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Frantisek Krizik-2012, Google Doodle

Frantisek Krizik-2012, Google Doodle

Google vs. Seznam: Search in the Czech Republic

To understand the common Czech you must understand the country’s history of involvement in both World Wars and a communist soviet oppression. The Czech psyche is amongst the most complex of all Europeans and history certainly isn’t going to give you a better understanding of who they are and their preferences, and neither will technology – perhaps this is why Google is struggling to maintain a majority user base in the Czech Republic.

Seznam is the Google alternative in the Czech Republic and is maintaining a tight grasp on its loyal Czech users. According to Toplist, a web measurement service, Google was holding onto 47.2% majority user base compared to Seznam’s 45.5% (SearchEngineLand.com). But this majority lead from Google is recent and as the race continues to be close, it is interesting to consider why a company like Seznam is still so strong.

To understand why a user would choose a service like Seznam as opposed to the globally popular Google, we should first look at other countries which also prefer a local search engine to Google’s. According to web source Marketingpilgrim.com , there are only four countries in the world, (countries like North Korea and Cuba who don’t allow search engines at all are omitted from this statistic) whose population majority prefers an alternative search engine to Google: China (Baidu), South Korea (Naver), Japan (Yahoo), and Russia (Yandex). There is certainly a sense of pride in these countries, almost nationalism in knowing that you are supporting a local company that is competing and in this case, winning against the world leader, Google.

Working on a farm last week in a rural town of the Czech Republic, I asked the farmer, Matus, if there was a way I could keep in touch with him. He offered me his phone number and email, an address that ended in @email.cz This is the ending to the Seznam email service and I asked him, why he preferred Seznam to Google. “Pretty much I use it (Seznam) because it is what I know. It is what I got my first email address with and I am comfortable with it. Google offers the same thing, I have no reason to switch”. Seznam users have also considered Seznam’s Mapy.cz to be superior to Google Maps in the Czech Republic. “It has bike routes mapped out all over the entire country, Google hasn’t even launched bike routes here in the Czech Republic yet” said Katerina, an avid cyclist who commutes by bike to Prague.

Its seems that for Czechs, Seznam just offers a more applicable relationship to its customers compared to Google. Seznam is inherently Czech and speaks to them as a company on a personal level. Take a visit to Seznam’s website and its all in Czech, their slogan, najdu tam, co hledámI find there, what I search for, offers simply what Czechs want, in a language they can understand, simply and basically ready

But Google is certainly a better service with more experience, more money to spend on innovation, and new services being released frequently. Yes, both Seznam and Google offer more or less the same services, but Google does everything effortlessly, more effectively and its search algorithms, the backbone to its service, is far beyond even the capabilities of its closest competition, Bing and Yahoo according to SearchEngineWatch.com

But better features and more services weren’t enough to win over the hearts and minds of Seznam users, so in 2010, Google made the Czech audience a direct target of its advertising. Google began reaching out to the Czech population first through television ads which showed Google catering specifically to the needs of Czech users (TV spot attached below), and then print marketing throughout the Prague Metro trains. Google even started creating their own Czech, Google Doodle, a custom Google logo custom tailored to users relevant specifically to its Czech users holidays and special days to remember.

As of now, Google has the lead, and with a recent Google office opening in Prague, it seems that their presence is expected to stay. Seznam, however, has no indication of changing anything that would jeopardize the ability to maintain its loyal customers and even believes the statistics of Google holding a majority lead are false.

In a statement by Seznam’s marketing director, “We have stated from the very beginning that we do not accept this interpretation of Toplist statistics. And we are very unhappy that nobody asked us about our opinion. The truth is that our competitor is bigger in total for searching of Czech websites from Czech, Slovak and dotcom domains put together. But Seznam.cz operates only on the Czech market and has only one domain. So we would say this is irrelevant data.”

All in all, it’s a battle between two companies that says more about the local population’s personalities and preferences, then desire to hop on the newest and latest technology bandwagon – a concept Google may have a difficult time understanding.

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