Search is simple, right?  Everybody always has and always will use Google (because it’s Google) and occasionally Bing (because it has pretty pictures).  Game over.  And that may well be true for you, if you are a working professional sitting in front of a PC somewhere in the nether-regions of corporate America cubicle land.

But what about those 25 million new Chinese internet users who’ve jumped online in the past six months (a majority of whom only know the web via a mobile device)?  Or those supremely (overly?) wired denizens of the interwebs in South Korea, browsing while navigating Seoul’s subways?  Turns out that “just Google it” is not a universally accepted solution for answering life’s questions.  In fact, search—and mobile search in particular—can get pretty messy.

As part of Adobe’s Digital Index team, I recently analyzed 2.5 billion visits to websites in Asia-Pacific, hoping to get some insights on search trends in the region.  The analysis led to some interesting findings that you can  check out through the full report here, but let me give you a couple of the headlines:

  • While Google dominates in many APAC countries, it struggles mightily in several others—namely China, South Korea, and Japan.
  • BUT, Google is doing better in the mobile arena across the board—for example in China, Google’s share of mobile search is 5X bigger than its share of PC search (and traditionally dominant Baidu has apparently taken notice).
  • DOUBLE BUT, Android does not appear to be the only driver of Google’s mobile search success, as Android device penetration and Google’s share of mobile search aren’t correlated.  (Yeah, I was pretty surprised too – check out the report to see why this is the case).

So what does this all mean?  Well, APAC search ≠ US search, for one thing.  But also China search ≠ Singapore search, China PC search ≠ China mobile search, and even Beijing search ≠ Hong Kong search.  For digital marketers trying to reach a global audience, it’s clear that taking a one-size-fits-all approach to SEM and SEO just won’t cut it.  Country-by-country and device-specific strategies are a must!

If your head isn’t spinning enough already, bear in mind that this messy situation is nothing if not dynamic.  See for example Apple cozying up to Baidu or Microsoft and Google getting into the mobile hardware business (with their respective search engines securely in tow) as evidence that things are not going to get simpler any time soon.  So those country and device-specific strategies will need to be regularly  adapted to account for new technologies and shifting alliances.

So what do you think?  How well is your company doing at tailoring its SEM and SEO strategies to specific geographies?  Are you ready for the incoming wave of mobile search traffic?

If you just can’t get enough, check out what my colleague Tamara Gaffney (@tamarag) has written about her experience with our report here.

And please, look for me on Twitter: @scottneuner