For marketers and SEOs interested in succeeding on a global scale, knowing the major international search engines should be a priority.
When it comes to digital marketing, for many, search seems nearly synonymous with Google. Within the United States, this major search engine distinctly dominates the market with updates made to the algorithm or layout of the site drawing conversation and news articles for weeks.
This does not mean, however, that other search engines do not deserve consideration. In the US, Google holds a powerful 67% of the mobile and desktop combined search market, but that still leaves nearly a third of the searches performed occurring on other search engines. In other countries, local search engines can outnumber Google. For example, in China, a country with about 688 million internet users, Google is nonexistent as it withdrew from China.
Other countries also boast local search engines that outrank Google, including Russia, a country with 84 million internet users, and South Korea with more than 45 million users. International brands that want to succeed on a global scale need to understand the variety of international search engines found globally and how to optimize for the popular ones in their desired areas.
Ten of the most important international search engines that all marketers should be familiar with in the global digital economy:
Google is one of the most obvious international search engines, but when it comes to producing content for other countries, there are still some important steps to take into account.
In addition to focusing on relevance and quality, brands should also use hreflang tags for international content. This ensures that Google correctly interprets the language and the intended country for the content, such as a local site for Argentina versus one for Mexico.
It is also impossible to mention Google without talking about YouTube. The video service is actually the second-largest search engine in the world. Optimizing video content for the platform involves including keywords in the video description, tagging well, and working on building a successful channel as a whole.
Google has reduced or eliminated the signal weight on meta keywords and meta descriptions, but other sites around the world still use them, so keep that in mind for pages that serves multiple markets and need to appeal to the variety of international search engines operating.
Bing is the second-most popular search engine in the US. On a global scale it has also earned a position as the second-largest of the international search engines.
Many optimization strategies for Bing are similar to those for Google, including claiming local businesses, tagging and categorizing sites, as well as including relevant content and natural keywords.
Social media, however, has a definite role in Bing rankings, as opposed to Google where the role of social sites remains less obvious.
Bing also does a better job of indexing flash media than Google, opening up the opportunity for site owners to use flash on their sites.
To better understand the difference between the two search engines, check out this post on everything you need to know Google vs. Bing.
Yahoo is the third largest search engine in the US, commanding about 12% of search, resulting in millions of opportunities to engage customers.
The Bing algorithm powers Yahoo itself, so optimizing for Bing will also allow you to optimize for Yahoo.
The #1 search engine in China, Baidu, is the third most popular search engine worldwide, receiving roughly 60% of domestic search traffic. This is an enormous marketplace for companies who want to grow overseas and engage with new prospective customers.
Given the size of the Chinese audience, anyone who wants to succeed in the region needs to be intimately familiar with Baidu. Succeeding on this search engine requires working with a native speaker. To rank well, write content using Simplified Chinese, use a .cn domain, and host the site in China.
Businesses that want to do work in China should have some kind of local contact information, such as a local branch address, which should be featured on the site.
Within the content, Baidu looks for title tags, meta descriptions, meta-keywords, alt-tags, and H tags. Since Baidu is such a major international search engine in China, we add extensive additional tactical advice for it below:
Baidu's URL submission process
- Submit sitemap using Baidu’s sitemaster http://ziyuan.baidu.com/linksubmit/url.
- Use Robots.txt to specify the pages you do not want Baidu to crawl with a Disallow command.
Reasons why web pages do not show up on Baidu
- Your web server is not stable when the Baidu spider attempted to crawl. Once your web server returns to normal, the Baidu spider will crawl your page again.
- Your web pages have content that violates guidelines and policies by the Chinese government.
- Your web pages do not provide a good user experience.
- Other technical issues.
Additional SEO best practices to rank well on Baidu
- Review international search engine Baidu’s guide on what web URLs are considered valuable (and how to use Robots.txt to avoid duplicated content being detected) and will be indexed and presented on search results.
- Baidu cannot load HTTPS well currently. Baidu does not recommend sites use HTTPS. Google strongly recommends HTTPS.
- Submit to Baidu.com the search operator “Site: www.domain.com” to determine an estimated number of pages indexed but not the accurate the number of pages indexed.
- Page title is a significant factor in evaluating the SEO performance of a page. It’s not recommended to change page title for a page that ranks well unless absolutely necessary.
- Meta description is encouraged to be edited occasionally. However, there is no guarantee that the new meta description can be captured quickly.
- Baidu supports “NoFollow” and “NoArchive”.
- Good content is evaluated by: high click rate, low bounce rate, and time-on-page. It’s also recommended that website owners analyze exit rate throughout the content paths to improve content quality.
BrightEdge’s SEO support for international search engines in China
- BrightEdge provides keyword reporting for both Baidu & so.com based on in-country SEO crawl.
- Many websites in China have been stuffed with less-than-perfect quality content
- Baidu is infamous as the search engine that is more driven by revenue than quality user experience for search users or website owners. Some people are hoping for Baidu to be replaced by international search engine so.com.
- Industry trends and updates: factors that contributed to the secrecy in SEO best practices online.
- BrightEdge agency partners, like Merkle and iProspect have hands-on experience with optimizing for Baidu in China.
Read BrightEdge's white paper on succeeding with Baidu for more information.
So.com (360 Search) Qihoo 360
Although only launched in 2012, Qihoo360 (so.com) has already risen to the prominent position of second-most popular international search engine in China, controlling almost a third of the market.
Since this search engine is relatively young, it continues to mature as do the optimal SEO strategies for it. Some believe that the spiders from Qihoo360 move faster than Baidu’s, making it easier to successfully optimize on the site. Like optimizing for Baidu, users should focus on native-written Simplified Chinese content and using Chinese domains and site hosts.
It was only launched in 2012, but by 2015 it controlled an estimated 30% of the Chinese search market. Its popularity has likely been influenced by the growth of mobile. By Q3 in 2014, mobile devices were the leading source of searches and revenue for Chinese search engine marketing, and Qihoo 360 has been responsible for building the most popular app store in China.
The tips for the Chinese search market below were published by BrightEdge CEO Jim Yu on Searchengineland.
- Optimize for mobile. The vast majority of users, 65%, in China are on mobile devices, so work on mobile optimization first and desktop second.
- Do not use automatic translators or inexpensive translation services. Using a native speaker will provide you with an infinitely superior site as you will be able to avoid major grammatical errors, have the content flow more naturally, select more relevant keywords, and use vocabulary that resonates better with the local audience. Your site will fit better overall into the framework of the Chinese digital ecosystem. Translation issues can offend users, hurt your reputation, and cause you to rank lower on the SERPs.
- When setting up a website, get a .CN domain. If that is not possible, then seek a .com or .net. Your website should also be hosted in China and you should secure an ICP license from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Try to avoid having multiple domains or subdomains.
- Know the list of blacklisted words that cannot be posted online. Inclusion of these words can cause your site to be de-indexed and even taken down. Remember that your website cannot criticize the government in any way.
- Keep your title tags under 35 characters in Simplified Chinese and your meta descriptions below 78 characters in Simplified Chinese.
- Website speed is highly valued. Regularly test your site to make sure it loads quickly. Inbound links are also viewed as valuable for search rankings, so finding opportunities to build a strong backlink profile can be very helpful.
- Chinese search engines value fresh content. Regularly publishing on your page will help boost your reputation and success on international search engines. You should submit your blog posts to the Baidu News Feed, which will help you attract new readers to your material.
For businesses interested in expanding into Asia, understanding how the local search engine market is evolving and changing can be critical to creating sites that rank well on the local search engines.
For a business expanding globally outside of the US, make sure you optimize for premium international search engines for key regions such as Naver (South Korea) and Yandex (Russia) also!
Learn more on the state of search engines in China from Michael Bonfil's excellent article from Search Engine Journal.
Yandex remains the dominant international search engine in Russia and parts of surrounding countries, although Google continues to try and secure this position for themselves.
Yandex divides all queries into geo-dependent and geo-independent. Those considered to be geo-dependent will only have sites from a particular region displayed, which can make it easier for many organizations to promote small businesses.
Optimization for this international search engine also takes longer, because the spiders crawl the sites slower than Google does.
The Russian search engine looks at user behavior as a ranking factor, and domain age is also considered important, which can make it challenging for new sites to gain traction.
Fresh content is considered even more important than on Google, and the penalty for duplicate content can be even larger than Google’s.
Naver is an international search engine that incorporates content from users, social platforms, and paid search. Brands that gain the most visibility are the ones that have a presence across as many areas of the search results as possible. This is because results are grouped together as paid listings, products, blogs, registered websites, images, organic listings, social results, and more.
Brands need to sign up with the search engine and create accounts for relevant services on Naver to ensure that content appears in the search results.
Write content in the Korean language, submit them to relevant categories, and incorporate basic on-page SEO, such as keywords.
Use the social and user-generated content features to your advantage as well by incorporating a strong social presence and generating blog posts that are up-to-date and well maintained.
DuckDuckGo is a unique international search engine because it does not store any user information. It shows the same results to all users regardless of search history or location -- although paid search may be location dependent as ads are from the Bing-Yahoo network.
This site continues to gain traction as a private alternative to the other major search engines. It uses crowd-sourced sites to provide some no-click answers at the top of the page, similar to Google’s Quick Answers. It also seems to take into account semantic search and quality links when determining rankings.
International search engine Ask.com originally operated under the name AskJeeves. While it does not receive as much traffic as the other sites, a few key moves can help ensure that your page does rank highly when the opportunity comes.
Submit any local businesses to AskCity to help your page appear in local searches. You also want to cultivate your presence in online communities surrounding your industry, particularly drawing links from the respected community back to your site.
AOL still has 2 million users and has a business partnership with Google, so optimizing for Google seems to also help brands optimize for this international search engine.
While the core of search is consistent globally: matching users with the content most likely to address their needs, there are a number of different international and US search engines that marketers should be aware of as they prepare a global search strategy. The ten listed above dominate most search markets, and these tips should get you started on the right path. Monitor their differences moving forward to expand your global brand reach.
No matter which search engine or country you are targeting be sure to create smart content from the ground up.
For more on International SEO, read HREFlang Tags, XML Sitemaps and HTML Link Elements and International Site Management.