According to the latest data from comScore, Google has the dominant share of search engine market in the U.S. And according to the CIA World Factbook, English is the 3rd most popular language in the world. However, we cannot assume that search engine optimization techniques that work here will work in other countries. Let’s take a look at Eastern Asia to illustrate this point.


When doing SEO for a website in another country, language is a top concern. However, we must not forget that other languages are generally more complex than English. For example, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan use Traditional Chinese while mainland China uses Simplified Chinese.  I speak from personal experience in telling you that Japanese is complex as well, because there are three ways of writing out words (hiragana, katakana, kanji), many words are spelled the same but mean different things (for example, “hana” can mean “flower” or “nose”). Japanese people don’t always use the same terminology that we use here in the US (Japanese people refer to “e-mail” as “mail”), and  there are multiple ways to say the same thing. Let me give an example to illustrate.

In English, there is only one way to say or spell “search engine.” In Japanese, some people say “search engine” (written in katakana) and some people change the word “search” to its Japanese equivalent “kensaku.” And here are those 2 versions in Japanese:

The point here is that it is crucial to understand the nuances of the local language in order to achieve success with search engine optimization in other countries.

Search Engines

While Google dominates the search engine market in the U.S., the story is different overseas. In China, Baidu controls roughly two-thirds of the market, especially because as we all know, Google pulled out of mainland China. Yahoo!, Bing, and other local players each control about 1 to 2% of the market share. This is important to know because Baidu’s algorithm for search ranking places more emphasis on the quantity of links rather than the quality, unlike Google. Another difference is that with Baidu, alt tags, heading tags and anchor text all carry a lot of weight.

In Japan, Google and Yahoo hold the top 2 positions in search engine market share, just as they do here. However, a very important distinction is that it is in reverse, where Yahoo! holds the top spot in Japan, not Google. This can be attributed to the fact that Yahoo! Japan reaches 80% of all Internet users in Japan. Since Yahoo and Google may use different algorithms for their search rankings, this is something to keep in mind. Also, 3G has over 95% penetration in the Japanese market, meaning that many more people use the Internet on their cell phones than in other countries, so SEO for mobile websites is also something that should be looked at.

So what’s the lesson in all of this? As with any SEO initiative, no matter where you are, keyword research is very important, and it is also important to understand what elements can help your ranking in search engines.