Leo Apotheker, Lee Yoon Woo and Naver- South Korea’s Google

When Samsung’s CEO, Lee Yoon Woo, decided to enter the U.S. market, an adjustment phase and lessons in Google SEO were part of the process. It would be counter-productive for Lee Yoon Woo to not adapt to this new market. Likewise, if Leo Apotheker, current CEO of Hewlett Packard, wants to bring his business to Korea, a tutorial in Naver and all its benefits is be a crucial element in his research. Hewlett Packard is a Fortune 500 company now, but it wasn’t always. Insert “Hewlett Packard” on Naver, and surprisingly, it is the third link on the page. Why not the top link? Well, it is because local sellers ‘GMarket’ and ‘Auction’ are more relevant in Korea, visited more frequently for many consumer products, and thus, higher on the page rank. GMarket is as common to Korea as Amazon is to the United States. Failing to heed or even underestimating this type of competitor is a huge error for any company seeking to tap into foreign markets.

It’s been shown that people, when given the option, prefer to read and speak in their native language over an acquired second language. Then doesn’t it make sense that people also like to search online in their native language as well? Spend even a few weeks in South Korea, and names like ‘Naver’ and ‘Nate’ become as common to your ear as Google is in the United States. Head to Europe, and be prepared to hear about ‘Seznam’ from the Czechs and ‘Yandex’ from the Russians. In China, the search engine ‘Baidu’ is king. All of these local search engines are used more frequently in these countries, and while Google might be king in the United States, this isn’t always the case abroad. In fact, ask a Korean where to look for something online and the response is immediate: ‘Naver’ – not ‘Google’.

For a company that advertises, sells, and markets overseas, awareness of the local online markets is crucial. Failure to understand this could mean that your advertisement or website is harder to find and in fact might not even be found at all. If Koreans are using Naver (in the Hangul alphabet) and not Google, wouldn’t it make sense as a company trying to tap into the Korean market to find a way onto Naver as well as, or perhaps instead of Google? Competition is fierce these days. Google page ranking, search engine optimization, and web analytics are crucial focuses as more businesses seek to utilize online resources. For a company in Korea, Naver must be an essential tool in a website’s marketing and advertising. The untapped community of people, in this case Koreans, that will be able to access your information through Naver could be the difference between a struggling business and a thriving one.

While Naver is an example of a search engine in Korea more popular than Google, the general principle here is this: do your research. Even a manufacturing or financial company which normally does business in the United States, but occasionally does business in Korea, might be surprised who will access its site once it becomes available. It’s not that Google is to be excluded when applying international search engine optimization, but it shouldn’t be your only tool to find local markets. So when the time comes to find your target, don’t just “Google it” think like a local and “Naver it”.

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