SEOUL, Aug. 9 (Korea Bizwire) — The way in which Naver is dealing with mobile searches for housing has ruffled feathers, as accusations that it is marginalizing its competitors’ websites in favor of its own services are increasing.
According to industry sources, the tension between Naver and its clients-cum-competitors started to sizzle in May of this year. For those in their 20s and 30s, mobile has been the predominant channel for searching for low-cost housing, and Naver was where they took their search.
In response to the demand, a number of housing app companies like Zigbang have marketed their services through Naver’s search engine. By paying Naver fees, companies like Zigbang can ensure that when users search for certain things using a variety of “keywords”, (e.g. studio, one-room apartment) links to Zigbang’s main website show up on top of the search results.
This, however, has not been happening since May. Naver’s housing section, which serves as a platform for various real estate companies to host their services (Naver does not “own” these services, though some industry insiders believe that Naver at least acts like it does), has already captured the lead in market share for real estate hunters on computers. Mobile, and the young adults’ house hunting market on the other hand, is still up for grabs.
Instead of returning the search results of housing competitors, Naver’s search engine reportedly has been placing its own real estate information above the links that its competitors have paid for.
To verify whether any of this was true, Yonhap News reportedly conducted its own informal test.
Using a variety of keywords (16 total), the news agency found that 15 of those keywords returned results that showed Naver’s housing links at the top of the search page on mobile. In contrast, when the same test was repeated on a computer, links to competitors’ websites showed at the top.
The difference in the two mediums can be attributed to a lack of foresight by the Korea Fair Trade Commission in 2014, when it ordered Naver to “reform” its practices after an investigation the previous year revealed the possibility of unfair competitive advantages. The only problem is that the reform was limited to computers, whereas in mobile Naver was left untouched.
Naver’s change in policy is borne out by the experiences of business competitors, one of which said that since May, business has seen “a minimum 20 percent decline in online traffic from Naver, which has made things quite difficult.”
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)