The struggles of Google in Korea

South Korea is one of the most internet advanced and connected countries in the world. Google only has 1.6 percent of the search traffic. Why the lack of success in an endeavor where they’ve seen so much acceptance in many other places in the world?

Do a search for “Rain” in Google, and chances are good that you will get weather information. That’s true in the United States, and it’s also true in Korea. That’s part of the problem. There’s a famous singer in Korea whose name translates into “Rain.” Google’s results fail to turn up any information about this celebrity. Yet the information isn’t difficult to find on Korean sites.

The Korea Times uses that example in “Why Is Google Struggling in Korea?” (no longer available).

Google has been offering search in South Korea since 2001. But they haven’t been incorporating User Created Content (UCC) the way that local Korean search engines have.

Interestingly, that type of User Created Content seems to be a strategy a company like Yahoo! is embracing. See: Web Content by and for the Masses. The comment at the end of a recent Bloomsberg News article, Yahoo! gives up quest for search dominance is somewhat interesting from this perspective:

Decker last week cautioned analysts on a conference call against taking the ComScore figures too literally, saying the data exclude Asian countries where Yahoo! is “exceptionally strong.”

With the acquisition of services like Flickr, del.icio.us, and Webjay in the past year, we see Yahoo! working towards letting users create and categorize their own content. Maybe you don’t have to try to be Google to beat Google.

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  1. Vertical Search and Other Specialized Content Providers Could Put Some Limits on Google’s Dominance. Although Google maintains a stranglehold on the search and search advertising markets, a relatively new category of websites has emerged as at least a partial threat to Google‟s dominance: “vertical” search engines. A “vertical” search provider specializes in a particular niche category of content, such as travel, shopping, finance, local attractions, or video content. Similarly, specialized content sites focus on a discrete category of information – such as local business reviews – of interest to consumers. Examples include brands like Amazon, eBay, MapQuest, TripAdvisor, Kayak, Shopping.com, Yelp, and Hulu. Unlike a site that might offer general search in direct competition with Google, like Microsoft‟s Bing, these sites do not need to attract scale comparable to Google‟s in order to succeed. By focusing on a specific topic and optimizing their user experience around that narrow slice of the Internet, vertical search engines and other specialized information providers are able to compete effectively with Google within that slice without having Google‟s overall scale.

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