Understanding Google’s Guts and Bing’s Brain: Global Search Engines Demystified

Written by Petr Klement

August 24, 2018

SEO can be a daunting enough task in your home country, using the search engine you know inside and out. Step abroad, however, and you’ll find yourself treading across unfamiliar territory in more ways than one. Just as people across the world have different customs, foods and views, they also approach the internet from a variety of different perspectives. Chief amongst these is their choice of search engine.

Though many countries have their own local options, we’ll be focusing on four of the world’s most popular search engines: Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex. For each, we’ll examine where it’s preferred, what your PPC options look like, and what you can do to enhance your SEO performance. This way, no matter where you’re heading, you’ll be prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

Google: The undisputed world champion, except for a few places.

Given Google’s global market share of 91.74 percent, it’s easier to list the countries in which the American behemoth isn’t the most popular search engine, as opposed to the other way around. A big one is China, largely because Google is blocked by the country’s internet restrictions, and there, local platform Baidu is king. Taiwan turns to Yahoo, while South Korea and Russia prefer their own respective domestic options.

PPC: Not cheap, but there’s a massive audience out there.

Google AdWords (soon to become Google Ads) is your path to PPC. You’ll bid against other advertisers on your keywords of choice, setting a maximum CPC (cost-per-click) for each ad. If your bid is the highest, users will see your ad when searching for that particular keyword. AdWords also allows users to pay by impressions, conversions or views, depending on the nature of the ad.

SEO: If you’re not mobile-friendly, don’t even bother.

For SEO, you won’t have to travel far, as Google Analytics is already included. If you have a Google account, you can also use their Webmaster Tools for additional analysis. To secure good performance for your page, be sure that it’s mobile-friendly and has an SSL certificate. Google hates spam, so avoid artificial links and other similar techniques.

Bing: A 33% share in the US means it does more than download Chrome.

Bing is Microsoft’s horse in the search engine race, but contrary to its gargantuan parent company, Bing is far from the favorite in any country. However, with a nine percent global share, it does carry significant sway in many places—Canada and the UK among them, as well as over 30 percent in the US—and so it’s worth pursuing if you plan on heading into those markets. Bing’s increasing popularity can be largely attributed to Windows 10 as well as its handling of AOL and Yahoo searches.

PPC: More limited in reach, but often a cheaper buy.

Get ahead of competition with Bing Ads, the platform’s inbuilt PPC system. Though Bing’s market share is far smaller than Google’s, there’s a silver lining: your CPC will tend to be much cheaper with Bing Ads, leading to a satisfying ROI despite the lower volume. Bing Ads offers a healthy degree of control, allowing savvy users to fine-tune their campaigns for increased performance.

SEO: Social media and keyword matching are key.

Your go-to platform for SEO on Bing is its SEO Analyzer. Compared to Google, Bing places more weight on social media reach, so it’s important to ensure your social media game is on-point when optimizing. Backlinks are as important as ever, with quality over quantity the guiding philosophy. Further setting Bing apart is its emphasis on exact keyword matches, so you’ll want to dial in on your H1 and H2 wording.

Yahoo: Usually it’s Bing, except when it’s Google.

Yahoo, now part of the Oath umbrella, still plays a dominant role throughout much of the world. One in four searches in Japan are performed on Yahoo, and it fields over 10 percent of searches in both the US and Taiwan.

PPC: Native ads as well as search ads for greater variety, but low volume.

Yahoo’s PPC platform is Gemini, and unlike AdWords or Bing Ads, it’s not limited to search results only. Gemini combines paid search ads with options for native advertising, such as app install ads or sponsored Tumblr posts. If these fit your demographic, it’d be worth your while to take a look. Given Gemini’s low CPC and nuanced targeting options, you’re more likely to see favorable ROI, especially for smaller-scale campaigns. Yahoo users also tend to be exclusive, meaning you wouldn’t reach them with PPC ads on other engines.

SEO: Do what you do on Bing, except in Japan.

Yahoo is a bit of a strange beast, in that it outsources the majority of its searches to Bing. In this context, anything you do to please Bing will be equally applicable to Yahoo. One exception to this rule is Japan, where Yahoo partners with Google to provide search results. While Yahoo remains strong in Japan, you’ll want to focus SEO efforts towards Google’s standards, especially if you’re looking to win on mobile. Bing and Google handle most of Yahoo’s grunt work, but results are padded with Gemini ads, giving you another reason to consider the platform for sponsored content.

Yandex: Mandatory for all things Russia.

For Russia and many of its neighbors, you’ll be looking into Yandex. It’s Russia’s favorite search engine, controlling over half the market in terms of desktop and mobile searches. Even looking at mobile alone, Yandex is still a powerhouse, with a growing share that exceeds 40 percent since Google was compelled to allow for alternate search options on Android devices in Russia.

PPC: Tailor-made for the Russian language.

Like the others, Yandex provides its own self-contained PPC portal in the form of Yandex.Direct. Yandex.Direct features a number of mobile-specific options, including device OS, connection type, and device type. Users can select between various ad placement tiers, with appropriately-matched CPC values, so you’ll know exactly where your ad will appear on the results page. Due to the intricacies of the Russian language, keyword matching is handled differently on Yandex.Direct, so you may want to consider hiring a specialist to help you.

SEO: Play it by the book.

SEO in Yandex is a bit more cut-and-dry than with AdWords. Header and title tags take priority, and meta-keywords still carry a great deal of weight. Your inbuilt SEO management tool is Yandex.Webmaster, where you’ll need to upload a full site map. There, you can also specify all your geotargeting preferences. The engine also offers a keyword research tool to help you navigate searches in the Russian language.

In short: Always Google, then Bing/Yahoo and Yandex where necessary.

Given Google’s ubiquity, you’ll always want to take its preferences in account when making SEO tweaks. The high cost of its PPC program means that you’ll need to take caution when beginning campaigns, as it’s easy to waste a lot of money on little returns. In the event your target region has a significant Bing/Yahoo userbase, you may find it more cost-effective to focus your PPC efforts there instead. If you’re doing anything in Russia, make Yandex your new best friend.

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