Globally, Google is the dominant force in search with a market share of more than 90%. In China, Russia or South Korea however, Google is not the top dog. Each country has their own respective market leader: Baidu, Yandex, and Naver.

At Genie we occasionally get asked about the paid search offerings on each of these native search engines by our retail clients who are looking to extend their international reach. Each platform has its own nuances you should be aware of and potential obstacles to international advertisers, so let’s explore them - today focusing on South Korea’s Naver.

naver search

South Korea’s Naver posted a record operating profit of £786 million in 2016 and is in the process of a high-profile change in leadership. The reason for asking the question, “Can we advertise with Naver?” is obvious – Bing and Google combined make up just 11% of the search engine market share in South Korea versus Naver’s 77%. In a country with a population of more than 50 million people, the potential audience is vast. But there are a number of things to bear in mind.

  • How the Search Results Appear - The user experience of Naver is very different to Google; for example, it’s not unusual for no organic results to appear on page 1 of a search. Despite this, a Naver SERP is typically three to four times as long as one from Google. What appears instead is a multitude of results from different sources – paid ads, social and user-generated content, news results, professional information, maps, videos, image results and more.

  • All advertisers must be registered Korean companies with a website in Korean - And this is the website that must be advertised – no loopholes. Practically, this means if you're looking to advertise on Naver, you are going to need a South Korean branch to your business.
  • Invoicing is not an option - You have to pay up front for all advertising activity. The most popular payment method for international advertisers is an international bank transfer, but it can take a few days for your funds to become available, which can of course limit flexibility.

  • The only currency option is SKW (South Korean Won) - Not the end of the world, but watch those exchange rates. (Incidentally, ‘South Korean Won’ also tends to be the back-page headline after the Olympic badminton final…)

  • There is no English interface - So you’re really looking at either recruiting Korean speakers or using an external agency to run the whole show for you.

  • The only keyword match type is exact - Yes, that’s right – no phrase match, no broad match, and of course no negative keywords either. So if your broads tend to get you out of jail (this is beginning to sound like a Tom Waits song) when it comes to misspellings, variants or just incomprehensive keyword lists, you’ll need to make some changes in this market. It will be labour intensive, but an opportunity to get one over on the competition with extensive keyword lists.

  • Each keyword has its own dedicated ad - It can be the same ad for many keywords, but adgroups don’t function in the manner to which you’ve become accustomed. A great opportunity to really enhance the relevance of your ads, but make sure you’re stocked up on coffee and biscuits, this is going to take some time.

  • There is no offline editor - Just what you wanted to hear right? But no, despite all this, you have to make bulk changes in the online interface. More coffee required…

  • There is no API access - This is very limiting for any third-party tracking, and if you currently use any kind of automated bidding solution it would certainly not be compatible.

In summary...

There are a couple of things here that would be an absolute deal-breaker for some advertisers (never say Naver, if you will). But even if those don’t apply to you, any foray into this market would require a great deal of investment due to the manual workload. Where Google allows you to go as granular or as broad as you like, going broad isn’t really an option with Naver – you’re forced into going into time-consuming detail with your paid search.

For now, our suggestion would be to ensure you are doing everything you can in your existing channels before foraying into the South Korean market. If you would like help in these efforts, or would like to take advantage of a free paid search account audit, get in touch with us at

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