Andy Radovic | August 29, 2011
South Korea is buzzing. I recently returned from a trip to Seoul, which was my first visit there in just over a year. The mood has changed. There is a feeling of passion, optimism, and overall hunger among the people. This was felt by fellow colleagues I spoke with, other agencies, media owners, and everyday people whom I met. The pace has certainly picked up. And more than ever, now seems like an opportune time to get into that market.
When you’re talking about South Korea and online in the same sentence, you’ll most inevitably mention Naver, far and away, the most popular search portal in market. Naver has a market share command of just over 70 percent, making it the fifth most used search engine in the world, following Google, Yahoo, Baidu, and Bing. Naver was incorporated in 1999 and in August 2000, it came out with its “Comprehensive Search” service, which allows users to get a variety of results on a single page, organised by type: blogs, websites, cafes, images, etc. This was in fact five years before Google launched its similar offering of “Universal Search”.
For the most part, Naver is great. It gives you a nice blend of content, as mentioned above, and generally the search results seem to be well tuned to your query (we’ve tested this). However, the key issue we see is in how it treats SEO listings. Simply put, SEO listings are at the very bottom of a very long page and generally you only get five listings, compared with the more standard 10 listings in Google and Yahoo. From an SEO perspective, this is quite unique and makes it challenging to approach SEO as you do in other markets.
Still, given these unique challenges, you cannot ignore Naver. A market command of over 70 percent is just too big. If you can’t fight Naver, you’ll have to figure out a way to work with it. Below, I have outlined a few tested strategies that can help you start gaining more visibility in Naver and improve your overall SEO approach in a market like Korea.
Get Social With KnowledgeIn
KnowledgeIn is essentially the Yahoo Q&A for Korea. It has a massive reach and happens to be the top section of listings in Naver, right below paid search. To break into this section, you have to create a KnowledgeIn account and become active in the community, by creating questions, answering questions, and essentially elevating your status within the community. In order for your KnowledgeIn activity to appear within the Naver search results, you will need to optimise your questions/answers for keywords you want to target. This means including keywords and phrases in the title of your questions/answers, in the body text and within relevant anchor text of your post. We believe that Naver favours posts that generate buzz and discussion in the community. So, work on writing questions that can generate a strong amount of quality/quantity answers. Essentially, the more authoritative you become in KnowledgeIn, the more likely your work will start to break into the main Naver search results.
Build a Café
The next section in Naver we can influence is Naver Cafes. A café is a blog in Naver terms. Similar to the approach for KnowledgeIn, you have to create your own Café and build a structure and content strategy based around the core keywords and phrases you want to optimise and eventually rank for. In the Naver search results, it shows five Café result listings. These listings are essentially your blog postings pulled from your café, and they appear based on the relationship to the search query being performing. Also, based on the popularity (i.e. comments) of your post. If you have a well-optimised post with solid keyword rich content that generates good comments, then you will have a strong chance of getting your content into the Naver search results page.
Focus on Content/Crawlability
This last technique is less about Naver and more about Google, Yahoo, and Daum, which combined can give you a 30 percent share. Effectively Naver does not reward you if your site is built in an SEO-friendly way. And traditionally, if you analyse a lot of Korean sites, very few are built to please search engines. Most use heavy Flash, have limited indexable content, and do not contain readable sitemaps. This creates an opportunity to be highly visible in Google, Yahoo, and Daum if you focus on the core SEO principles of crawlability. Essentially, developing strong content in a site structure that allows search engines to easily access and read this content. Do these simple steps and you’ll beat out most other Korean sites.