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Google’s International Challenges

MoreVisibility - May 8, 2007

Although Google has, and still is dominating the United States’ online market, its achievements in international operations have not been as successful. In particular, two large markets, Russia and China continue to cause problems for the internet giant. Difficulties are blamed on politics and complexities of languages and culture.

In China, Google was allowed to operate only after agreeing to self-censor its search results. To comply with China’s censorship laws, the company agreed to purge its search results of any Web sites disapproved of by the Chinese government, including Web sites about some religious movements, political and historical events, promoting free speech in China, etc. If you compare searches on some of the terms anywhere in the world to the same searches inside China on, your results will be completely different.

In regard to language, Russian is the best and most noticeable example. Despite having, Sergey Brin, a former Russian national as its founder, Google has struggled with understanding Russian language structure. Much of Google’s recent success in the United States has come as a result of the technical superiority of its search algorithm. By failing to understand the complexities of the Russian language, Google is losing to local competition like the Russian internet giants Yadex and Rambler, who from the outset focused exclusively on a Cyrillic interface and on performing their algorithms to work specifically with the language. The local search systems conduct a pre-search query preparation, performing a linguistic analysis of the search term. The analysis is highly adept in dealing with Russian grammar and morphology.

Culturally, Google finds it challenging to appeal to the user’s hearts. In large markets like China and Russia, nationalism runs high and domestic corporations are simply closer to home, more familiar and by implication more trustworthy. Lastly, as powerful of a name presence as Google has established in the United States, which culturally developed into a new English verb “to Google”, such strong name presence has not been established by Google in these large markets.

Despite their underachievement, Google’s share of the market, in both countries is averaging 22%. Google is a significant competitor, keeping the local leaders on their toes. At the same time, the corporation is farther from the dominating two of the largest global markets than they hoped to have.
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