Google is, without doubt, the single biggest and, by extension, the most important search engine worldwide. The main, U.S.-focused google.com is the single most visited site, but various international Google sites also figure highly. Google.co.uk is the most visited site within the UK for example, while google.co.in is the most popular search engine in India.
Many of these international sites are among the top 100 most visited sites and no SEM or SEO campaign should overlook the importance of Google. In certain markets, however, local competitors rule the roost. Yahoo Japan is the most used search engine within Japan and, while that brand may be well known to Western Internet users, other names may not be so familiar.
In China, for example, Baidu is the most popular, with a reported 75.5 percent market share during the fourth quarter of 2010. Likewise, Naver is the market leader within South Korea and Yandex and Seznam are the market leaders in Russia and the Czech Republic respectively.
If local competitors lead the way in your target markets, it makes sense to focus at least a proportion of your efforts there. Many aspects of SEO remain the same whichever search engine your targeting. Phrases like 'the keyword is king' still apply (but only, of course, when of an appropriate density and accompanied by quality content!) but there are also some subtle and not-so-subtle differences in the way different search engines operate.
The Benefits of Foreign Language Internet Marketing
It would seem obvious to point out that the greatest benefit of foreign language Internet marketing is the opportunity to reach new markets, or to penetrate further into markets that may already be partially catered for with English alone.
English remains the single most widely used language online but it still represents only just over a quarter of total usage. Add the fact that studies have shown that multilingual users place more trust in sites in their own native language, especially when it comes to making purchases, and the benefits of foreign language marketing in general are clear.
In pure SEO terms, however, there are other potential advantages.
Precisely because English is the most common language online, it follows that there is less content in any other individual language and, therefore, less competition for keywords and rankings. This also applies to Google's international foreign language sites of course. Again, Google shouldn’t be overlooked but where other competitors hold even a substantial market share, there are dividends to be reaped.
While it's generally recognized that investing in a country code top-level domain such as .co.uk for the UK or .ru for Russia can be good for your local rankings (and will certainly do them no harm), Google has geotargeting tools that associate your site with a particular geographic area. Baidu doesn’t do this and a site must both have a Chinese domain name (com.cn or .cn) and be hosted on a server physically located within the country.
Another difference is that Baidu values the sort of meta data (including meta keywords and meta tags) that Google largely ignores. It's also worth noting that content is censored on Baidu in keeping with state regulations, which may have a bearing on your keywords and other content.
As with Google, Baidu counts incoming links when determining a site's relevance, but it doesn't weight them according to the perceived authority of the linking site. This means no more obsessive checking of just where your linking sites currently sit on Alexa.
As with Yahoo sites elsewhere in the world, Yahoo Japan sets great store by keyword-optimized content, preferring a keyword density of up to 7 or 8 percent. This is far higher than Google's preferred 2 percent density (Google’s use of keyword density is disputed in the industry), meaning a complete content overhaul may be required if focusing on this search engine and market.
Getting listed in the Yahoo Directory can confer a tremendous advantage. Like Baidu, Yahoo Japan places a value on each page's meta tags. It also favors newly updated content. Google does too of course but Yahoo Places even more emphasis on updates, increasing the value of keyword-rich blogs for example.
Like Google, Yandex has its own geotargeting tool. This means a Russian domain isn’t as crucial as a Chinese one, but investing in ccTLDs can have other benefit, such as instilling trust by giving your localized site a more genuinely 'local' feel to the visitor.
The search algorithms employed by Yandex share a lot of similarities with Google's so established SEM and SEO best practices apply.
Yandex’s Thematic Citation Index does differ, however, from Google's PageRank in a couple of significant details. Firstly it counts both outbound and inbound links to authoritative sites, whereas Google concentrates on inbound links. This affords an opportunity to boost rankings by increasing outbound linking to relevant sites.
Conversely, Yandex doesn’t count any links to or from un-moderated directories, web forums and other “uncontrolled” sites.
The differences can be small, but they can also be crucial when it comes to adapting your strategies to make full use of Google's local competitors.