For you non-Americans out there, Moody's is a ratings agency that provides ratings on the credibility of governments, corporations, and financial institutions. Moody’s tells you who’s trustworthy.
A pub is where the locals gather to chat. You can learn a lot in a pub.
Both are invaluable sources of information - but each serves a different purpose, and frequently you’ll want to consult both before making a decision.
You’ll frequently hear, “Koreans use Naver, not Google.” But that’s like saying, “Americans eat burgers not burritos.”
Koreans use both Naver and Google. And they understand the advantages of each. Do you?
What is Korea's #1 Search Engine? Naver.
Check out our comprehensive article explaining what Naver is if you’d like an in-depth understanding of Korea’s #1 search engine.
If you're not already familiar with Naver, the main thing you need to understand is that Naver SERPs primarily deliver content from inside of Naver. Kind of like a search on Facebook delivers content from Facebook.
(For those of you non-professionals out there, a SERP is a "Search Engine Results Page".)
Naver vs Google in South Korea
Everyone has been screaming that Google is gaining ground on Naver for years - but it never seems to take the lead. There's no doubt that Naver is the undisputed heavyweight champion when it comes to search in Korea. You would be hard pressed to find a Korean who says they use Google to search for things more often than Naver.
So we have to ask ourselves, with Google crushing it in nearly every free country in the world, why can't Google beat Naver in Korea?
Let's try to figure that one out.
Naver vs. Google Homepage Comparison
First let's do a quick homepage comparison. Here's Google's Homepage:
It's pretty obvious that Google is there to give you one thing, isn’t it?
Naver, on the other hand, is ready to give you everything from the weather to webtoons to shopping opportunities:
From advertisements to shopping to today's weather and a variety of media outlets, Naver wants to give you anything your heart may desire - and all at once.
Is Naver like Google? A SERP Comparison
Now let’s compare a common search that is certainly popular on both platforms. According to Ahrefs, World Cup is one of the most popular searches on Google, and you can bet it's a top search on Naver too. Both searches will be in the Korean language.
And as luck would have it for us, it is the middle of 2023 so the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup is going on right now.
First, let's look at Google:
3 sections in total on the first page.
1 is a schedule of upcoming games.
Section 2 leads you to some relevant external links like the relevant Wikipedia page and other social media accounts.
From there, it's all links to websites external to Google, based on Google's extensive criteria for determining a quality result for the search.
Notice, almost none of the links on this page lead to Google entities.
Now, let's take a look at the first part of Naver's SERP:
1 Naver’s information about the world cup has a link to Naver Sports section 1 there. That's right, Naver has their own sports page too, kind of like Google has Google News. It should be mentioned, that "Sports" newspapers in Korea can also focus on much more than sports - like a normal newspaper has sports, a "Sports" paper may have a lot of news in Korea.
2 On the right Naver links to some completely unrelated information about travel, shopping & technology. All of those links go to other Naver entities.
3 links to the three major networks in Korea and that is followed by the rankings that Google starts with.
4 is the game schedules for upcoming games. You may recall that this was Section 1 in Google.
In section 5 you will find today's videos and every single one of those videos links to SBS which could lead one to believe that they have an agreement to only use SBS content in that video section.
6 is the "전력분석" or "Power Analysis". Every one of these articles is a Naver Sports section article.
7 is where the "pub" aspect of Naver is really on display. That is simply a live chat window, where anyone logged into their Naver account can just start chatting about World Cup. Never seen anything like that on Google, huh?
Finally, section 8 leads to groupings of Naver Blog entries.
For the record, that means that sections 1, 2, 6, 7 & 8 lead to Naver internal content. Section 5 leads to what seems to be a partnership with Naver.
However, that's just the first section. Here's section 2 of the SERP:
The sections are called, "World Cup Schedule", "Pro Sports Influencer Contents" and "World Cup Host Country" respectively - and every one of those links goes to Naver Blogs.
But wait, there's more!
So now we've got "World Cup Venues", "Are you looking for a different World Cup?" & some Wikis and then a "News" section.
1 leads to - you guessed it - Naver Blogs.
2 leads to Naver Movies and a movie named "World Cup" and then some external Wikis
3 is all links to reputable news agencies that are external to Naver.
Did you think this was done? Nope, one more!
Images, Naver Shopping, KnowledgeiN (Naver's Q&A platform) and finally paid links, aka "Power Links", clearly marked with "Ad" next to them just like Google does.
One key takeaway - Korean's tend to be more accepting of lots of content thrown at them at once -- and scrolling a lot to find it.
Product pages on Korean ecommerce websites tend to go on forever too. Whereas a Western page would have tabs and other things to click on to allow people to choose what they view, Korean pages just seem to throw all the information at people possible in a long, scroll-able page. And Koreans love it!
Why Can't Google Beat Naver in Korea?
Naver's Korean, Google's Not
Let's state the obvious to start things out. In the Naver vs Google battle, Koreans are very proud that they use a domestic search engine. It is one of the few free countries in the world where Google doesn't dominate and they take great pride in that. Rightfully so.
Naver's Reliable - Maybe More Reliable Than Google
Next let's point out that Naver has some incredible internal resources and that by controlling so many aspects of the surfing experience it can really deliver a seamless search experience.
For instance, you'll almost never hit a 404 page with Naver because it monitors its own pages. Meanwhile, sometimes a page that Google ranks can be down when you click on the link, as Google crawls pages but doesn't run the site itself.
While becoming less and less common, blackhat SEOs can also sometimes show up for searches that don't really match the content. Google can be gamed on occasion even today. Naver can too, but it's a riskier move because...
Naver's The Only Game in Town For Many Services
Try blackhat SEO with Naver, and you'll lose your account. Then you're really screwed. Did I mention your account is tied to your Korean personal identification number? You can't just get an account with a simple email for Naver.
Signing up for Naver can be a very complicated process. If you lose your account you lose your access to Naver Maps, Naver email, Naver Cafes, NaverPay and more - which means real trouble if you're a Korean trying to live in Korea.
Naver's Loaded with Korean Content You Can't Find Anywhere Else
Let's face it. The majority of the Google SERPs for Korean-language searches would be loaded with Naver results if they weren't doing something to devalue Naver contents in their algorithm. Naver itself has different criteria for ranking results, so much of its content wouldn't match the Google criteria exactly, but still there's just so much there it would have to be ranking more than it is.
If Google didn't devalue Naver content though, it'd just be serving up the same results as Naver - and that wouldn't help Koreans who are looking for a normal website.
Do Koreans use Google?
Heck yes, Koreans use Google.
If a Korean wants to find an actual website they know that they go to Google to find websites. In fact, according to many of the Ahrefs search statistics we've seen, Google tracks higher for most B2B searches.
This is particularly true for suppliers of unique products - like ingredients for cosmetics or laser printers for instance.
Other common searches you'll find that Naver has approximately double or triple the search volume of Google.
This doesn't mean you should ignore Google though! There could be 20 or 30 paid links on a page in Naver for a Korean SERP whereas in Google there might not be any paid links because nobody's buying ads for the searching Google. This could lead to some great deals on clicks from Google.
Got some more insights into this Naver vs Google battle royal? When do you use Google and when do you use Naver? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
Thanks for reading!