Although Google dominates many of the local markets around the world, and is commonly known as the global search engine leader, there are places where it struggles to gain any form of traction. In South Korea, the biggest player in this space is Naver, and it hogs around 70% of the market, which is a larger share than what Google has in the US. If you’re looking at Korea as one of your main markets, then you might have to forget what you know about SEO, because Naver is far from a Google clone.
Breaking Down Naver’s SERP
The clutter-free layout that Google has championed for years is probably your default expectation whenever you think about a SERP. For Naver, the white background is probably the only familiar feature. Perform a search, and instead of being given 10 results and some sponsored ads, you are given what is probably the longest result page in the search engine world.
Usually, the first section of results that you get is not the standard organic results. Instead, the first, biggest section is almost always links to paid search results or social media and user generated content. What follows after that, is a mixture of sources from news sections, knowledge content, whitepapers and academic reports, related books and vertical results from images, videos, shopping and locations. Many of these come from Naver’s own properties and archives. Only once you have scrolled through all of this will you finally see a small collection of organic web results, if you’re lucky. In the example screenshot here, you’ll notice that there are in fact zero (0) organic web results!
Korean Social and Search Convergence
As a result of Naver’s preference to favour its own platforms, it places even greater emphasis on ensuring that you have a presence with them. One of these places you can start with and we are talking about in more depth this time is the Naver Cafe pages and you can build your own cafe for free as long as you are a registered Naver user. This page is quite flexible and you’ll find that there are a number of areas and widgets that can be customised.
Quite a common practice is for companies to collaborate with influential cafes. Many cafes will also use sweepstakes and other coupons to try to drive the number of fans and followers they have. Influential cafes will likely perform better and rank higher in the SERP, so it is worth investing a substantial amount of time in building up the right profile.
Optimising Naver Cafe
So now it becomes obvious that you need to approach Korea somewhat differently. Following the best practices of dressing up your website won’t necessarily help you a great deal when it comes to ranking on Naver. Instead, you can start with optimising your Naver Cafe to stand a chance of appearing above the foot of the page.
As you can guess, the exact science behind optimising a property such as Naver Cafe is not blindingly obvious. From what we can see, there are a number of things that play a part. The number of members you have is an important part, so as mentioned previously, make sure you put in the required time this deserves.
Because you’ve been building up a decent following, you are likely to have a good amount of content to push out anyway. Keep active, as this is important too. Naver will not want to link out to cafes that are inactive. Whilst there isn’t a precise number of posts per week to check this box, it would be a good idea to be as regular as time permits you.
Tied into this is the number of comments and shares/recommendations that your cafe receives too. A more popular cafe sends out strong signals to Naver and this in turn encourages it to rank your cafe page higher than the rest.
Also be aware of where your keywords are placed on your cafe page. Just like a Facebook or G+ page, there are certain areas that you will want to populate with your primary keywords. The same rules apply here, think about your titles and descriptions, in addition to containing useful links out to information sources. Keyword density also plays a part, so in any posts that you add to your cafe, think about this too.
Using various pieces of media in your posts seems to be part of the formula as well. Videos and images all provide extra fodder for Naver to pick up and list out on its SERPs. This is a good opportunity, so if you have time, make sure that you ensure keywords are set up right for any tagging and text around the media.
As you can see, SEO on Naver is not as straightforward as you might have thought. The biggest thing that you need to remember is that the SERP is not purely about external websites. These can only be found below the long list of all of Naver’s own properties. If anything, trying to get a placement on the SERP is your very own case study in social SEO, where you need to cultivate and grow your community around the social media and user generated content sections. One way to manage this is by keeping the above ranking factors in mind and proving that your cafe is influential and useful for the wider user base.