5 Countries Stand Between Google and World Domination

By Josh Catone
We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you the latest from the web and tried-and-true hosting, recommended for designers and developers. SitePoint Readers Get Up To 65% OFF Now

The Financial Times says that there are just five countries in the world where Google isn’t the search leader among locals. That means that Google impressively owns more than half the search market in almost every country in the world (there are 194 countries at last count (not including Taiwan, which we’ll leave off the list because China is one of the countries where Google isn’t tops, and I don’t know if Taiwan is included in those measurements)).

Who are the five local search engines beating Google?

  • Yandex in Russia, which FT says has about 43% of the market.
  • Baidu in China, which has about 60% of the market.
  • Seznam in the Czech Republic — 63%.
  • Naver in South Korea, which also controls about 60% of the local search market.
  • Yahoo! Japan, which comes in at a little more than 50%.

There’s good news and there’s bad news for Google. The good news is that they’re apparently the dominant search engine for over a billion world wide Internet users. The bad news is that the markets where they’re falling behind represent about 420 million users, and are among some of the fastest growing emerging markets (i.e. China and Russia).

So why is Google able to so dominate the rest of the world, but can’t seem to crack these five countries? According to the FT, there are three reasons: quality, regulation, and culture.

According to FT, Google was slow to enter some of these markets and as a result was beaten on quality in local language results by local startups. Google now finds itself in the unfamiliar position of playing catchup in places like Russia, where users associate the highest quality results with Google’s rivals.

Laws in some countries restricting how foreign competitors can enter the local market have also hampered Google’s progress. Google CEO Eric Schmidt told the Financial Times that in China, the reason Baidu got such a head start was “largely because of the various bizarre laws that China has with respect to foreign media.”

Jordan McCollum over at Marketing Pilgrim thinks Schmidt sounds like a whiner for blaming government for his company’s inability to compete yet in those markets.

The last reason, according to FT, is culture. In Japan, for example, users actually prefer the portal approach taken by Yahoo! The complete opposite has been true for Western markets, where the portal approach has fallen out of favor in the face of the simplified search-first-and-above-all-else approach that Google has perfected.

As we said, though, the good news for Google is very good news. Dominance in all but 5 countries world wide is no small feat, and Mohammad Gawdat, Google’s head of emerging markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, agrees. “It may take more time [to catch up to local competitors], but who cares? The rest of the world is doing really well,” he told FT.

Of course, when your mission statement is to organize the world’s information, it’s hard to succeed when almost a third of all Internet users are turning somewhere else for search.

We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you the latest from the web and tried-and-true hosting, recommended for designers and developers. SitePoint Readers Get Up To 65% OFF Now
  • HBDM9

    I am not Number Six, but All This Has Happened Before, All This Will Happen Again, and again, and again, each time, a promising little spinet of technology, revolutionize on a ever repeating cycle. So I am not surprised.

  • mejiac

    I have two comments:

    The first is that Google should consider the country’s culture to better understand there needs…something probably marketting is already on top off.

    The Second is regarding Mohammad Gawdat comments…one should never feel confortable with there current position. Google is doing ok NOW…but who knows what can happend in today’s fast paste world


  • Anonymous

    According to this http://www.thomascrampton.com/media/googles-tiny-market-share-of-search-in-asia/ (not sure of the reliability of this source yet, mind…) Taiwan is counted separately.

    I’d be surprised if anyone other than China itself would lump Taiwan’s internet statistics in with China’s. Given China’s draconian internet usage controls and a reasonable proportion of their vast population online, I’d imagine their statistics skew worldwide statistics by some margin. Taiwan is tiny by comparison, but with a demography, political environment, Internet behaviour and access akin to that in Japan, Europe, the States etc.

  • rsteven

    emmm why do you think that Google has more than 50% share in each of these countries? There could be multiple players and Google simply has the majority.

  • krdr

    I know why google made success in former Yugoslav states. For long time, krstarica.com was tool of choice for us. Then Google cam with better results and more hits. As we usually use US keybords (without language specific characters, Google understands that Uzice and Užice are same word. Now it recognize declinations: Uzice is same as Užicu,Užica,Užicu… There SE with similar capabilities, but now is late… Google just have product to better suits our needs

  • AdaMM

    i’m not really sure, but one other country i found with dominant local search engine was Estonia (neti.ee) and i wonder about the other two. also if google is not dominant on russian market, what about the countries from former soviet union? are they all using google or are there other players, especially yandex, dominant? i guess rather the statistics are missing or hard-to-get, so it was not presented.

  • AdaMM

    (^other two = baltic countries, latvia and lithuania)

  • GRW

    Google was not focused really on czech republic and can’t really compete on market so different from other countries. Main failures:

    – lack of czech interface for long time
    – lack of localised (czech relevant) results. seznam.cz was better able to display valid results for czech queries even with worse technology
    – google.cz domain owned by czech speculant
    – seznam.cz took advantage of yellow pages tradition and became no.1 link directory with paid business directory
    – good marketing campaign of seznam.cz (seznam.cz became start web page for non techy people)