Hannes Ben
Oct 11, 2016

The key APAC search engine updates you need to know about

Hannes Ben of Forward3D offers a summary of recent updates to the major APAC-specific search engines and how those changes are expected to impact performance,

Hannes Ben
Hannes Ben

APAC is known to be a highly complex region when speaking about search engine marketing. Core markets such as China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan all have their own platforms, and in some cases each of them offers a selection of their own ad products and functionality.

Instead of focusing on one particular engine, I would like to give a summary of recent updates to the major APAC-specific search engines, and how those changes are expected to impact performance.


Following the death of a Chinese student who purchased experimental cancer medication bought via a Baidu paid search ad, Baidu has started to make a number of changes to its ad regulations and structure.

Previously, it was not easy to differentiate a paid ad from organic results. Old ads had small print at the top right corner of the ad or at the end of the line where the display URL shows at the very bottom, saying ‘推广’ or ‘推广链接’, but this was not very obvious, and most users overlooked it when searching on Baidu.

The previous ‘推广’  indication of being an ad has now been replaced with a more prominent link saying ‘广告’ (advertising) at the top right of the ad section, which, if you click on it, gives an explanation about it being a commercial ad and that there are risks with ads since not everything said/promised in the ads may be accurate. There is only one such indication for the whole background-coloured ad area.

‘广告’ indication in the top right-hand side corner of a background coloured ad area.

Strangely there are still instances where ads have no background colour and in those cases the ‘广告’ indication appears at the end of the ad in a similar way as ‘推广’ in the past.

‘广告’ indication at end of ad with not coloured background.

It seems that there is no rule as to what ad indicators will be used, and it is not clear when and why one ad indicator option is being used over the other. Baidu may still be testing different options before making a final decision.

The total number of ads shown on the first page has been reduced from a maximum of 16 ads shown on center-top and bottom and/or right-hand side to maximum of four ads, which can be displayed at the center-top or bottom.

Following that change, the competition for the high ad positions has risen, resulting in higher CPCs. Advertisers should aim at getting high visibility for their Shantou ads (PPC ads with images and links, available in nine different formats) as they cover more space and mostly generate a strong CTR.

For brand keywords, we strongly suggest focusing on products such as Mini BrandZone or Full BrandZone, since cost for those products has not increased and clients can protect their brand in top positions with premium formats.

Lastly, organic results are becoming more important due to higher visibility and thanks to a number of updates to Baidu with the objective to improve organic quality; advertisers can now focus on quality, instead of the original quantity approach with link-building.


For many years Naver had only offered exact match for its paid search ads, with limited opportunities to discover missed keyword ideas.

At the end of last year, Naver added a new broad match type (‘Naver Keyword Expansion beta’), which covers synonyms and close variants of the actual search terms in the account. You can also run a search query report to extract the new keyword opportunities and add those terms as exact matches to your account, helping to improve reach and performance. So far, however, search volumes on the missed keyword opportunities from the new broad-match type keywords have been very low.

Another important update is the change to the account and campaign structuring in the Naver ad interface, which now allows you to add five ad copies per ad group instead of one per keyword. Consequently, A/B testing is now available on Naver, something which previously for Korea could only be done on Google.

Naver organic optimisation has always been complex, since it does not follow the same structure with paid and organic sections.Strategies commonly used on other search engines cannot be copied over. Strong visibility on highly relevant organic sections on Naver can only be achieved via optimisation on Naver’s own social products, such as Naver Blog, Café and Post. Naver Post is relatively new but has already grown into a particularly popular product, especially on mobile. Creating profiles on those Naver social platforms and applying the right mix of influencer management and article posting provides you with high visibility on all core organic sections in the Naver SERPs.

Yahoo!Japan (Y!J)

Y!J has released a limited amount of updates for its paid search ads over recent years. The only changes which have been recently announced are an update to the rules of display and destination URL usage, which now must have matching domain names. This change is aimed at eliminating misleading ads where users are attracted by one URL displayed when viewing the ad in the SERPs but are then sent to a totally different site.

Also, the way characters are counted on Y!J has been updated. Previously double-, and single-byte characters were both counted as one character. (Japanese, Chinese and Korean use double-byte characters, whereas other languages with an alphabet are predominantly based on single-byte characters.) Effectively this means that less content can be used for the Japanese double-byte language on Y!J, since now every character is counted twice, bringing the max for the title, description line 1 and description line 2 to 15, 18 and 18 characters, respectively—similar to Google standard ads (which are 12, 17 and 17 characters). On the other hand, since single-byte character count is higher than in the old ads, more English content (or any other Latin-based character languages) can be used.

Y!J has much more to offer than just paid search on its SERPs. Naver Matome is a hugely popular news curation platform in Japan and content optimisation via Naver Matome not only gives you extensive reach and grows brand awareness, but can also show up in the Y!J organic results if relevant to the searched keyword.

YCD (short for ‘Yahoo Content Discovery’) is a new display function where client content combining images, text and links can be shown on any Y!J News category page or its partner sites, such as “The PAGE”. Articles can be written and published within the partner sites and then pushed for reach via relevant sites in the Y!J content network, which in total has over 1.16 billion impressions per week.

Hannes Ben is EVP International at Forward3D

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