Gearing Up for Pan-Asian Search Marketing

The Asian marketplace is exploding, making it a vibrant market to work.

The numbers are staggering. According to Internet World Stats, there are over 510 million Internet users in Asia alone, accounting for 40 percent of the world’s online population. The intriguing part? Those 510 million users only make up about 13 percent of the total Asian population, meaning the potential for exponential growth is huge. In fact, online marketing is projected to grow at a rate of 28 percent annually, while search marketing is expected to grow by 73 percent. This adds up to a unique opportunity for search marketers.

Asia really is ready for search. Clients are excited to learn how it can help them. Attracted by search’s cost effectiveness, many are even looking to funnel a larger percentage of their marketing budgets toward it.

However, it’s important to understand that search in Asia isn’t the same as search in the United States or Europe. In the global arena, Google and Yahoo dominate. Of the 61 billion searches conducted around the world last year, 37.1 billion were from Google. Another 8.5 billion searches came from Yahoo. But pay attention to who followed them: Chinese-language search engine Baidu served 3.3 billion searches, while Korea-based Naver (owned by NHN) served an additional 2 billion searches.

Essentially, local search engines are king in Asia. This is especially true in markets such as China, Korea, and Japan. For example, Baidu dominates the Chinese search landscape with a 60 percent market share. Similarly, Korean search is towered over by Naver, which holds a 70 percent market share.

For marketers, local search engines’ influence means it’s vital to include a mix of international and domestic players when planning search marketing campaigns. Moreover, it’s important to understand each market’s nuances, such as market share ownership between search engines, audience coverage, and language and dialects used.

In China, for example, it wouldn’t be enough for a search campaign to only include Google and Yahoo. Language usage would also have to be taken into account: Baidu’s users tend to search in Chinese, while Google’s Chinese users predominantly search in English.

Similarly, localization is key when optimizing in Asia. This isn’t as simple as translating keyword lists and ad copy; localization involves developing assets that are congruent with local culture. Campaigns must account for each market’s unique elements, as well as the manner in which locals talk about products and services.

For example, in most parts of Asia, cell phones are referred to as mobile phones. Therefore, optimizing a campaign around the term “cell phone” would constitute a deep misunderstanding of the region and lead to poor results.

Similarly, search solutions can’t simply be copied and pasted to every local market and situation. Certain keywords that convert in English might not convert as well in a local language. As such, marketers must properly research and test language and campaigns within a region’s context to best understand that region’s customers. Subsequently, localized keywords and ad copy should be optimized independently.

Given all these region-specific considerations, it’s very important for search agencies to have a local presence. Search marketing is relatively new to Asia, so clients often require an extensive amount of guidance and training. Because of this, clients are often much more comfortable when working with search specialists who are physically in the region. A physical presence also adds to an agency’s credibility, as it indicates a strong level of commitment. A local presence also ensures that marketers stay current with relevant trends and emerging business opportunities.

With only a handful of search agencies on the ground and ready to work, having a local presence makes profitability much more likely. It’s essentially a numbers game: a vast number of organizations are ready to launch into search, but only a few agencies are prepared to meet the demand.

It’s up to marketers, then, to take advantage of Asia’s search opportunities. The region is poised for growth. Tools are available for reaching this largely untapped market. Regardless of the medium — whether it’s SEO (define), paid search, digital asset optimization, or another channel altogether — search readily provides a foundation for building campaigns. And with the right analysis and application, marketers can meet the needs of this rapidly expanding market.

Exciting times, indeed.

Odds and Ends

My thread on the future of SEO is still going on. Come and join in the conversation!

And you catch me in person at SES Toronto next week and at the launch of ad:tech Singapore the week after.

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