Seznam Takes on Google in the Czech Republic

seznam-search-engine

When it comes to search and search engine marketing there is one word that comes to the top of almost everybody’s mind: Google.

There’s good reason for this. In the United States and in Western Europe, in Australia, in South America, and almost everywhere else in the world, Google is the undisputed king of search. Major names in search like Microsoft and Yahoo, and even second tier players like Ask, can carve out a business with just a small slice of the market. A two percent share means staying in business, a five percent share means making real money, and any search engine that can take 15% from Google in their market is a major player on that scene.

In some countries like China Google is not a player thanks to government censorship. With less than 2% of the Chinese search market, Google is not a significant player on the Chinese search landscape.

But what if you could take nearly 40% of the market from Google in a completely free, open, Western democratic country?

There’s only one place in the world where that is a reality, and that’s the Czech Republic.

And the search engine that has managed this unique feat is called Seznam.

Seznam

seznam-homepage

Seznam was born in 1996. The brainchild of Ivo Lukačovič, the site was originally a curated collection of links in the Czech language. The founder, still a student at the time, quickly built the curated links into a fully fledged search product for the Czech language market, and then into a portal for Czech internet users to find almost anything.

While a strong search product is at the core of Seznam, it is a far broader ecosystem than simply a search engine in a local language. In a sense, Seznam is a Google competitor with a Yahoo! style.

Seznam’s home page doesn’t present a clean, clear, Google-style interface but instead a Yahoo! like portal that allows Czech visitors to browse news, play games, access weather details, access maps and images, and search – and with plenty more, too. Seznam offers its own email service that can be accessed from the main site, and it has a product to counter most everything that Google offers, all off which can be found quickly from the home page.

Seznam’s Success

So how has Seznam managed to take such a significant share of the market from American competitors in the Czech Republic?

There are a three main reasons.

Move First

seznam-first-mover

First, and importantly, Seznam was the first large, local internet company to embrace search in the Czech Republic. While other competitors would emerge, Seznam was able to to take advantage of its first-to-market status to cement its place on the homepage of Czech language internet users.

More than this, though, as the internet spread through the Czech Republic Seznam was able to take advantage of the country’s then-low level of English speakers to provide the place for Czech users to start their internet journey. While today most young Czech citizens speak English, Seznam’s commitment to providing local language tools, search, and news early meant that there remains a large holdover of Czech internet users who remain confirmed Seznam customers. What’s more, while Google might have become the most popular search engine in the country, the company that continues to serve the most pages in the country is Seznam – and this is largely the result of Seznam moving first.

Understand the Local Customer

seznam-local-hiking

Second, there is its incredible focus on serving a specific, local audience. Seznam does not seek to be the world’s search engine or a global web portal attracting an audience from all corners of the Earth. Instead, Seznam focuses on the Czech market and, as a local company, it understands this market intuitively. Seznam understands how Czech internet users search, they understand the sorts of products that Czech internet users want, and they understand the advertising market that delivers the cash that Seznam relies on for growth.

A great example of this is Seznam’s Google Maps competitor, Mapy.cz, which continues to perform well against its larger, better funded competitor from Mountain View. One of the reasons why is that Seznam understands that Czech users like maps that help them enjoy one of their favorite hobbies: hiking. An effective hiking map has to be available offline (there is little internet service once you enter the woods and forests of the Czech Republic) and they need to show the trails that are so popular in the country. By focusing on the hiking trails as well as the streets of the country, Seznam was able to offer a superior product to Google Maps and carve out a place on the smartphones of users across the country.

Continued Innovation

seznam-innovation

Third, Seznam has never been content to rest on its laurels in the Czech Republic. While it might be possible for a company like Seznam to remain content with a large and consistent audience in a single country, Seznam has instead consistently searched for opportunities to expand though innovation. Tracking the innovations that Seznam has introduced over the course of the last 15 years demonstrates just how well the company has innovated, and just how many internet niches it has managed to identify, develop, then dominate in the country.

In 2001 Seznam launched Firmy, a service that allowed for searching of all of the registered businesses in the Czech Republic. In the same year the company launched Sreality, a housing/apartment search and rental site, and a similar portal for selling new and used vehicles opened the year after. Seznam launched a news portal that became a fully-supported, independent news service shortly afterwards, it’s own native PPC advertising service (Sklik), an email service, a streaming video service, and added images to its mapping service. These innovations allowed Seznam to state that, by 2010, the entire Czech internet population of more than 5 million users visited Seznam at least once a month – and many visited daily.

Conclusion

Seznam is one of the few search engines that has managed to establish itself as a real competitor to Google in a national market where the giant American firm competes. For businesses that want to advertise online in the Czech Republic it is clear that Google’s AdWords is not the only option. Indeed, with so many page views being served by Seznam businesses and the Seznam portal, there is a strong case to be made for Google being the online advertisers second choice in the country. Sklik, Seznam’s AdWords equivalent, is likely to put an advertisement in front of as many (or more) eyes than Google can.

But more than that, Seznam stands as a great example of a company that has taken advantage of a niche of users in a country they understand well and, through innovation, established themselves as a major force on the local search, email, mapping, and news markets. Other businesses, whether in the search game or not, can learn from Seznam as they try to carve out their own enterprise niche, too.

Have you tried Seznam for search and advertising in the Czech Republic? Let us know about your experience in comments below or on Twitter!

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12 thoughts on “Seznam Takes on Google in the Czech Republic
  1. Daniel Dočekal

    Greetings, i am not entirely sure, but you are trying to say, that Seznam has better market share in SEARCH than Google in Czech republic? Let’s forget for a while that Seznam’s search engine is bad joke and barely does search, is very slow in indexing and has many other flaws. But where you are getting that impression about Seznam > Google in market share?

    Well, http://gs.statcounter.com/#search_engine-CZ-monthly-200907-201507 are very clear for long time already. Their numbers are similar to numbers from some other service. So likely, Seznam might have about 30 % market share, declining month by month, Google has most of rest, Bing or anything else is almost non existant here.

    Would it be possible that you back your articles by some independent numbers please? Because so far it look like PR stunt of Seznam – and it’s beaing heavily used by Seznam as their PR weapon against Google.

    Daniel

    Reply
    1. Dylan Kissane

      Are we trying to say Seznam has a better market share than Google for search? Not at all.

      Indeed, in the opening to the post it clearly states that Seznam’s market share doesn’t even make it to 50%.

      Nowhere does the post state that “Seznam > Google in market share”.

      However, while Seznam is behind Google, Seznam’s position relative to search challengers in other European markets is exceptional.

      Take France where 93% of searches are via Google, or Germany where Google’s market share of search is 90%. In Switzerland and Austria Google takes 94%, in Poland it is 96%, in Romania it’s 96%, and even in Slovakia Google’s share is in excess of 96%.

      Almost everywhere else in Europe (Russia is a notable exception) at least 9 out of 10 of all internet searches are served by Google. In contrast, when it comes to the Czech Republic, this continental trend is bucked significantly by Seznam.

      Reply
  2. Vojtěch Schlesinger

    For Czech reader it is interesting read. And I think in general you are right with your points, in world view is miracle, in local view it was miracle and homepage for all of us.

    So far what is the most succesful point for Seznam I think is understanding Czech people.

    However, I feel the word “Innovation” does not sounds good in this case I would even use term “discontinued innovation”.

    Back then people were searchin on Seznam it was the internet. Now they are using Google and probably go to Seznam to e-mail and read news. We still dig it, but for Seznam business it could be gettin challenging to say at least.

    Firmy.cz is now basically killed (at least for our business here) by update last year if I am not wrong 🙂 Maybe really like last big innovation were those trail maps.

    So far, judging by last couple of years, it is getting harder and harder to keep up with Google and for Seznam it might be the most challenging times in history. Seznam was the most used search engine so he is challenger for a really long time (before Google there were other local competitors) and it was the only one Czech search engine that survived Google.

    Well done.

    Reply
  3. Ondrej Slama

    I own a digital agency in Czech Republic. My business would not be where it is now if it wasn’t for Google and Seznam. Not only is Seznam a respectable force on the market, but I also believe we have Seznam to thank to for Google putting a lot more effort into its Czech activities. Wouldn’t want to have it any other way 😉

    Reply
  4. Dyson

    In the world of Google, even beating Google in one vertical is a notable accomplishment, but the race between Seznam and Google has been close in more than one area, and Seznam s suite of services still bests Google in quality on several grounds.

    Reply
  5. Lubomir Stulajter

    The fact is that the Czechs have many new Google features more likely than users in other small countries. And I think this is also due to the fact that Google has a strong competitor in the Czech Republic.

    Reply
  6. Raul Brailey

    Google does not provide any data on its visitor rate and refuses to participate in official measuring. Therefore, the claim on the loss of the position of the most visited Czech server is not based on demonstrable facts.

    Reply
    1. Dylan Kissane

      Few companies reveal their exact traffic statistics and so best estimates can only come from third-party tools.

      Reply
  7. Jan

    > But what if you could take nearly 40% of the market from Google

    Seznam had not taken 40% from Google. But Google have taken 40% from Seznam. Seznam was in Czech republic many years before Google.

    Of course, Seznam was originally yahoo-like list of links, with later added outsourced fulltext-search. But, as you probably suspect, your language, the english, is not the most widespread much less the only language in the world. So you will easily understand, that in country, where all people speak Czech and all websites speak Czech, all both search engines and web links must speak Czech. So, for Yahoo!, for Altavista, for Google and for others, it was totaly uninteresting market here in Czech Republic, because for first here was very very poor penetration of internet at still small internet market and for second Czech nation is specific (Czech language is specific either), so it would had cost very expensive…

    E.g. Tiscali, one of the European players on the Internet field, tried to compete Seznam, but it had faild due to its uncompetency and arrogance.

    So, on begin, there existed only Czech Internet in Czech Republic (only a few people, in large measure university students, interested in english-written Int.ernet – e.g. me 😉 )
    And if you had come to some of your friends to help him/her to connect to the Internet, you automatically
    had set him/her seznam.cz as his/her home page in those times…
    (we did this practice for years, because there was not comparable page for years)

    So, from begin, the Seznam profitied from the fact, that it was the only signpost on Czech Internet.And when some competence (volny.cz, tiscali.cz, etc) have appeared, Seznam.cz was ahead of the game. So, despite the fact, the seznam.cz have sleeped a few years, it have kept lead.

    And as you have mentioned, Seznam run news – but those news are not Seznam’s own, but they are taken from communist’s original “Rudé právo” (now named “Právo”), what is kind of yellow press of the extreme left. And this is very close to usual Czech man, what is atheistic and educated by 40 years of communism…

    So in our central-europe country, where Seznam.cz rules from 1996, it is very difficult for Google to acquire absolute majority of internet searches, after Seznam have started to utilize his advantages. Of course, Seznam apply changes, it sees in the world (mapy.cz, firmy.cz)
    Personally I must say:
    mapy.cz are graphicly more close to my preferences, than maps.google.com;
    firmy.cz are better for me, than google, because for first dealer from firmy.cz come to me and helps to place my company on firmy.cz website and for second, when I need the supplier of whatever, I can trust the firmy.cz, that companies listed there exist and are able to fulfil my requirements!

    Reply
  8. David McLean

    Can anyone who is from Czech please tell me their opinion of Seznam and how they use it etc?

    What do you think of it and how does it compare to Google?

    Do you use Seznam to help you decide what products and services to buy, and what companies to use?

    Let me know your thoughts and opinions on this?

    Thanks, David

    Reply
    1. Daniel Král

      Hello. I am very young (24 y/o) So I can speak for the younger audience… From my point of view even the youngsters use Seznam.cz Not exactly for searching, but for stuff like Seznam’s novinky.cz (news) or Seznam’s stream.cz (czech like youtube site) And they often have email there.. but its just bcs they created it years ago 😀 So like me they are using seznam email on a google platform 🙂 Well I have 2 companies and I am using Seznam’s Sklik and Seznam’s Zbozi.cz… Bcs its a little bit cheaper than Adwords or Heureka.cz (which isn’t Seznam’s, but its the most used product comparing-search tool in Czech rep.) And its quite easier to setup than the Google’s adwords. But the most important thing is, Ppl 40 years + use in fact ONLY SEZNAM to search stuff. (if their smartphone / chrome browser does not force them otherway )

      Reply
    2. PB

      another Czech here. Personally I hardly ever use seznam for search, except when searching a very specific “czech” site or topic; in such case it can be useful. Other features I use in descending order:

      1) Mapy.cz – a map server with superior detail compared to Google. Recently expanded to whole Europe. The possibility to download offline maps of any european country in the mobile app is awesome. A lot of detail is present in the maps, where google only shows some grey blob. I recently used an offline version successfully on my trips to Berlin, Krakow, Milan. Good level of detail everywhere + superior rendering making the map very easy to read and use.

      2) zbozi.cz – price comparison of goods in czech e-shops.
      3) slovnik.cz – a basic dictionary – Czech + 6 most used European languages
      4) jizdni rady – public transport search. From wherever in the coutry to wherever, multimodal transit is no problem (combining bus + train from different operators). Also check out idos.cz.
      5) stream.cz – seznam’s streaming service. some funny original shows (czech only.)
      6) windy.com – a rather cool weather map
      7) sreality.cz – the dominant real estate server in CZ.
      8) e-mail – they lost me to google due to not having IMAP till like 2011, by which time i was gone to gmail. I checked them out recently and the service is not bad at all now, but the google suite is just too strong.

      Reply

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