Well, assuming that you have a rough indication of the way Naver works, you will know that the top results are very often not actually websites. Instead they are things that Naver returns from its own internal sources, such as its Café (think social media) and Q&A products. It breaks the SERPs into categories, such as blogs, Cafés, NI and actual sites etc. Each of these has its own algorithm which probably makes Naver the most complicated search engine that there is to SEO for. Now, I know that some of you are thinking, so Google has universal search, you need to be aware that universal search is a very different animal as it still (mostly) prioritises traditional web content.
In this case where I used the Korean translations for the term “loans” (somewhat inspired by the 1st good post I read on Naver) we can clearly see that the top 3 sections (excluding Power Links – or Paid Links to you and me) are mostly returning results from Naver’s own products, we can see the Knowledge IN or KIN results at the top and the start of the knowledge encyclopaedia results in the 2nd natural section. Now, the knowledge encyclopaedia is a little different and tries to return results from local encyclopaedias and wiki. However, next we see the Naver Café again – another Naver product -so as we can see most of the equivalent (I say equivalent because Naver scrolls for a very, very long time) of the first 2 pages is taken up with Naver’s own products. While this is not always the case, it frequently is. As it happens, for the search here you do not see any actual non sponsored links to real websites till the 10th section!!!
This in itself presents unique opportunities and challenges to the thoughtful SEO. After all Korea is a relatively soft market, and Naver themselves have admitted that there simply is not enough Korean content on the web. Essentially it takes the use of social integration in the SERPs to a much higher level than anything we have seen or are likely to see from western search engines. It needs to be stated that these websites are not always in the backwaters of the SERPs: they are not, and in some cases they do actually appear near the top. Essentially it is a very busy looking site and takes some time to get used to. If you have not actually tried using Naver then you really need to, as it is not similar to anything else.
Naver and on-site SEO
In all honesty, most sites that rank well in the SERPs really do not follow what we would consider best practices in any other search engine. The reason for this is that as a whole the sites in the Korean market tend to be flash heavy, poorly coded and generally have a host of other issues that would make an SEO struggle if he had to rank them in Google. Fortunately though, it does not seem to matter too much in this case. It is essential that the site be written in Korean and be of a decent standard for competitive markets, although in some of the smaller niches (from what I am told; I cannot read and write in Korean) it would appear some rubbish does slip through. This is probably due to the previous statement about the lack of web content. If you produce quality copy, it seems that Naver will rank you. As always, get your keywords somewhere in your copy, just do not crowd it too much. Added to this, having lots of landing pages for similar products also seems to still be a winner in Naver. Just remember that Naver does not index an awful lot, so try to make the site structured in a way which is easy for a search engine spider to navigate. This is one of the few practices common across most search engines that we really need to stick to.
Naver and off-site SEO
Links still count, but they really are not the be all and end all, and remember to think for the long term so do not take quantity over quality. Where off site really gets complicated is when it comes to social. Essentially social pages will make up most of Naver’s results and it is essential that you are on these platforms if you intend to compete in the SERPs:
- Naver Café
- Naver KIN (basically like Yahoo! Answers, this tends to rank at the top)
- Naver Blog
All of these 3 products get their own slots in the SERPs (in fairness, they do allow other similar sites into the results such as Daum Café). These seem to rank based on copy quality, interactions, sharing and thanks, etc. Basically all of the things that you would expect to help them rank does.
Whilst to anyone who has not spent a long time on Naver this all looks very confusing, I personally do think that it is arguably better for the user. So all in all, optimising Naver is not a single task, but a matter of optimising several social profiles and being an active and useful contributor to the search engines own products, as well as creating, what Korean users would deem, a great site. And remember the standard of websites in Korea is very different than what western eyes have come to expect. And whilst one could argue that Google has elements of this, it is certainly not to the same extent.