A few thanks are necessary up front. First, Zac Pullen from New Zealand's First Rate reminds me every few days how much Yankees can learn from Kiwis; he coordinated the New Zealand interview. Also, Ryan Govindan of India was tremendously helpful. As for China's Mr. Kobler, it's the second time I've interviewed him, the first time having been for the indispensable eMarketer Daily. Lastly, I'll thank MediaPost's readers for your suggestions on who to include in future editions. By popular demand, there will indeed be sequels.
No need to thank the Academy though; it's time to turn over the podium to today's panel.
Meet the Panelists
New Zealand: Jon Ostler, Founder & Technical Director, First Rate, founded 2001. First Rate was previously part of Ostler's Web design company; he has engaged in search engine optimization (SEO) since 1999. Services
include natural search, paid search, return on investment (ROI) analysis, and market/competitor research using search data.
China: Vincent F. Kobler, CEO, EmporioAsia Inc., founded 1999. Specializes in multilingual natural search engine optimization mainly for the English-speaking and Chinese-speaking markets.
India: P. Govindan Chettiar, Internet Marketing Manager, Enable Communications Founded 1993, the company began search engine marketing (SEM) specialization in 2003. Services include paid search management, SEO, link building, business development, Internet marketing, blog management, e-commerce Web site management, Yahoo! Store management and Miva Merchant Module support, and search engine research and development.
Search Insider (SI):How do you say "search engine marketing" in your native tongue?
New Zealand: Search engine marketing
China: "So Suo En Gin Xuan Quan" in Chinese
India: Internet marketing. [Ryan Govindan noted English is preferred over Hindi for such terminology.]
SI: What search engines do you predominantly work with?
New Zealand: Google, MSN, Yahoo!
China Google for English, Baidu/Sina/Sohu/Netease for Chinese
India: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AltaVista, Alltheweb, Hotbot, Excite and a few country-based sites and regional search engines
SI: Many of the world's largest search
engines originated in the United States. How well do they stack up against local favorites?
New Zealand: Google.co.nz is the only good local implementation by a U.S. provider. It returns the best results, plus Adwords is targeted by country or region filter. MSN and Yahoo! both have issues and have offered poor user experience for many years. As a result, the NZ market share looks like this: Google - 46 percent, MSN Search - 7 percent, Yahoo! Search - 4 percent (Hitwise 2005). So Google is very important for us and our clients. For client targeting international markets, Yahoo! and MSN are just as important as Google given the greater market share of these players in the U.S.
China: Google is one of the market leaders in China too.
India: In India, I don't see competition to the largest search engines that originated in the U.S. But yes, the regional search engines are now becoming a trend since people like to see search results in their local languages. This will take time to gain popularity, and it is nice to see Google India as the first to work toward it.
SI:In what ways could search engines in your market better meet the
needs of Internet users and search engine marketers? And in what ways do the search engines excel?
XtraMSN: Technology is in beta. Needs worldwide or NZ search toggle like Yahoo! And Google, also needs sponsored links on a self-service CPC basis (a la Overture).
Yahoo!: Needs a true New Zealand site. Currently New Zealand is just an add-on to the Australia site. Overture needs a New Zealand-only filter for ad placement
Google is the only player who has taken the region seriously with a dedicated NZ site offering local search, local ads, and local news.
China: Search engines like Google need to have more relevant Chinese-language results, which is one of their weaknesses compared to their main competitor Baidu, which is more Chinese-focused.
India: Regional-language search engines are the best, which is coming up in India as I mentioned above. Most of the population in India sees the main search engines as a one-stop resource for all their searches.
For further thought
SI: What search-related innovations most excite you?
Yahoo! and MSN taking search seriously at last
Contextual advertising powered by search technology (AdSense)
Google still seems to be leading the way with developments like Google Suggest
Still a long, long way to go with local search -- Yellow Pages meets Google!
India: Nothing specific as of now. I'm very excited with video search. I really want to see how it works all over the world and not just in the USA.
SI: What are the greatest challenges, threats, and/or obstacles for SEM in your
Education: Advertising sites on TV and radio before tackling all the more effective online marketing channels like search. Understanding that online marketing especially search is not like print or TV. You would not put a print ad on TV and you would not put a TV commercial in print so why try and put them on the Web?
Lazy marketing: Not taking time to devise an effective strategy, not measuring ROI, not challenging conventional offline thinking or taking time to understand the online world.
China: Awareness, and educating clients that search is a very important part of the marketing mix along with interactive marketing in general.
India: The concepts of natural search and paid search are similar in India in that both come down to leads and business development. It takes time to convince marketers how it works, and that both paid and natural search should be considered different and unique business models.
SI: Are there any myths about SEM that you'd like to correct?
There are no quick fixes or fully automated approaches.
Search engine marketing is just one tactic within your marketing strategy and on its own is not going to make you a millionaire.
Rankings are not important. Sales or inquiries should be the measure of any SEM campaign.
India: We are educating people. It will take some more time to show real benefits, and right now every thing is gloomy. Even search engines are taking initiative to educate the world, and right now we are in to a stage where we have to go a long way. This is the time where lots of work has to be done to reach a particular level. It's like a vicious circle. Nothing is certain right now, and the most important factor is time.
Thanks Jon, Vincent, and Govindan, along with all others who helped along the way. Next week, we'll try to make sense of the insight from six experts spanning the globe.