Jack Rotgar
8 min readApr 26, 2023

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Korean search engine Naver

Naver is the first South Korean portal launched in June 1999. Its core is the proprietary search engine.

According to statistics provided by Similarweb, naver.com has more than billion visits per month. 94.34% of users are from South Korea, 1.61% — from the USA, 0.83% of the users are from Japan, 0.74% — from China, 0.28% — from Canada, and 2.20% are from other countries.

As of today, Naver occupies from 50% to 70% on the South Korean search engine market. Such scattered data are explained not only by the counting methods but also by the Naver service peculiarity: not every portal visitor uses the search engine, thus, only a small part of click-throughs to other websites is due to organic search. E.g., according to KoreanClick, for March 2023 Naver was visited by 26,406, 913 unique users against 14,657,169 unique Google users via desk computers. The share of mobile Naver users is a bit larger: 30,743,077 unique users. Google is not included in top 10 websites of the mobile device users in Korea being way below its services Google Play and YouTube.

The Naver search results significantly differ from those of Google. While the main principle Google uses is integration, i.e., everything that one found is provided as a single list (even PPC advertising simulates the organic search as much as possible), Naver suggests the user a set of theme blocks (more than 20 types!) locating the results of organic search through the websites to the page lower part. Essentially, Naver is something between the catalog and search engine. The block sequence is variable and depends on the category to which the query will be referred by Naver. The relevant changes of the website ranging algorithm in the search engine Naver can be found in the official blog Naver Search (https://blog.naver.com/naver_search).

Consider the most popular blocks one can see in the Naver search results.

1. Brand searches (홈페이지)

If one searches for a certain brand, the upper block of the search results contains the brand information. For example, when searching by the word Samsung (삼성) a corresponding block arises. However, if one searches for some specific goods, e.g., plastic windows, no relevant block is found.

2. PPC advertising (파워링크)

The next block of the search results is PPC advertising (related announcements). Detailed instructions on the Naver advertising system can be obtained by pressing the symbols 등록 안내 (registration instruction) in the right upper corner of the block.

3. Naver purchases (네이버쇼핑)

If the query is identified as goods, a block of the Naver controlled market place arises (https://shopping.naver.com/home).

4. Images (이미지)

This block is shown by Naver in case it assumes that the user might search for an image. For example, searching for 고양이 (cat) one can see nice photos of house cats.

5. Namuwiki

Namuwiki is a South Korean online encyclopedia with the hosting in Paraguay. “Namu” is translated from Korean as a “tree”, the company’s slogan is “The tree of knowledge you grow”. Namuwiki was launched on April 17, 2015. It operates on the proprietary (not free) software The Seed. Namuwiki differs from Wikipedia by the fact that it doesn’t require any reputable sources; one needs some reference to the source only at direct quoting.

6. Social networks block

Social networks are represented as a separate Naver block. The top-3 social networks in South Korea (in the descending order): Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, Korean Naver Cafe ranks only the 4th. During SMM-planning it is recommended to orient towards these brands.

7. Mobile applications (앱정보)

Bear in mind that South Korea is one of the leaders in terms of mobile device users, that is why the block of mobile devices can arise even when searching with desktop computers. For example, by the query “manga” Naver shows the block that suggests downloading mobile applications from Google Play.

8. Music block

A music block shows the music relating to the query. For example, by the query 공간 (space) it shows the text of the similarly-named song by Lee Jeong Kwon, the play button and the album cover from the music reproduction service Naver VIBE.

It has the following characteristics: if Naver unambiguously identifies the query as a song name, the music service block comes to the top and become more complex. E.g., by the query Jingle Bells the search engine shows the following result. In addition to the general information (전체) in the upper menu one can choose the information about the song (곡정보), the album (수록앨범), the associated playlist (관련 플레이리스트) and similar singers (비슷한 아티스트). The following blocks contain the songs from the same album (같은 앨범 수록곡), the associated playlist (관련 플레이리스트) and musical services where one can listen to the song specified (들을 수 있는 곳).

9. Video (동영상)

The search results contain not only the videos from the Naver proprietary video services but also from external services. One can watch the video directly on the search page or going to the landing page.

10. Places (플레이스)

This block operates jointly with a free service for controlling Naver business information Naver Smart Place (https://smartplace.naver.com). To be included in the system, it is recommended to upload the business registration certificate. The period for information check is not more than 5 days. If the information does not correspond to the Smart Place criteria, the registration can be suspended, and additional documents will be requested.

The Smart Place participants can include only the companies located in South Korea relating to the target region. The registration is possible only in case the company runs legal business while the information on the company’s location and phone number in Korea is relevant for the user or (in case of network shopping centers) is considered to be such.

11. Dictionaries (사전)

In case the query is a word in some foreign language, Naver shows the dictionary block (https://dict.naver.com). The block lower section contains synonyms/antonyms (유의어·반의어) for the word.

12. Website search / Organic search

A small block in the lower page section. The number of search results depends on the query. When clicking through the link 검색결과 더보기 (more search results) the users get to the customary page with organic results. Here one can find the PPC advertising located on the right.

When ranging the websites Naver takes into account:

● quality, relevance and content unique character at the landing page,

● behavioral factors including the number of clicks from the search results and the time spent on the website,

● language (for good ranging the website should be in Korean),

● website optimization for mobile devices (in Korea the number of mobile Internet users tends to 100%),

● page creation date (newer pages are considered to be more relevant by Naver),

● high-quality innerlinking,

● prefers information pages to commercial ones,

● prefers the websites providing official information,

● prefers structurally organized web documents,

● does not like subdomains.

13. News (뉴스)

Searching through the news is presented as a separate block. When following the link 뉴스 더보기 (more news) the users get to the same page which is shown in the organic search results (https://search.naver.com/search.naver) with the GET parameter where=news. It is possible to sort the news by relevance and the date as well as the possibility to filter them by the categories and search by the reporter’s name. Not only Korean mass-media are used as news sources, for example, by the query manga one can see The New York Times in the list of search results.

14. Encyclopedias (지식백과)

Search through encyclopedias. When following the link in the block upper right corner 학생백과 the users get to the same page which is shown in the organic search results (https://search.naver.com/search.naver) with the GET parameter where=kdic.

15. Blogs

Naver has its own blog service (https://section.blog.naver.com). If the query coincides with the blog theme sections, Naver shows a special block. For example, searching for 여행 (travels) one gets the following block.

Signing up

It is quite easy to sign up in Naver. The upper right corner of the portal main page has an authorization section:

Select Sign up and get to the following page.

Here everything is described in simple English. If some other language is shown, you can switch to English in the upper right corner. Two upper ticks are mandatory, two lower ones are not.

Fill in the form and wait for the confirmation code via sms or a voice call from your national phone number. The list of countries from where one can sign up is quite large, so, it is not necessary to buy a Korean number. Here you are, you get into the English user area.

Naver Search Advisor

Naver Search Advisor (https://searchadvisor.naver.com/console/board) is the tool for web masters that allows adding up to 100 websites in the system and monitoring their condition. Before using the tool, study the web master guide (https://searchadvisor.naver.com/guide). The document is in Korean; however, the automatic translation service provides good translation.

Naver Ad Services

This page contains the description of Naver advertising formats in simple English. Here are some of them:

● PPC advertising,

● Naver Click Choice announcements (advertising space on the portal + partner network) with the CPC payment method,

● brand search,

● media advertising (Time Board, Rolling Board, Mobile Banner),

● advertisement in Naver Shopping Box.

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