Korea’s Top Two Paid Search Giants: Google and Naver

September 4, 2020

It may come as a surprise that while Google is ahead in nearly all paid search markets globally, in Korea Naver is at the top of the game. Naver has approximately 56.89% market share in Korea. Google comes second at 33.3% while Daum is third at 7.72%.

At the same time, Google is a rising competitor. It overtook Daum as second place only a few years ago. Considering that targeted marketing stands at the very foundation of marketing in the digital world, you would do well to select the best ad platform to reach your audience in Korea.

To that end, we took it upon ourselves to present to you the strengths and weaknesses of the two leading digital marketing giants in Korea. Here is our comprehensive exploration of Google Ads versus Naver Ads.

A Short Tour of Korea’s Virtual Marketing Landscape

A survey conducted in 2018 by Korea’s JoongAng Daily found that a majority of Koreans primarily use Naver. Nevertheless, Google users reported the greatest levels of satisfaction across all platforms in Korea (inclusive of Nate, Daum, and Naver).

In addition, over 80% of those in their 20s use Naver. Those in their 40s and 30s on the other hand use Daum most of all. Google is used mainly for media- and IT-related web searches, while Naver is more culture and lifestyle oriented.

Since Google keeps their ad revenue in Korea secret, we don’t know its exact value. Still, Naver is estimated to make up over half it.

Bidding prices change depending on the industry, but overall, prices are higher in Naver than in Google. This disparity is due to how greater competition exists in Naver, meaning that more advertisers attempt to outbid everyone else.

These aspects already give us an idea of how Naver and Google stand in Korea’s digital market with respect to each other, but is that all there is to it? How else do they differ? What ad functions can you avail of? Finally, which is the better platform for your Korean PPC strategy?

Let’s find the answers together by going deeper into the differences between Google and Naver ads. The outline is as follows:

  • Sitelink extensions
  • Conversion tracking
  • Keyword research
  • Ad rotation
  • Payment options and bid price
  • Campaign structure
  • Remarketing
  • Ad copy
  • Final comparison

Sitelink Extensions

These refer to the links that come up after text ads. With Google Ads, you’re able to present two to eight sitelink extensions that vary in position, device, and other circumstances. Each sitelink has a link text and two description lines with twelve characters each. Note that Google rotates them by default.

By contrast, Naver gives you four sitelink extensions to choose from:

Price Information Type are shown prior to users clicking the ad. You can designate a different landing page with each link.

Event Type, as the name suggests, is what you choose if you’d like to promote events. You can’t designate landing pages, yet in exchange it provides additional information that entices users to select your main title.

Additional Title Type allows you to add a secondary title to your sitelink. On desktop, your main title will be to its left, while on mobile, your main title will be above it. Their landing pages will be the same.

Sub Link Type leads users to different landing pages. For instance, the sample above displays a map to the law office, online counselling, Q&A, and a lawyer’s introduction.

The last option, Mobile Image Type, is exclusive to mobiles. You can choose to add an image with your sitelink extension. But since the images shown are chosen by an algorithm, sometimes they don’t show at all. Still, images boost CTR because they make ads more visible (if the image appears at all).

Conversion Tracking

Google practically has an entire suite to help you keep track of conversions. These tools can be native or linked, such as Analytics and Tag Manager.

Google Analytics and Google Ads provide event information such as session/screen/pages, duration, and destination. They also have other actions, like download, video play, button click, and more.

Because all these tools are linked under one system, analyzing across data tools and connecting Google accounts is easy and convenient.

Naver Ads have more limited capabilities. It tracks only information on page load as thank-you pages with unique URLs. Which is why more advertisers prefer Google Analytics to Naver Analytics when observing conversion events.

Still, Naver analytics comes in handy in understanding which keywords were responsible for conversion. Google Analytics doesn’t give that kind for information because it only informs you which texts or image links were selected, not which keywords.

Keyword Research

Both Naver and Google have keyword functions. These help advertisers expand and extract information and ideas on associated search intent and search terms.

Google’s Keyword Tool

Google’s ad interface provides geographical targeting functions at the country and city level, with the option of limiting your ad to a certain time period. It also supports forty-four languages.

As an example, say an advertiser has Korean marketing services to provide. With Google Ads, they can set English and Korean as languages plus Korea as the location. With this, thousands upon thousands of users are easily filtered so that those that may reasonably be converted are reached.

The downside is that the keyword planner’s language isn’t always accurate. Sometimes, Korean words totally unrelated to the keyword are recommended. As an example, when keywords “Korean Digital Marketing,” “Korean Social Media Marketing,” and “Korean Marketing Agency” were used, “semiconductors” came out as an associated keyword. While we do have many clients in the semiconductor industry, obviously, it isn’t a relevant keyword to "Korean Digital Marketing".

So, if you use Google Ad’s keyword planner, ensure that the keywords that show up are relevant to the search.

On the other hand, Google has the advantage in terms of word recognition. You can use up to ten keywords at once using their keyword planner. Then even if words are incorrectly spelled or spaced (e.g., “Kirean Digital Mrketing” and “KoreanDigitalMarketing”), Google Ads knows what the user means while Naver Ads doesn’t.

Naver’s Keyword Tool

Compared to Google, Naver’s ads reach is much more limited. They only support two languages, English and Korean, and their geographical tagging is only at the country level. In addition, compared to Google’s ten, only five keywords at most can be queried with Naver. Although, Naver does provide the option to search in bulk using their API.

These limitations put more burden on the advertiser. For example, since Naver doesn’t offer city-level searches, location keywords (such as “Seoul best marketing agency”) are vital for search volume optimization.

One benefit however is that Naver’s ads can be more precise than Google’s. This means that Naver is more efficient at creating keyword opportunities. Naver is also distinct from Google in that it already provides a bid price estimate.

Google’s Match Type

They offers four match types for keywords: exact match and phrase match, then broad match and modified broad match.

Exact match offers most control. Your ad will come up if and only if queries match your selected keywords exactly. But a natural consequence of this is that potentially related queries are ignored.

Phrase match sacrifices control for relevance. Your ad will show if queries are close to or exactly the same as your selected keywords. With this, we recommend you still regularly check whether unrelated keywords draw clicks. If they do, add them to your list of negative keywords.

Broad match will bring up ads that, broadly speaking, are associated with the searched keywords. This option includes even synonyms and misspellings. This increases the chance of catching related searches, but it also increases the chance of catching poor-quality clicks. In order to combat inefficient spending, you need to frequently monitor queries and constantly update your list of negative keywords.

Modified broad match provides more control in catching related queries than broad match on its own. If you place a (+) before a keyword, Google understands that it should only show your ad only if a (+) term (or a related variant) is included in the query.

For instance, if you include “+marketing” and “+South Korea” as keywords, then your ad will come up only for searches that contain them. These include “platforms for marketing in South Korea” “South Korean marketing services provider” etc.

Naver’s Match Type

Naver Ads has a selection of two match types for keywords: keyword expansion and exact match.

Currently, keyword expansion is in beta. It’s similar to Google broad match in that your ad will come up for searches that are broadly related to your selected keywords.

Alternatively, Naver exact match is analogous to Google exact match. Your ad will come up if and only if queries exactly match your selected keywords.

Keyword Spacing

A salient difference between Naver and Google ads is their methods for deciphering spaces between keywords. Google does while Naver doesn’t at all.

That means that Naver sees “한국 디지털 마케팅 대행사” and “한국디지털마케팅대행사” as one and the same (that is, Korean digital marketing agency). Meanwhile, Google sees the latter query as different keywords.

Note that ad performance still varies depending on execution strategy, ad group, campaign, and/or account. But given our own data and experience, we noticed that Google Ads needs discrete keyword uploads for broad, phrase, and exact match.

Ad Rotation

Google Ads provides two choices for ad rotation:

  • The rotate function gives ads equal priority and shows them indefinitely. Since this doesn’t optimize given ad performance, this isn’t recommended to most advertisers.
  • The optimize function prioritizes ads that perform better.

Meanwhile, Naver Ads offers an A/B test for your copy. This is referred to as performance-based showcasing (성과 기반 노출). This is the default option. Advertisers will have to go out of their way to use balanced showcasing (균등 노출) instead, which is like Google’s rotate ads.

Payment Options + Bid Price

Digital advertising costs within Korea greatly varies depending on budget and platform.

Payment Options

Google Ads has debit and credit card options for payment. They’ll withdraw the cost of the ad from your card automatically as soon as you’ve set it up. In some countries, you can also opt to pay manually. Keep a close eye on your overall budget because you bid before you pay. Controlling the bid and click price is absolutely imperative to stick to budget.

Unlike Google Ads, Naver Ads uses prepaid, meaning that you need to add to your account before running ads. You can link your account to a debit or credit card, and if your credit card comes from overseas, they provide tax rebates and coupons. Another way Naver differs from Google is that they don’t accept deferred payments even for high-spending accounts. Top up ahead of time so that you don’t delay your review.

Bid Price

Google lets you set bid prices yourself for every keyword set for broad match. You first needs to upload your keywords and enforce the ads to estimate and understand bid price. Though you could opt to use Google’s bid simulator, its basis are only very recent data.

Naver doesn’t give you an option. Instead, it automatically utilizes the bidding price average of each keyword over the last four weeks. Bid prices won’t exceeds that exact match.

Additionally, on Naver, you can estimate your monthly performance after selecting and searching keywords using Naver’s keyword tool. Just type your ideal bid amount and you’ll see an approximation of past performance and cost.

Campaign Structure

Language and Location

Both Naver and Google allow advertisers to target based on device, language, and location.

Google allows you to target countries and languages simultaneously. For instance, if you’re providing local marketing services in Busan and want to target only Koreans in Busan, you can specify the language as Korean and the location as Busan.

Naver only allows you to target two kinds of locations: global or regions inside Korea. That is to say, only South Korean regions and South Korea itself can be specifically targeted. Meaning as a rule of thumb, exclude global unless you really intend to target countries around the globe.

Ad Time and Placement

You can customize language and location settings so that your ads come up on related Naver and/or Google websites.

For Naver, ads can come up on:

  • Content sites: Twelve partner content websites that present ads on the basis of content relevance
  • Search sites: Interpark (e-commerce partnered websites), G-Market, Auction, and Zum (Korean-made search engine partnered with Naver)

For Google, ads can come up on:

  • Display network: This is a web of associated websites throughout the Internet
  • Search network: Partner sites and SERPs (that is, a collection of websites and apps that are search related)

In addition, Naver has properties, like Band, Naver Café, Knowledge In, and Naver Blog, where your chosen ads can come up.

Naver also revealed a Naver Blog ad format update. Whereas before, ads were only displayed as text, now they can show images as well, which are more aesthetically striking.

Despite the update, the blog is still unable to offer ad placements most optimal for conversions and clicks. Still, the blog is great for spreading brand awareness, plus the image formatting generates visibility.

Both Google and Naver platforms for ads have schedule functions that display your ads only during certain periods. Google provides increments of 15 minutes while Naver provides those of 1 hour.

Remarketing

Remarketing is when ads are shown again to users who’ve already interacted with your site (or app). This generates a larger CTR than ads that are non-remarketed because users have already interacted with your before.

As of writing, Google provides remarketing and Naver does not. There are other remarketing tools in Korea, such as Mobion and Daum DDN.

Ad Copy

Google

With Google ads, you can select from six text fields:

  • Three headlines, each with thirty English characters
  • Two descriptions, each with ninety English characters
  • One path for display URL, with fifteen English characters

Take note that each Chinese, Japanese, or Korean character is equal to 2 English characters

Google Ad Copy

You can also opt to modify the URL on display to something more intriguing to boost CTR and give users an idea where they’ll go after clicking.

Naver

Naver’s display URL is fixed to the landing page and can’t be modified. They have seven different ad types:

  • Brand search
  • Content search
  • Plus click choice
  • Product click choice
  • Shopping search
  • Site search
  • Small business regional

In this article, we’ll discuss the top two Naver ad types: brand search and site search (that is, text ads that are PPC).

Naver’s Ads for Brand Search

Ad pieces for brand search are unique to Naver. They have several functionalities, such as:

  • Facilitating advertisers’ comprehensive marketing by simultaneously showcasing several landing pages with image, video, and text
  • Showing information related to brands with text and image at the topmost portions of SERPs when keywords related to the brand are searched
  • Showing ads related to brands with various landing pages that are brand term limited

Do note that prices will vary depending on search volume, function, and device. The lowest price is 5,500,000 KRW (approximately $5,000) for thirty days. Ad durations can last anywhere from seven to ninety days.

As you may have noticed, different links lead to a variety of landing pages. These help users find out more about brand services, products, events, and others. Brand campaigns add to conversations and clicks, while ads for brand search can exponentially improve performance through informative links and visibility.

Naver Brand Search Ads PC

Naver Ads - Brand Ads - PC Light

Naver Ads - Brand Ads - PC Premium Image

Naver Ads - Brand Ads - PC Premium Video

Naver Brand Search Ads Mobile

Naver Ads - Brand Ads - Mobile Light

Naver Ads - Brand Ads - Mobile Light Thumbnails

Naver Ads - Brand Ads - Mobile Premium Autoplay

Naver Ads - Brand Ads - Mobile Premium Autoplay Thumbnail

Naver Ads - Brand Ads - Mobile Premium Wide Thumbnail Menu

Naver Ads - Brand Ads - Mobile Brand Zone Light

Naver Ads - Brand Ads - Mobile Brand Zone Premium

Your industry and goals will determine whether you choose to use mobile ads or desktop ads. Or why not both! Naver’s ads for brand search allow you to register only up to 30 keywords, and they don’t have a beta or a function for broad match. As such, you might miss many opportunities when hybrid keywords are queried. For instance:

A Naver Brand Search Ad for the search term "스타벅스" (Starbucks)

Yet when “스타벅스 카푸치노” (Starbucks Cappuccino) is queried instead, the same ad failed to appear because of the limited keywords that can be used:

No ads shown for the search term "스타벅스 카푸치노" (Starbucks Cappuccino)

By now, you may have realized that you can miss out on extensive brand keywords when considering conversions and clicks. So, you should carefully prioritize and research extensive brand keywords so that the ads will be shown to the maximum number of targeted and potential users.

Naver Ads for PPC

Naver’s PPC option offers two text fields:

  • Title, with a maximum of fifteen characters
  • Description, with a maximum of forty-five characters

The default keyword function may be used in tandem with the PPC option so that you can tailor your ad based on relevance. Say you create an ad with the following characteristics:

  • Ad title is, “Full-Service Digital Marketing Agency in Korea”
  • Ad description is, “Experienced Professionals. Free consultation for your marketing needs in Korea.”
  • Keywords are “Korean SEO,” “Digital Marketing Korea,” and “PPC Advertising Korea”

If a user queries “Korean SEO” your ad’s relevance will rank lower than had the same user queried “Digital Marketing Agency in Korea” instead. But if you use the {default text: keyword} function, then your ads will then have the following criteria:

• Ad title is, “Full-Service {default text: keyword} Provider in Korea”

• Ad description is, “Experienced Professionals. Free consultation for your {default text: keyword} needs in Korea.”

• Keywords are “Korean SEO,” “Digital Marketing,” and “PPC Advertising”

If the description and title go past their character limits, then your default text will show up instead of the user’s keywords. Say you chose “Korean Digital Marketing” as the default text. If one user queries “Korean Digital Marketing Services in Korea” (exceeding the max character count), then “Korean Digital Marketing” will replace the entire phrase that said user typed.

Final Comparison of Naver and Google Ads

Regardless of platform, fluency in Korean is absolutely necessary in targeting Korean markets. While advertisers coming from overseas may find Google Ads more familiar, it has pitfalls. It sometimes suggests irrelevant keywords, and the keyword planner isn’t accurate. Google Ads also requires you to consistently update negative keywords.

Naver Ads, on the other hand, provides only a limited amount of service in English. Sections of its UI is still only in Korean.

While it has been statistically proven that most Koreans are happier with Google’s quality than with Naver, Naver still remains the largest search engine within the country. As such, CPC ends up higher and bid price more competitive.

Google Ads accepts a variety of payment options in different currencies. Naver Ads works only with prepaid. In addition, we recommend that whichever currency you use to top up, you should run ads using Korean won. This currency discrepancy may disturb your budget.

Overall, Naver Ads have better ROI despite their costlier CPC, and Google Ads performs better among B2B clients.

Advantages of Google Ads

  • Less competition leading to lower bidding prices
  • More click and keyword opportunities due to their match types and better geographical targeting
  • More easily accessible to advertisers from overseas

Disadvantages of Google Ads

  • Not wholly suited to the Korean language (meaning that irrelevant keywords show up on the keyword planner)
  • Not as impressive to Koreans as Naver
  • Monitoring negative keywords is tedious and time consuming, moreso at first (when using modified broad match or broad match)

Advantages of Naver Ads

  • Higher impressions and better ROI
  • Its ad for brand search can show many links simultaneously and has great visibility
  • Its keyword tool accurately provides keywords associated with search terms

Disadvantages of Naver Ads

  • Higher CPC and bid competition
  • Limited geographical targeting (only abroad or South Korea)
  • Only has three languages (Japanese, English, and Korean) to manage the system and two (English and Korean) for keywords

The choice is ultimately, of course, up to you. Where you turn your effort and resources for paid search in Korea is dependent on your language skills in Korean, goals, budget, industry, and contributing factors that are unique to your business.

In an ideal world, you would be able to advertise on both ad platforms. But often, due to budget and time constraints, that just isn’t possible. That’s why it’s key to comprehend the similarities and differences of both platforms so that you can make the most of the functions unique to them. We hope that this guide helped you understand the two platforms better!

Inquivix provides PPC services for clients around the world looking to enter the Korean market. We help set up, deploy, manage, and optimize ad campaigns on Google, Naver, Kakao, Daum, and more. If you are looking to establish your brand presence and increase your sales in Korea, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.