Google isn’t the world

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For many of us, Google is the front door of the Internet. It’s the first place we go to do pretty much anything, and it’s easy to assume that the search giant has the world in its hands. Search stats for countries like China and Russia prove that this just isn’t the case. In this post, ClickThrough copywriter Oliver Pyper dons his best corduroy jacket with elbow patches to teach a quick digital geography lesson.

In the English-speaking digital world, Google reigns supreme. The Internet giant is so associated with search, that it’s almost become a synonym for search itself.

It’s a noun. “Did you find that picture of a dog in a hat on Google?”

It’s a verb. “Let me Google that for you.”

It’s not quite an adjective, yet. But there’s still time ("Google-esque?").

For businesses that operate in international markets, however, this Google-centric attitude might not work.

Outside of the cosy confines of – well, admittedly, most of the world – Google faces tough rivalry from local search providers.

According to data from StatCounter, searchers in countries like Russia and China are keen on search engines that are little-known to the rest of the planet’s population. (Antarctica loves Google, by the way.)

Dig out your school uniform and adopt a sullen teenage expression, it’s time for a digital geography lesson. Here are a few territories that at least partly eschew Google, and the search engines that won each nation’s hearts:

(All stats are from December 2012)

Big in China: Baidu

Baidu, which takes its name from an ancient poem called Green Jade Table in the Lantern Festival, is massive in China. It boasts almost 71% of the market. The great Google giant, meanwhile, falters behind with less than 15%.

It offers features like Chinese phonetic searches, maps, a question-and-answer service, social networking, and more. It’s also, allegedly, heavily censored.

Big in Russia: Yandex

The Yandex search service was launched in 1997. With endearing humility, its creators took its name from the phrase ‘yet another indexer’.

As so often happens, humble beginnings turn to phenomenal success. In Russia, Yandex has a hold on 39% of searchers. Google still ranks top with 58.9%, but it’s very much a two-horse race. Rivals like Bing and Yahoo! are used by less than two per cent of the population.

Big in Japan: Yahoo!

We’ve all heard of Yahoo! – in the days before Google, the search engine shared the market with other big providers like Altavista and Ask Jeeves. In the United States, it does well comparatively well under Google’s big friendly fist, boasting almost seven per cent of the market. Compare that to the UK, where it has a hold on less than three per cent of searchers.

In Japan, though, people seem to be much more attached to the exclamatory search provider. In the land of the rising sun, Yahoo! boasts more than a quarter of the market share. Google still wins with nearly 70%, but it’s much less of a clear-cut win.

Big in the Czech Republic: Seznam

Apparently, Seznam used to be the market leader in the Czech Republic, until Google launched an aggressive TV advertising campaign. Despite Google’s efforts, though, Seznam still boasts a 21.87% market share, compared to Google’s 76.17%.

The search engine was launched in 1996, and is part of a network that includes more than 15 different web services.

Big in South Korea: Naver

Naver was South Korea’s first home-grown search engine. As well as providing search facilities, it boasts a children’s web portal called Junior Naver and a section devoted entirely to webcomics.

South Koreans don’t love Naver as much as they used to. It now has a grip on 8.63% of the market, whilst Google sails by with more than 75%. However, according to StatCounter’s data, Naver was the market leader until February 2012, when Google raced ahead.


What does this all mean for digital marketers? Well, as the world gets smaller, it’s important to remember that Google isn’t – yet – the world. By overlooking regional differences, you could be missing out on a big chunk of the market that could be targeted with paid search and other channels. If your market moves east, make sure you keep an eye on search engine usage.

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