of a topic and encourages exploration in a way that other engines do not. It reminds me of the old Encyclopedia Britannica (no longer printing!), which aimed to give readers well-rounded knowledge of a particular topic, though due to the physical limitation of the format (paper), the information was somewhat superficial. Naver serves up information and entertainment within the search results page, along with the functionality to deep-dive on any related topic to learn more. Again, to some, more options may sound burdensome. To me and to millions of Koreans who have tried it, it rocks!
You may debate whether or not Naver rocks, from a usage point of view. It’s possible my enthusiasm would diminish with daily use (vs. occasional use, facilitated by Google Translate). One thing about Naver is indisputable: It is (by far) the dominant search engine in Korea, and also a massive portal, which engages millions of Korean consumers every day. It may well be the golden key that unlocks marketers’ potential in Korea… if you know how to use it. That will be the subject of next month’s article: “Naver Rocks… if you’re an in-the-know marketer!”