Digital Marketing in South Korea

February 9, 2021

South Korea is one of the biggest online markets in the world with very high retail activity online and an average of 30 minutes spent per person per day doing online shopping. That means that whether you live in South Korea or not, you should definitely be targeting the Korean audience. But online marketing in South Korea is a little bit different than it is marketing for the United States or other parts of the world. If you are trying to expand your reach or you just opened up an online business in South Korea, you are going to need to know how digital marketing works for that region. That’s exactly what we’ll be exploring in this article starting with the most used search engine in South Korea.

Naver Search Portal

Naver Search Engine Website

The Naver search engine is how things get “googled” in South Korea. The search portal was first introduced in 1999, and just a year later results were displayed in groupings that were well ahead of their time. Today, Google also creates customized search engine results pages depending on the type of content that you are searching for and various other factors, but in 2000, no one else was doing it. Naver brings together lots of different search elements including paid search, organic search results, maps, blogs, the South Korean equivalent of Wikipedia, the Naver Cafe and lots of other specialized search results.

How Naver Results are Displayed

Understanding how these results are displayed is an important part of learning how to market in South Korea online. Results like Naver Cafe, Naver Encyclopedia, maps, blogs, Knowledge iN and all the other search elements appear for most of the search terms out there. This can be useful in some cases, but in others it really crowds the organic results off the page; sometimes all together. That makes it difficult for marketers who are looking to be on the front page of the search engine results because there may be other forms of the search returns are crowding them out. However, it also gives marketers an opportunity. By having their own Encyclopedia page and using the other search elements of their vantage, you can raise your rankings for a particular search term by sliding into one of those other search elements.

Paid search is very different as well. Paid search often takes up much more of the page than it does for Google and other search engines around the world. For competitive keywords and keyword phrases, there may be two or more sets of paid listings. This makes it impossible to get above the fold unless you are willing to pay for the advertising.

After the paid search listings, the Naver Knowledge iN listings and advertisements from registered websites appear. After that, you will see some organic search results. These can sometimes be far and few between. For example, if you look up the search term online marketing, you will only find four entries that are organic.

On the rest of the page, you will find results from news, maps, blogs, the equivalent of Wikipedia entries and all the other portal returns that we have been discussing here. That’s what you can generally think of Naver as rather than a search engine because the search results depend upon what you type into the search engine query box rather than a comprehensive algorithm for ranking.

Naver SERP Part 1 - Powerlinks, Encyclopedia

Naver SERP Part 2 - Dictionary, Naver Blogs, Naver Posts

Naver SERP Part 3 - Knowledge-iN, Websites, More Paid Ads

Naver SERP Part 4 - News, Online Courses, Related Search Keywords

Please note that the sections that show up on the Naver SERP will differ depending on the keyword you searched for. In this example, we searched for "디지털 마케팅" ("digital marketing" in Korean). So, if you were to search for something like "running shoes", you won't see a section for "Online Courses". You will also notice that paid advertising takes up over 50% of the SERP (search ads, bizsite ads, shopping ads, shopping item ads, etc.).

Offsite Strategies to Improve Naver Rankings

Let’s start with some of the strategies that you will need to employ off-site if you want to improve your search rankings on Naver. The good news is that there are plenty of ways that you can do this both on-site and off-site and make sure that your website is visible in the search engine results. One of the first things that you should do is create an entry for your brand in the Naver Encyclopedia. The Naver Encyclopedia is the equivalent of Wikipedia in South Korea and these results will often appear on the first page.

Something else that you want to do is try to answer questions with your brand through the Q&A platform Knowledge iN. This platform is also affiliated with Naver and works very similarly to the Yahoo! Answers platform that used to dominate search results. People ask questions and answer them through this website, and you can often get brand mentions by answering the right questions where the response can include your company or website. This platform also works directly with Naver Encyclopedia and features local Q&A options for asking questions within a particular region which can be useful for those businesses with a brick-and-mortar location.

Blogging is a popular way to do content marketing in the United States, but it is even more important in South Korea. When you register with the Naver search engine, they automatically create a blog for your blogging is even more popular in South Korea than it is in other parts of the world. Blog results often feature quite high in the search engine results page, so setting up a blog for your brand and making sure that you are pushing content that is targeted toward specific keyword phrases is worth the effort. Of course, just like with other types of content marketing, you always want to make sure you are offering visitors something useful that they actually came searching for and giving them the information that they need.

Naver wants to keep everything in their own ecosystem, it's the reason why websites are not given much attention - if you look at the Naver SERP, you'll see that most of the time the "Websites" section is lower in the SERP or not even shown. This is why having a Naver Blog for your Naver SEO is crucial. From your Naver Blog, you can reroute traffic to your site. You will also see that there is now a section for "Naver Blogs" and "Naver Posts" on the Naver SERP. These are very similar but Naver came out with Naver Posts to have content creators and "experts" in their specific field or niche.

Naver Cafe is another popular platform that can get your site ranked higher and get you seen in the search engine results page. This is the local social community based around the Naver search engine, and those with a great deal of influence can have a significant impact on where your own social media in South Korea lands in the search engine results. Make sure that you are aware of who the major influencers are in South Korea in post regular content that is useful just as you would with any other social media page. In addition, make sure you have unique content with the right keywords in the title and the body of your Cafe page as well as in the headings themselves. Facebook is also quite popular in South Korea among social networks and Naver often indexes results from Facebook pages so you want to make sure you have a Facebook page as well.

Onsite Strategies to Improve Naver Rankings

There are also a number of onsite strategies that you can use to improve your rankings within the search engine. For one thing, make sure that you do website submission. If you want your website to appear in the search engine results, then you’re going to have to register with Naver and submit your pages. Although Google does a really good job of finding pages even if you do not submit them, that is not always the case with Naver and there is no guarantee that your website will be crawled and displayed. Even after you submit your pages, it is still probably going to take a few weeks for your website to be indexed and appear in the results.

If you are not Korean, or you do not speak the language, then you’re going to have to get some help because it is absolutely vital that your page be written in Korean. Many companies in the United States and throughout the world that are looking to target audiences in South Korea actually hire someone specifically for that language barrier because of how important this is. While you can get away with translation in many parts of the world or simply targeting in English in some countries, that is not the case with South Korea. If you do not use Korean on your pages, people are not going to read them, it is not going to get indexed by Naver and you are not going to be able to target specific keywords and keyword phrases like you need to.

You also need to be aware of metadata and keyword optimization. Meta-content is added to your website template and it is used to help Naver index your page, determine the content that is on there and decides where to place you when it comes to keyword search terms and rankings. Each of your webpages should have a title tag, keyword tag and meta-description tag. Optimize your metadata to make sure that you are ranking for the right search terms but never do keyword stuffing. It is important to stay on the side of caution because over-optimizing your website will get it removed from the rankings.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that there are lots of things to keep in mind when it comes to online marketing in South Korea. Whether you’re outside of Korea or you are a new company that has recently begun digital marketing efforts in that region, there are lots of things to keep in mind when it comes to on page and off page optimization and working with a brand-new search engine that has different policies and algorithms than what you might be used to.

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