South Korea has long been one of the most advanced web markets, with high internet penetration and fast connectivity. It is also one of the few markets where Google has failed to make an impact, with local search engine Naver holding over 72% market share.
Jae Choi, CEO at NHN USA, a branch of NHN, the company which owns and developed Naver will be speaking at the International Search Summit New York on 12th September, offering delegates a unique insight into the Korean market.
In advance of the Summit, we spoke to Kyle Choi , SEM Manager at NHN USA, to find out some more about the search engine and the opportunities available to marketers targeting a Korean audience.
Can you share the bit of background to Naver?
Naver was created by six former Samsung SDS search engine developers and the company was first established as ‘Naver Com’ in 1999, later merging with ‘Hangame’ to become the company it is today. NHN Corporation, which operates both Naver and Hangame, currently has 3,500 employees in our headquarters alone. In 2008, NHN become the first Korean internet company to reach one trillion KRW in sales ($900 million +) and has an annual growth rate of 10 to 20%. Naver has also recently solidified our leading position in the mobile search market.
Like Yandex & Baidu, Naver has developed a search engine specifically for its local market. What has made it so successful there?
Naver was able to achieve success in Korea because it provides search results that have been optimized for Korean users. ‘Comprehensive Search’ Naver’s basic search algorithm, does more than list search results; it pulls together multiple categories of results on one page which are optimized for the user. Naver invests a lot of attention into search modeling, and has invested time in developing ‘collection ranking’ and ‘multi-ranking’, to provide individual and relevant search experiences. Naver displays daily trends on the top of the page in order to offer information that most accurately meets the users’ search needs.
What are the key characteristics of the Korean search market? What makes it different from other markets?
The Korean search market suffered from a shortage of web documents written in the Korean language. Since search quality depended on the quantity of web documents, securing Korean web documents was vital. This led to the development of UGCs as well as Knowledge Search. Naver’s Knowledge iN, which opened a new chapter in the history of Korea’s search market because not only did Naver’s Knowledge iN Service coin the term “knowledge search”, it created the knowledge search culture and documented knowledge that was locked inside the human mind. Knowledge Search is Naver’s equivalent to Yahoo Answers, which was actually developed based on Naver’s Knowledge iN, after Yahoo! engineers visited the search engine to benchmark their service.
Is knowledge of the Korean language required in order to advertise on Naver? What options are open to non-Korean speaking marketers?
Advertising in Korean language with understanding of Korean culture can bring the most efficient results. However, advertisers don’t need to speak Korean. NHN USA offers not only translation for keywords, titles and descriptions, but also localization consultancy to provide recommendations for localizing for the Korean market and all reports can be delivered in English.
Does Naver have any plans to expand into international markets?
Naver is different from Google because Naver aims at offering services that has been optimized for the region by providing localized search services. Naver launched a search service in Japan, named Naver Japan, which offers new services that aren’t available in Korea’s Naver, such as “Matome”, which was designed to reflect the Japanese culture, where people hold intense discussions while collecting material about a certain subject. NHN plans to expand its search service to regions that have cultural similarities, allowing us to demonstrate our expertise in providing localized search services.
However, as games are not as influenced by the market’s culture in the same way that search is, NHN plans to enter the global market with our game business and has set detailed plans to embark into the European market.
If you had just one tip for organisations targeting a Korean audience, what would it be?
Korean users are used to getting customized search services, so rather than providing a common globalized service, try to appeal to the Korean users by offering a more unique, localized service. It’s difficult to give one tip on how to target a Korean audience, since a country’s culture cannot be easily defined on paper.
Finally, why attend the International Search Summit?
ISS is very unique opportunity to meet professionals in the international search field and to share information about the global search market. For Naver, it is a great opportunity to introduce the search engine and the Korean market to a new audience.
Early Bird Rates for the International Search Summit will expire on Saturday August 2oth. Other speakers include Yandex, Topsy, Autodesk and WebCertain.