Search Marketing Segmentation in East Asia

In today’s globalized world, with the internet being the epitome of “instant connections” you might be surprised to learn just how segmented things can be.

While many corporations break down operations and markets by distinct regions, Americas, EMEA, APAC etc, digital marketing is often mistakenly lumped under one “Omni locational” umbrella as the internet is with exception to China, seen as a territory without borders.

The only region categorized as particularly unique and requiring a dedicated strategy is China. China is a unique outlier in many ways, including how they try to control their own web space separate from the influence of Google, Yahoo/Oath, and Bing.

But companies are mistaken if they think they only need to pay special attention to the ins and outs of Baidu if they want to succeed in Asia.

Changing Search Engine Preferences

The fact of the matter is each region has a unique split when it comes to search engines of preference and the keywords/search intent that come with a regions particular language.

For example Taiwan, often either lumped in with China or simply overlooked, has experienced a drastic shift in search engine usage over the last decade. Only 10 years ago Yahoo was the dominant search engine and news aggregator platform in Taiwan.

Today that has reversed, with Yahoo/Oath usage falling to around 18-20% of search market share while Google has grown to over 80%. This is the result of a multitude of factors, from growing popularity of Android phones and growing volume mobile searches, to heavy market penetration initiatives on Google’s behalf.

Taiwan Search Engine Market Share
Taiwan’s search market share’s have reversed from being Yahoo dominant to now being Google dominant.

Yahoo has also lost market share but still remains a large portion of the search landscape in Hong Kong and Japan as well.

search engine market share asia
Mobile trends are equalizing search engine usage ratios across Asia

 

So lumping all of Asia into one boat simply doesn’t work. Even with two boats, such as Google and Baidu, you’d still be missing out on massive segments across Asia.

Database Segmentation and Localized Web Spam Teams

Localization does not end with understanding national search engine preferences however. Online marketing landscapes are then further defined local datacenter bases and local web spam teams.

Google for example segments their search processing by regional data centers around the world, including Asia.

When updates to things like the ranking algorithms are updated they are released one data center at a time, with the two biggest centers serving Asia being located in Singapore and Taiwan, and with different parameters.

 

google database centers in asia
Google’s current database spread.

 

Google web spam teams then in each country enact varying degrees of authority over what is allowed to impact local search engine result pages (SERPs).

For example, what an internet marketer can theoretically “get away with” in Malaysia will be very different than what marketers need to do to achieve similar results in the same industry in the U.S or U.K.

This is because these markets are much more mature and thus the cat and mouse game of SEO vs. Google has evolved to such a level as to necessitate amplified localized web spam parameters.

Companies like Google have not publicly declared they use different algorithms in different countries, although some specific aspects have publicly rolled out to specific language searches, such as Google’s Panda algorithm, which rolled out to Korea and Japan a full 17 months after it was implemented in the United States.

Additionally, others with more direct informants state that while different regions don’t have completely unique algorithms they are definitely tuned differently depending on local competition levels, with lesser developed markets retaining a more “basic” version of core algorithms while advanced markets like the U.S and U.K are more tightly tuned.

All this said, even if a business is not active in increasing their rankings via SEO and they instead simply elect to stick with publishing useful content on a regular basis (the content-is-king crowd), in a way that aligns with search engine good UI/UX guidelines, they have to worry less about regional algorithmic differences.

In the real world things are rarely this simple. While it would be nice to do everything by the book, if your competition are pushing your brand or store off the first page you as a business owner lose money. For some this means playing it 100% by the book is simply not a viable business option.

Thus, it is of our opinion, if a company is actively looking to grow its online presence through active search engine optimization initiatives to remain competitive in their respective industry, they will need to actively localize on a national level if they want to be effective in Asia.

Summary

The point of this article is to raise awareness about the diversity of search engine market share in Asia between different search companies like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Baidu, as well as the differences in locally permissible SEO initiatives at the national level.

A few key takeaways:

  • Search engine market share has changed drastically in East Asia and is changing rapidly in emerging SE Asian markets as well.
  • Market share is driven by a multitude of factors including local user preferences, mobile search and smartphone segmentation.
  • Effective APAC marketing requires both attention to major search players as well as different guidelines from individual players at a national level.
  • For targeting digital marketing campaigns it is best to go with an “internationally-aware” local firm with a finger on the national search pulse as opposed to a large global ad agency.

If you have any questions raised by this article in regards to search marketing in APAC please let us know via our Contact Page.