International Search Marketing Year in Review & 2011 Preview

After eight years of international search marketing, I’ve never seen such a crazy year of news, growth and just plain fun as 2010.

We’ve seen the effects of leaving mainland China, the growth of social media as a tool influencing global politics as in the Netherlands, and the effects of Google Places from an international SEO perspective.

As we review this year, we’ll look back at some of the biggest game changers in our industry and what we can learn from them, as well as other trends to watch out for in 2011.

I’ve invited some global search experts to provide insights so that you can get different perspectives from others in our industry around the world. A huge thank you to Andy Atkins-Krüger, CEO of Webcertain Group (Europe), Duk Won and Sean Lee of EC21 (Korea), Preston Carey, Business Development for the search engine Yandex (Russia), Koichiro Fukasawa, CEO of Wasabi Communications (Japan) and Silvio Porcellana, CTO of SEO Italy (Italy) for all of their participation in this article.

1. What Were the Biggest Changes in International Search in 2010?

Duk Won and Sean Lee: Definitely, it should be mobile search. Before the iPhone and Google’s Droid based phones were released in Korea, it looked like nobody could beat NAVER’s market share. However, the iPhone attracted Koreans to a whole new world. We learned that there is another web browser called Safari, which opened us up to utilize Google more frequently. According to Google Korea, they noticed the rise in mobile search share and hope that it will bring growth in Korea that they have been trying to achieve for years.

We believe the following three factors are directly and deeply related to the biggest changes in Korean search in 2010:

  1. The huge growth in smart phones (30 million users by 2012).
  2. Mobile search from smart phones and tablets where Google strongly dominates.
  3. Social media.

The Korean social network, Cyworld, collapsed at last. Instead, Koreans have started to use Twitter and Facebook.

Silvio Porcellana: The main changes that the Italian search engines market — and I guess the whole world — experienced in 2010 were essentially two: the continuous releases of new “features” and changes by Google (Google Instant, real time search, Instant Previews, and obviously updates in their ranking algo) and the greater importance the “social web” is gaining also related to search engines positioning, with Twitter and Facebook as the leaders of this new world.

Preston Carey: The biggest change in Russian search is the demographic shift as the Internet reaches into the second and third tier cities. Internet adoption is likely going to increase from 37 percent in 2009 to 44 percent in 2010 in Russia, which is an incredible growth rate for such a large country. This shift is bringing a much wider mix of the population than previously was accessible through search.

Andy Atkins-Krüger: Facebook advertising taking off.

Koichiro Fukasawa: Yahoo Japan changed their search engine from YST to Google. The transition was completed on Dec. 2

2. What Industries Succeeded and Failed in 2010 and Why?

Duk Won and Sean Lee: Almost every web agency or online marketing company suffered from the economic recession. But, with the boom of social networks like Twitter and Facebook, the PR gained though social media is now the hottest trends in online marketing.

The 2010 Online consuming trend insights tell the whole story (the research was conducted by the two biggest e-commerce sites in Korea; Open Market in 2010 and Gmarket owned by eBay)

2010 Online consuming trend insights in Korea:

  • Smartphone (Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy) related products — accessories, routers
  • Tablet PC related products — accessories, routers
  • Pet products (127,000 clothes sold in Gmarket and auction)
  • Bicycle products (650,000 bicycles sold in Gmarket and auction)
  • Overseas travel products (Southeast Asia, Japan, China, North America, Europe, so on sold in Gmarket and auction)
  • Fashion products and cold weather wear (2 million underwear, 153,000 heat-underwear, 200,000 fur coat, rain boots/fur boots sold in Gmarket and auction)
  • Premium food and premium baby products (15,000 premium strollers sold in Gmarket and auction)

Silvio Porcellana: I wouldn’t think in terms of “industries” but rather in terms of “services.” I have the feeling that “one size fits all” services will keep failing more and more as SEO and web marketing will have to become as tailor-made as possible. If you think about it, in the good old days, SEO was mainly focused on a pretty standard on-site optimization procedure and on some sort of link building (sometimes even low quality links worked).

Nowadays, with all the many challenges and opportunities available to someone looking for a strong online marketing campaign, a serious consultant needs to create a specific strategy for each single client, assessing weaknesses and strengths and adjusting the “tools” used in order to reach specific goals — not counting that a huge part in every campaign is measuring results and ROI, a task that can be accomplished only if you know extremely well what you are doing and how this is related to your customer’s business.

Preston Carey: Tourism, health care, automotive, e-commerce broadly, and mobile all had great years with search volumes and spend growing up to 4x during the year. “Failure” is a relative term in Russia with even most of our slowest growing industries doubling during the year. Real estate and construction both tend to be lagging at the moment but this is mainly a broader global trend rather than anything search specific.

Andy Atkins-Krüger: Travel didn’t do well at all in Europe.

Koichiro Fukasawa: Manufacturers of low-price clothes, furniture, discount shops, and outlet stores did extremely well. We saw many foreign brands (including U.S. shopping portals and travel portals) entering into the Japanese market regardless of the economy for which we were involved in terms of SEM.

3. What Search Engines Will Continue to Grow and Show Promise in 2011?

Duk Won and Sean Lee: Considering Korean culture, search behavior is hard to change. It means that Naver is still number one in the search market and the others struggle to take from it. However, if new mediums like the smartphone and tablet continue their growth in 2011, mobile search will show the most promise in B2C marketing.

It’s difficult to predict what search engines will continue to grow or what search engine falls at this time. The key for continuous growth is depending on how they adapt their search engines to social media and mobile.

Silvio Porcellana: I’m sure Google will keep for a few years its dominance of the market but I see “real time” and “social” search engines grow faster and faster in the coming days and months — so I’m betting the SEO world will be forced to integrate a social media marketing strategy in its efforts for positioning and ranking pages and sites.

On top of this, although this is still quite small and almost marginal in the SEO world, I’m a big believer in the semantic web and I think that 2011 could be the year where microformats will start becoming an essential tool for reaching the highest rankings on “regular” search engines such as Google.

Preston Carey: Yandex is poised to have a great year next year. Our search volume has grown roughly 40 percent this year and we are expecting that to continue into the future. The digital advertising market in Russia is forecast to grow over 30 percent next year.

Andy Atkins-Krüger: Baidu and Yandex will continue to grow, however they still have a long way to go (in terms of matching the technical achievements of Google).

Koichiro Fukasawa: As a portal, Yahoo Japan — because they will have a better search engine (Google) to back up their other successful services. But as a search engine, Google will literally dominate the market. With users getting more web savvy and appreciate Google’s search quality and simple interface, they will establish themselves as the search engine for Japan.

4. What are the Biggest Changes in Global Search Engine Marketing This Coming Year, in 2011?

Duk Won & Sean Lee: Naver (run by NHN), Korea’s biggest search engine, which has over 60 percent search queries and market share in South Korea will quit their affiliation with Yahoo Search marketing and will bring paid search platforms 100 percent in-house (to Click Choice, a subsidiary of NHN) in 2011. That means advertisers should contact Click Choice in order to advertise on Naver.

The other thing is SEO. In Korea, most people are familiar with only NAVER. However, the default search engine in smartphone is Google. It is not NAVER or Daum.

Actually my recent SEO project happened when a famous CEO found his rumors in the SERPs of Google through his Galaxy S. Before the smartphone he never considered Google, but now Google is the window in his hand.

Silvio Porcellana: I don’t expect many changes in the Italian SEO industry for the coming year: what I expect, related to the global economic downturn, too, is the death of many low quality online marketing agencies (even big ones) who leveraged a general lack of competition in the SEO field. Competition which is slowly building up and that I think will lead to an overall better quality of service to all customers, be it the small mom-and-pop sites to the big corporate or ecommerce websites.

Preston Carey: The trends we are seeing in Russia are a reflection of what is being seen globally. You will likely see advances in geo-specific technologies and also in personalization of search responses.

We are also seeing strong, renewed interest in the Russian market post recession from large global brands who are bringing large budgets and sophisticated campaigns into the market. We expect this trend to continue into next year.

Andy Atkins Krüger: More international search engines and social media sites will create their own advertising revenue tools — and move to back-filling with Google. Naver and Eniro already do this. Social media sites will become the search engines — search will be a functionality they all seek from Google/Bing or others.

Koichiro Fukasawa: SEO strategy for Yahoo Japan. Many companies that invested so much money to achieve top rankings in Yahoo Japan are already experiencing the effect of search engine switch to Google.

Those companies who made the most of Yahoo’s less sophisticated algos will be forced to change their strategy and attitude to search marketing. Perhaps it’s a good thing.

5. What Advice Would You Give to Someone Launching an International Search Campaign in 2011?

Duk Won and Sean Lee: We would suggest an integrated search campaign with a mix of paid search, blogs/community, Q&A, and website display along with a creative SNS and mobile strategy. The advantage of a small market like Korea is that if you have enough bullets, you can beat anyone. Research keywords and audience first then plan your mix by evaluating universal search engine results, which are first to appear on SERPs like blogs or web documents.

Silvio Porcellana: Ask for the help of a local company. That’s the first and most important advice I would give to anyone trying to tackle a foreign market: although the “Internet” is one and Google is one in all countries, it’s important to seek the support of someone who lives and feels on a daily basis the pulse of each specific market. And in a world where small nuances can make a deal of a difference in the success or failure of a marketing campaign, working with someone who knows well the language and the culture of a complex country such as Italy is essential.

Preston Carey: The most important piece of advice is to find a partner with strong local capabilities. Whether this is a large global agency, a small local Russian provider, an international specialist like SEM International or working directly with Yandex’s bilingual account managers, it is critical to have someone who can localize and optimize for Russia.

We often see new entrants trying to do it alone with basic understanding of the market along with mechanized translations and they are rarely successful. Finding an experienced partner to help is the key to getting into most global markets, including Russia.

Andy Atkins-Krüger: Do it well in fewer markets — rather than badly in many. Stand in the customers’ shoes and look back. Don’t look at how you can do it the cheapest way and don’t measure only by cost but by benefit.

Koichiro Fukasawa: Create a website that looks just like any other Japanese websites that are often information packed with lots of photos and graphics. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of having native Japanese review the site.

So many companies waste money running a PPC campaign with lousy sites that will not convert. As for SEO, now that YST is gone and Google is back (yes, they were providing search engine to Yahoo before they came up with YST), you have a good chance in improving the web visibility by optimizing the site for Google.


All of the insights above are really relevant to every market in one way or another. International search marketing is by no way without challenges, but it represents nearly 75 percent of all searches so you can’t ignore it either.

In 2011, if you aren’t already global, you should consider it. The cost of search marketing online in other countries can bring more than just revenue, but new growth opportunities you wouldn’t have imagined.

With that said, on behalf of Search Engine Watch and my global search marketing colleagues, I wish you all the best of luck and the most prosperous new year.

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