Multilingual SEO: The Global Search Engine Landscape

Multilingual SEO| Creative Translation

From big firms to globally expanding start-ups, every brand has now realised the strategic importance of multilingual SEO for business growth and international visibility on the Internet.

But does your international SEO plan have a blind spot?

Search engine optimisation is continuously evolving and brands often struggle to keep up with the shifting sands of SEO in their local market. Not surprisingly, adapting the SEO strategy for overseas markets is even more challenging. This is particularly true for those who are targeting countries where Google is NOT the leading player in the search engine market.

To get started with international SEO, it is critical to understand your potential customers’ digital behaviour and preferences in each target market. While Google remains the first choice in most countries around the world, there are a few places where other search engines lead the way. This happens, just to name a few, in three of the largest markets in terms of Internet users: Russia, China and South Korea.

In the next paragraphs, we are going to lay the foundations of international SEO by exploring these situations in detail. However, a quite comprehensive table of search engine market shares in 2013, listed by country, can be found here.


The most popular search engine in Russia is Yandex, with over 62% market share. According to Bloomberg’s data for 2013, Google owns less than a third of the market (26%), while the rest is fragmented between minor competitors.

When it comes to developing an SEO strategy for the Russian market, Yandex SEO requirements should be the first thing to look at. This article from Search Engine Journal covers most of them in detail.

Social media play an important role in climbing the result page, too. Facebook’s Russian counterpart is vKontakte, which counts over 100 million active users, while the second most popular domestic social network is Odnoklassniki.



With the world’s biggest Internet user base (over 600 million people) China’s digital space represents an unmissable marketing opportunity for global brands.

In the Chinese search engine market Baidu is the first player, holding approximately 55% market share (last update Feb 2014). Baidu’s main competitors are the emerging 360 Search (29%) and Sougou – now re-branded as Haosou (14%), while Google, Yahoo! and Bing together barely reach the 2%. (source:

Understanding Baidu’s PPC and SEO ranking factors is critical for Western brands who aim at conquering the Chinese market. This article from Search Engine Land goes deeply into the matter, describing Baidu’s search engine optimisation best practices, with a focus on its specific content, technical and law requirements.

With regards to social media, brands need to bear in mind that Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are blocked in the Chinese market. However, Chinese are among the world’s most active social media users, distributed across multiple local social networks and blogging platforms, such as Sina and Tencent Weibo, QZone, Renren and Kaixin001.

South Korea

With the highest broadband penetration in the world, South Korea has a very dynamic online economy with a well-connected, tech-savvy population. It’s no surprise that so many Western brands are seeking to expand their reach in this region.

To this end, the first search engine to optimize for is the local Naver, which has approximately 50% market share. It is followed by Google (37%) and Daum (7%). (source: MVF Global)

Due to the peculiarity of the SERP layout and the complexity of the language, Naver search engine optimisation requires an almost unique strategic approach. It is possible to find more details and useful advice on Naver SEO and PPC in this article from WMU.

Moving forward to the South Korean social media landscape, it is worth noting that the country counts the second largest blogging community in the world (after China), distributed across different platforms, such as Naver Blog and Daum Blogs.

According to Nielsen Korea, the most popular social networks in South Korea are Facebook and Cyworld. Also Twitter performs particularly well, with over 3 million users and 34 million tweets a day.

Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong

In many APAC countries such as Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, Google and Yahoo! hold similar market shares. For those brands who are planning to grow their online exposure in these areas it is important not to overlook Yahoo! SEO.

In Conclusion

Although the global search engine market is largely dominated by Google, it is critical for brands to consider the other players when planning their international SEO strategy, especially when targeting Russia and most Asian Pacific countries.

Simply following the language requirements of each search engine is a step on the right direction. However, in order get ahead and thrive in the evolving global landscape, brands need to make sure they are also targeting the right keywords.

Creative Translation can help you avoid SEO blind spots and assist in the planning and implementation of a bespoke strategy for your brand in each market. We also provide carefully adapted, optimised keywords, and seed them into the translation of your digital content to make sure that your international SEO strategy is effective in any market.

To find out how Creative Translation can help you with multilingual SEO and PPC, call us on +44 (0)20 7294 7710 or email us at