Local is lekker: Baidu and Yandex control local search marketsPosted 11 August 2011 by Sandy Cosser
Google is often considered omnipotent – at least in countries where English is the lingua franca. But despite its mammoth reputation it is not the final word in search engines. Baidu, China’s search engine of choice, has many, many more users, offers a range of services to rival (if not surpass) Google’s and is growing at an impressive rate of knots. Yandex is Russia’s home grown search engine and like Baidu, is growing faster than you can say search traffic.
One of the interesting things about Baidu and Yandex, and there are a lot of interesting things about them, is that they both offer English search services. Obviously, both specialise in the languages of their home countries – both make allowances for the nuances and phonetic requirements of their languages – but they also make English their business. Baidu receives an estimated 10 million English searches per day.
Google’s algorithm, for all its sophistication, hasn’t been able to crack the intricacies that make Russian and Chinese searches so darn difficult.
Does this give Baidu and Yandex an edge over Google?
It certainly does in China and Russia, but Google’s hold on the English-speaking world at large is so tight that it’s not even close to being threatened.
From humble beginnings
Baidu’s beginnings are rather poetic. According to the official Baidu website, it was founded in 2000 by Robin Li, who got the name after being inspired by a poem written during the Song Dynasty, which was over 800 years ago. The website says, “The poem compares the search for a retreating beauty amid chaotic glamour with the search for one’s dream while confronted by life’s many obstacles.”
Search is at Baidu’s core, but is by no means its only purpose. Like Google it has News, Maps, Images and Video features. It also has an encyclopaedia, online community and knowledge-sharing platforms, a social network in Baidu Space, MP3 search, Japanese search, and government information search (for what it’s worth), as well as loads of other features. It even has its own version of PPC, called P4P (pay for placement), has just released its very own web browser and recently partnered with BMW to incorporate its search services into the company’s onboard vehicle systems.
Then there is the rumoured impending partnership with Facebook, not to mention the recent partnership with Bing.
Within the 11 years of its existence, it has grown to become the most used search engine in the world. Consider for a moment that the majority of China’s rural population still doesn’t have proper access to the internet. Now consider that Baidu has plans to bring the internet to that market. Is it any surprise that its growth rate is phenomenal and that its advertising revenue is seeing exponential returns?
Yandex is the most popular website in Russia and, with roughly 56 million users internationally, is the 8th biggest search engine in the world. Officially, Yandex was launched as a standalone company in 2000, which is makes it as old as Baidu. The difference is that it’s been going in some form or another since 1993, which was when Arkady Volozh and Ilya Segalovich first developed their unique search technology. Yandex is said to stand for Yet Another iNDEX, which I think is rather witty. Like Baidu it has its own social network and music player. Like Google it has a maps feature and a special Yandex Labs outfit (or at least, like Google had). It has real-time search capabilities, traffic reports and a Start Programme, which seeks out new start-ups and helps them develop.
Like Baidu and Google, it has a paid online marketing feature and is listed on the NASDAQ.
According to the official Yandex website, in March this year it received 38.3 million unique visitors. It has also extended its services into Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine. As of July this year Yandex started providing its selection of webmaster tools in English.
So, once again, do Baidu and Yandex pose a threat to Google?
No, but if Yandex continues to increase its focus on English it has the potential, however miniscule, to make Google look over its shoulder.
(Image by bfishadow, CC by 2.0, via Flickr)