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Around the world in five search engines

By Josian Phillips, 

Search engines allow us to navigate the internet quickly and easily. Thanks to a complex network of hidden algorithms, they ensure we find exactly what we’re looking for with minimal fuss, no matter what part of the world the content comes from. For many people, talk of search will immediately evoke thoughts of Google, and given its prominence, it’s not difficult to see why. It’s certainly not the only option, though.

As the name suggests, the World Wide Web is a global network, and in some countries, the colourfully-logoed Californian crawler most of us know and love has worthy competition. In fact, Google doesn’t even exist in the eyes of some internet users. With this in mind, let’s take a quick trip around the world to see some of the most popular alternatives.

1. Baidu – China

Baidu – pronounced ‘BY-doo’ – is a great place to start, as it currently holds second place in the search engine popularity stakes after Google. This would be impressive enough had it been a global thing, but Baidu is rarely used outside its native China. Launched at the turn of the millennium, it allows web users across China to navigate more than 740 million web pages, 10 million audio/video files and 80 million images.

Data shows that Baidu now processes more than two billion searches every quarter, and has a 56 per cent share of the Chinese market, with Qihoo 360 (29 per cent) and New Sogou (13 per cent) sitting in second and third place. Largely due to the Chinese government’s tough stance on censorship, Google is nowhere to be seen!

2. Yahoo! Japan – Japan

While once hugely popular in the UK, Yahoo! has fallen far behind Google and Bing on these shores, but there are parts of the world where the name still features regularly at the top of users’ browser windows. Japan – home to the world’s fourth largest internet-using population – is by far the most prominent example here.

Not only are services like Yahoo! News and Yahoo! Mail among the most popular sites visited by Japanese internet users, the company’s search feature dominates the domestic market with a share of around 55 per cent, compared with Google’s 40 per cent.

3. Yandex – Russia

Yandex, like Baidu, is rarely used outside of its homeland, Russia. That’s not to say it has a small user-base though. Data shows that the Yandex homepage receives enough visits every year to make it the most popular site in the country. While the majority of the service’s users are on the hunt for Russian-language content, it is also growing in popularity in surrounding countries like Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus and Turkey.

Ranked as the fourth largest search engine in the world, Yandex processes close to 1.25 billion search requests every quarter. This figure puts it ahead of Google in Russia too, with a 62 per cent share of the domestic market. In 2010, Yandex launched an English-language version of its search engine, so it may not be long before it also starts to have an impact on the UK and US markets.

4. Naver – South Korea

When it comes to internet use, there is no country more prominent than world-leading South Korea. In 2006, it became the first to achieve over 50 per cent broadband penetration per capita, and things have only improved since. It’s for this reason that the country’s standing on the search landscape cannot be ignored.

As is the case in nearby China, Google is very much the minority stakeholder in South Korea. Instead, it’s Seongnam-based Naver that rules the roost. Launched by a group of former Samsung employees in 1999, it has grown to become a major force in the search game, with a domestic market share of almost 80 per cent.

5.Seznam – Czech Republic

First launched in 1996, Seznam has a longer history than most search companies – Google included. It was, for some time, the biggest player in its native Czech Republic but has fallen slightly behind its Californian counterpart in the last few years. However, it is still hugely popular. According to NetMonitor stats, it is used in some capacity by 93 per cent of the country’s internet-using population, with more than six million people logging on every month.Seznam prides itself on helping users find content targeted specifically towards the Czech market. This involves, among many other things, the publishing of national news stories and even job listings.

As the examples above show, Google really isn’t the only search engine to consider when you’re expanding and/or operating in different countries around the world. It pays to think carefully about what you’re trying to achieve and where you want to achieve – only then will you be in a position to optimise your site in a way that brings in the traffic you need to be successful online.

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