Korea is one of the most attractive markets in Asia. It has advanced technology and socio-economic position which makes the country a more familiar market to many global companies. However, penetrating the Korean market is not easy. It can be an attractive prospect, but many foreign brands had a hard time entering the market. One of the reasons is that many of them think that translating English texts to the Korean language will work.
Korean Digital Marketing Landscape: Search Engines in Korea
Korea’s digital ecosystem is dominated by three major search engines. The first one is Naver, the biggest search engine. It takes up around 60% of the search engine market, depending on where you’re getting your information from. If you want to target the Korean market, you have to fully understand Naver’s ecosystem and services.
There is Google, which takes around 30% of the search engine market, and Daum, which is owned by Kakao Group. If you don’t know about Kakao, you might have heard of Kakaotalk which works similar to WhatsApp, Line, and Viber. Daum takes up around 10% of the search engine market and has older audiences.
Comparing the Top Search Engines in Korea
If you are an internet marketer or you have a business and you want to enter the Korean market, you must be aware of the differences between Google and Naver. This is for you to determine the most reliable approach you will use for your campaigns to be successful.
Homepage: Naver vs Google
The first differences between these two platforms are evident in their homepages.
Upon checking Google’s homepage, you’ll see that there aren’t a lot in there. What you’ll see is just the logo, the search bar, and a couple of menus about the platform. To see more information, you will need to type something on the search bar and hit enter.
Meanwhile, when you check Naver’s homepage, you will see a lot of information and it looks cluttered and busy. It’s already filled with various topics even without searching for anything yet. You will also find a lot of buttons that direct you to Naver’s services such as “mail” “café” “blog” and more.
The SERP: Naver vs Google
Google and Naver’s search engine results pages or SERP also have a lot of differences. I have tried searching for “running shoes” in English on both search engines to check what shows up and here are the things I’ve found out:
On Google, we can see one to three sponsored links or Google ads. We can also see other questions that people ask regarding the keyword “running shoes”. Moreover, there are buttons that you can click if you want to see specific results such as images, videos, shopping, and maps.
Scrolling down on Google SERP, you will see a map, places, links, images, and suggested or related searches for the keyword that we used.
On Naver, we also have some ads or power links on the SERP, but there are a lot more in there than the ads.
Referencing the image above, you can see a sidebar about Covid even if it’s not related to the keyword. On the lower portion of the image, you can see a dictionary because Naver might think that the average Korean might not understand the word or might be looking up the word.
On this image, we can see the “Views” section, which is composed of Naver Blogs and Cafes– and they are still part of the Naver ecosystem.
We can also see apps like Under Armor and the Women’s Running Shoes. There’s also Knowledge iN, which is a Q&A section like Quora. Then we can see images, music, and more.
Naver’s SERP varies on the keywords that you are searching for. It sometimes includes a website, books, music and the result will not be the same on every search.
Links: Naver vs Google
Going back to Google, when you try to open one of the links or blogs, you will be directed outside Google or an external site. For example, when I clicked the link of Best Running Shoes| Running Shoe Reviews 2021, it directed me to an external site that is not a part of the Google ecosystem.
However, in Naver, when you click on a blog link, you will see that you will still be inside Naver. You can click any links and find somebody’s blog but it’s still inside the Naver ecosystem. This goes to show that Naver has a closed ecosystem and they want everything inside the platform.
Shopping: Naver vs Google
Now let’s talk about the differences between Naver and Google when it comes to the shopping section.
Another difference is that Naver has its own payment system–Naver Pay, making it easier to purchase in Naver. It is a mobile payment gateway that makes it easy for everyone to purchase with just a few clicks or a few taps on the phone. On Google, you have to use a payment platform, depending on the site where you will buy the product from.
Ads: Naver vs Google
I tried searching for Converse (a popular footwear brand) on Google and here’s what I found out: Nobody is running ads for that keyword in Google. What I have seen are the official site, questions, and company information.
On Naver, you can see a lot of ads on the SERP when I searched for the same keyword. I have also tried other keywords and I have found out that in Naver, all the SERPs have power links.
Language and Location
The limits on ad creation for both platforms also have differences. With Google, you can create ads and target countries all over the world while targeting very specific locations and demographics. It currently supports 43 languages.
On the other hand, Naver only allows you to target 17 regions within South Korea and supports only the Korean language. There is an option to target other countries but the ads will be broken down into regions.
Match types are keyword options that are used to deliver an ad on the search and display network of search engines. The keywords can be generic or accurately specified depending on your target.
Google ads have 3 different match types. It includes exact match, phrase match, broad match. The exact match offers the most control while phrase match sacrifices control for relevance. Moreover, broad match brings up ads associated with the searched keywords and it can include synonyms or misspelled words. Lastly, the modified broad match provides more control in related queries.
Naver Ad, however, only has the exact match type. It means that you need to add more relevant keywords as possible when you create an ad.
There are also differences in these two platforms’ add placements. On Google, you will see the ads on the search results page which is located above the organic results. Depending on the advertiser, Google ads can also appear in Google Search Network and the Google Display Network.
On Naver, the ads can appear anywhere on Naver. It can be on the SERP, Naver search portal, Naver search partners, and Naver services. It can appear on the top of the page, in the middle, and even at the bottom.
Penetrating the Korean Market: Naver vs Google
How do you make sense of Naver and what works for Naver? How will you be able to target the Korean market using Google? These are the common questions you must ask yourself if you are thinking of penetrating the Korean market.
For Google, there are two ways to go and enter the Korean market–Google ads and SEO. Google SEO means getting your page rank for the keywords that are relevant to your site or your business that has good search content.
For Google Ads, you can rank a little faster because you’re paying for the spot. SEO obviously takes time. Moreover, on Google, if you are running ads, you want your ads placed on the keywords that people search for on the SERP. You want your site to be ranked for the keywords that your potential buyers are searching for, and you want to get ranked on the first page of Google, which is a simple first page or simple page.
For Naver, you would want to focus on paid advertising and SEO, but there are multiple sections on the web page that you need to focus on. We have regular power links, we have brand ads, we have power content ads, we have shopping ads, we have local places or Naver maps.
We have power links and ads in the middle of the page, at the bottom of the page, on other people’s blogs, and so on. SEO is important, but the way SEO works on Naver is a little different because we can target websites. You can build SEO for websites but you’ll see that the way Naver calculates or runs their ecosystem or the way their algorithm works, is not the same as Google.
With this, you wouldn’t want to factor in anything or you’re also going to be competing with people that are ranking on Naver through things that might not work on Google or penalized for on Google. The other part is that websites just don’t get shown on Naver very often. If they do, they’re usually at the bottom of the page.
So those are the major points I wanted to make. Of course, there’s a lot more to it and the way the algorithm works, obviously, I don’t know every aspect of it, but I do have a general idea of it because of my experience with the platforms. Also, it’s my job and I need to prepare and be one step ahead and figure out the best ways to rank content and the best ways to run ads in these big search engines in Korea.
I hope this article was helpful. Just to recap, both paid advertising and SEO are things that you need to focus on for being shown on Naver. However, with Google, it’s a little bit simpler. What I mean by that is there’s only the first page to really think about.
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