Semantic Search in Asian Languages: Enhancing the User Experience

The world wide web has become the world’s largest source of information. Much like a giant library with information that’s instantly accessible at the touch of a few keystrokes. According to sources, online searches have three main purposes: data, content, and applications.

But how do users find this information? The answer may seem simple at first—keywords. However, search engines are becoming much more sophisticated and keywords alone are not enough. In fact, user intent and context are starting to drive searches.

And with this comes the rise of semantic search. But what is semantic search, what are the most popular search engines in Asia, how do they cater to it, and what lessons can we learn? In this article, we explore the answers to these questions.

What is semantic search?

In the days when search engine optimization (SEO) started coming to the fore in terms of having a website or your content rank on a site, it was enough to do some keyword research, pepper your keywords in the content, publish it, and wait for the search engine algorithm to rank your page. However, today semantic search comes to the fore with search engines like the West’s Google and China’s Baidu catering ever more finely to user intent.

This means that even if a user enters several keywords in a search engine search bar, the answer that arises may not even feature these keywords but will feature the answer that the user is looking for. It’s all about the user intent when searching and this is where semantic search comes to the fore.

Google and other search engines are increasingly aiming to provide sharp and accurate answers almost instantly to their users by focusing not on keyword-stuffed articles or websites but on content that addresses the user’s query.

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Algorithms are trained to process large volumes of data and analyze this data to bring the most relevant search results. However, there has been a recent technological change in searches with the rise of voice search technology.

These voice searches are much more natural, using long-tail keyword queries to ask the search engine for information. Whether accessed on a mobile or desktop device, voice searches in Asia are on the rise because they are said to provide more accurate answers much faster than typing out the search query.

As such, the user experience (UX) with search is changing and it is becoming a much more natural way of searching and inputting data, akin to speaking your instructions to your PC or smartphone.

But with the changes in search, the user experience is driving changes in how search engines rank pages, what information they consider valuable, etc. These search engines’ algorithms are constantly being redeveloped and updated to cater to more refined searches or to semantic search and this means a better UX.

While these machines are in the process of learning, we can expect natural search queries to continue rising while competition among search engines to deliver the most accurate results will also continue to increase.

What are the most popular search engines in Asia’s top markets?

With the rise of semantic search globally, we see search engines competing to offer users the most relevant, accurate, and authoritative information. But what is the breakdown of the search engine market across Asia? We explore the answer to this question in more detail below.

User Experience for Asian Languages

  • China: China has a standalone search engine market because its “great firewall” has banned access to most Western sites and search engines such as Google, YouTube, and others. The most recent data from August 2023 indicates that the country’s most popular search engine is Baidu with a 61.62% share of the market. Bing comes in a far second at 17.09%, Haosou at 9.14%, and Sogou with 4.9%. Let’s focus on Baidu. As the country’s largest and most used search engine, it has around 677 million monthly active users. In addition, its main audience is Chinese individuals although a small percentage of its users are from Japan and the US. Also worth noting is that although Sogou has a comparatively lower market share, it processes around 802 million voice requests a day from its mobile app.
  • India: India’s primary search engine is Google with 98.5%. This is followed by Bing with 0.96%, and Yahoo! With 0.3%.
  • Indonesia: Google dominates here again with 94% of the market share. Bing has less than 1% of the market in Indonesia.
  • Thailand: It’s a similar story in Thailand with Google capturing around 98% of the market. As for Bing, it holds less than 1% of the market.
  • Philippines: Google again dominates in the Philippines with over 95% market share in this country. Bing’s market share here is 2.74% and Yahoo!’s market share is 1.66%.
  • Japan: The market share of Google in Japan is 75.34%, followed by 13.83% for Yahoo! Japan, and 9.8% for Bing.
  • Taiwan: Google’s market share in Taiwan is 91.69%. This is followed by Yahoo! At 5.68% and Bing with 2.42% of the share. Baidu’s market share in Taiwan is around 0.05%.
  • South Korea: South Korea is another interesting market because although Google holds a 63.37% market share, the local Naver comes in second at 31.27%. Bing holds 3.57% and Daum’s share is just over 1%.
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How are the most popular Asian search engines doing semantic searches?

Although China’s Baidu said as far back in 2012 that they had mastered the art of semantic search way before Google did, there are still many lessons to be learned about this type of search, and machines such as natural language processors are constantly being fed data to come up with the most relevant search queries.

Despite Google and Baidu having the greatest market share across Asia, it’s worth considering how other search engines are faring and what strategies they are using.

For example, although Bing has similar SEO best practices to Google, its focus is on more precise keywords. In addition, it places greater emphasis on websites with multimedia, and it rewards websites with a strong social media presence.

When it comes to Naver, the search engine results page (SERP) looks very different from Google because it is split into different sections. As such, a fully optimized website can appear in multiple spots in the different sections. Essentially, the layout changes depending on each search.

Conclusion: Lessons learned

When it comes to processing more natural language search queries—or semantic search queries—across different search engines, it’s essential to take into account the popularity of different search engines across different Asian countries.

A one-size-fits-all strategy will not be successful and it is essential to localize your website or app presence for a particular Asian country that you’d like to enter.

With the rise of semantic search globally, however, we are likely to see much more competition from search engines as they battle to bring users the most relevant answers—both from typed and voice search queries.

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Technology will continue to evolve and the more natural your content is, while being localized for the local language, the greater commercial success you are likely to enjoy in Asia.