Search in Asia – International Search Summit 2011 #SMXISS

Search in Asia – International Search Summit 2011 #SMXISS

18th May 2011

Good afternoon SOS’ers,  I’ve finally made it down to the International Search Summit and shall attempt to take over from Louis Venter’s sterling live blogging efforts this morning.

Next up I’ll be covering a deep dive into the (ahem) State of Search in Asia and the Far East. This is presented by Barry Lloyd, of WebCertain Asia.

Key Countries

  • China – awakening giant!
  • Japan – wher mobile access has overtaken PCs on the internet
  • South Korea – best broadband access in the world
  • Taiwan – an exporting success story

Points in Common?

All of these countries have been doing business in a certain way for over 3,000 years and it seems to work for them. It’s not likely to change overnight.  A lot of their business is conducted with a nod to ‘The Art of War’. Crucial points to note:

  • All about relationships
  • Manners maketh the money
  • Never criticise competitors
  • It’s different there!

China – The Facts

  • 476 millions users
  • 72% are in urban areas
  • Mainly on Eastern Coast strip
  • 2/3 not yet connected
  • 796 million mobile users
  • Good connectivity in major cities, not rural areas
  • Smartphone market is growing
  • Mobile commerce is growing for local search
  • Mobile web display ads
  • 100 million now shop online but most still buy offline

NOTE: The internet in China is not like we are used to it. Every Western popular social media platform is banned, it is impossible to do business in China and host outside of the country. They will show week-old web page caches unashamedly if necessary in order to restrict content.

So how do people find you?

Baidu is by far the largest search engine, with 75-80% of the search market,  then followed by Google.  However because the population is so large, even on ly 5% of users is still equivalent to around 25 million users. Don’t necessarily ignore the smaller engines.

Social media in China is totally different, you need understand their ways. E.g. QQ, T.Sina, Youku, Douban, RenRen. Baidu has 15 different varieties of social platforms. It is branded as ‘simple and reliable search’.  The most visited link on the Baidu homepage is a link to a page which is a list of links .This is because it is simpler for a user to navigate to a page through this rather then figure out how to type the name of the site in the url bar.

SEO for Baidu

  • Title tag – it’s important!
  • Meta description has algorithmic value
  • Meta keyword still has algorithmic value but not a huge amount
  • Keywords need to be on page as well
  • Page load time – the spider is very slow, this is crucial
  • Good links count, there is a quality score. This is actually manually tweakable. Especially if you happen to spend a lot of paid advertising with them.
  • Place your important text at top
  • Flattening web design
  • Clean & Clear site structure
  • Sitemaps are essential, not only for crawlers but also for users who actually use them to navigate
  • Use links on homepage
  • Baidu also has an xml feed programme called ‘Aladdin’. Useful for large and frequently updated sites.

Baidu Paid Search

PPC service is called Phoenix – now sits at top of standard results like Adwords

New Baidu features:

  • Now allows for sitelinks
  • Allows brand links
  • Allows CPM advertising on Baidu’s social media platforms
  • Similar to Adwords structure – broad, phrase, exact matches + negative keywords
  • Day parting and position bidding

Keyword Research Tools:

These are only available through an account with Phoenix Nest, they are very good but you do need to be fluent in Chinese to be able to use them.

Biggest e-commerce site in China: TaoBao

China’s equivalent to eBay, which failed hugely because their domain was simply too difficult for people to type in. TaoBao owned by Alibaba and is mostly C2C focused.

In 2010, it had more than 370 million users. Most merchandise is sold brand new and at a fixed price. Auctions are not as big as eBay but they can work very fast and efficiently.

Chinese Payment Systems

Just as China as become its own world in terms of the internet, they also control their money. CHinese currency is not exchangeable and for online shopping, most Chinese use their UnionPay debit cards. Few have western currency debit and credit cards. UnionPay is owned by the Chinese government. Alipay is the most usual platform. PayPal is not available but is difficult to set up and has very low purchase limits.

Many Western companies have failed in China due to forgetting the lack of exchangeable currency in China, with almost all Chinese people only having access to UnionPay cards, which is only in Chinese RMB.

China is a very difficult and challenging market to penetrate, although its potential is huge. Baidu is now the second most used search engine in the world.

Taiwan – The Facts

  • Still use Traditional Chinese not Simplified, you cannot target the same website to both mainland China and Taiwan with the same written language
  • More than 17.6 million internet users in Taiwan
  • 69.9% invidividual internet penertration rate
  • 78.7% household internet penetration rate
  • 73.9% household broadband penetration levels
  • Both China and Taiwan believe they are part of China , however they see this setup somewhat differently.

Search on Yahoo

The largest search engine in Taiwan,  it has not yet switched to Bing driven results. It is like old-school Yahoo optimisation. Think greater keyword density on the page and basic on-site optimisation.


Google is still useful, there are not the same censorship issues as there are in mainland China. Youtube is huge in Taiwan as is Facebook. is the biggest Taiwanese community site .

South Korea – The Facts

  • 40 million internet users in South Korea
  • Penetration of 77%
  • Highest broadband penetration rate on earch
  • 10% of all broad band connections have 25Mbps or more
  • Third country in the words for overall broadband connections ranked by speed.

This shows in how the websites work. Their main portals: Naver and Daum often have animated figures and additional ‘innovative’ aspects to the visitor experience.

South Koreans see Google as boring and old-fashioned in its functionality however social media platforms such as Twitter are very popular.

SEO for Naver

  • 87% of the market
  • Offers no guidance of best practice
  • SEO barely exists, most people use paid search
  • Title tags are still important
  • There is a lot of UGC – it is more than just a search engine, they use a lot of universal results and media.
  • It is the 5th used search engine in the world

PPC for Naver is very very difficult to get into, opportunities for foreign sites are very limited.

Japan – The Facts

  • Around 111.7 million mobile subscribers in Japan
  • More than 75 million Japanese are mobile internet users out of 85 millino browsers
  • In 2009, 84.3 % of mobile users crowsed the internet via mobile phones
  • Mobile advertising expenditure came to nearly US$923m in 2009
  • Even B2B clients do a lot of their browsing from their smartphones

Biggest search engine is now Google, Yahoo has 57% f search but it is not owned by Yahoo USA. It has tehrefore switched its index to Google results. Googel has 30% of search in Japan therefore together, they own nearly 90% of the market.

SEO in Japan

Lots of very good tools, unexpectedly – mostly free, e.g.:



The largest social site is Gree with 90% of all users accessing it via their mobiles, twitter is also very popular. Shopping sites are hugely popular, e.g.


The Far East is challenging and frustrating. However it also has immense potential and opportunity for those that persevere. It has a huge learning curve.

Photo by NinetyEast.


Written By
Originally from the UK via France and Malaysia, Annabel Hodges is a digital marketer with long experience in the industry now residing in Sydney. She heads up the Digital Marketing at Next Commerce, working across an array of products, channels and brands.
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