Search Engine Basics : Country-Specific Search Engines

11/22/2010 11:36:52 AM
At this stage, search is truly global in its reach. Google is the dominant search engine in many countries, but not all of them. How you optimize your website depends heavily on the target market for that site, and the search engine(s) that is (are) the most important in that market.

According to comScore, Google is receiving 62% of all searches performed worldwide. In addition, Google is the market share leader in every regional market. Most notable, though, is the Asia Pacific region, where Google holds a relatively narrow 36.1% to 26.8% edge over Baidu, the largest search engine in China. This is the only regional market in which Google has less than 60% market share, and it also happens to be the largest market for search in the world (in terms of total searches performed).

Here is some data on countries where other search engines are the major players:


Baidu News reported in February 2009 that Baidu had more than 73% market share in China in 2008 (


According to figures announced by Yandex, the company’s market share in Russia comprises about 50% of all searches (

South Korea

Naver was estimated by the International Herald Tribune ( to have about 77% market share in South Korea in mid-2007.

Czech Republic

The StartupMeme Technology blog reported that Seznam was reported to have more than 60% market share in Czechoslovakia in mid-2008 (

1. Optimizing for Specific Countries

One of the problems international businesses continuously need to address with search engines is identifying themselves as “local” in the eyes of the search engines. In other words, if a search engine user is located in France and wants to see where the wine shops are in Lyons, how does the search engine know which results to show?

Here are a few of the top factors that contribute to international ranking success:

  • Owning the proper domain extension (e.g.,,, .fr, .de, .nl) for the country that your business is targeting

  • Hosting your website in the country you are targeting (with a country-specific IP address)

  • Registering with local search engines:

  • Having other sites from the same country link to you

  • Using the native language on the site (an absolute requirement for usability)

  • Placing your relevant local address data on every page of the site

  • Defining your preferred region in Google Webmaster Tools

All of these factors act as strong signals to the search engines regarding the country you are targeting, and will make them more likely to show your site for relevant local results.

The complexity increases when targeting multiple countries.

2. Profile of China’s Internet Usage

Based on the data that China released in July 2008, China has more Internet users than the United States, with 253 million users. Here is a summary of data from the Chinese report:

  • China has the most Internet users in the world (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 U.S. versus China Internet users

  • China has the most broadband users in the world (see Figure 2). “This report, the 22nd Statistical Report on the Internet Development in China, also indicates the number of broadband users has reached 214 million, which also tops the world.”

  • China’s Internet penetration rate continues to grow and grow and grow (see Figure 3):

    • U.S. Internet usage has hovered around a 70% penetration rate in the past five years, while Chinese Internet penetration has jumped from 7% to almost 20% in the same period.

    • China could plausibly reach a similar penetration rate to the United States within 20 years.

  • Mobile phone use in China continues to grow:

    • China has 601 million mobile phone users, according to the latest government report.

    • From January 2008 to June 2008, there were 53.3 million new mobile phone users.

    • One carrier, China Mobile, has more than 414 million mobile subscribers and is ranked #1 in the world (

    • Only 12% of these users have accessed the Internet from a mobile phone because of the lack of a proper 3G network (none of the Chinese telcos have a 3G license); an estimated 73 million have accessed the Internet from a mobile phone.

    • However, the Chinese government is moving aggressively to issue 3G licenses to the major telcos.

Figure 2. Chinese broadband users

Figure 3. U.S. versus China Internet penetration

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