Figures released by the website Netmonitor show that local search engine Seznam.cz continues to be the most visited site on the Czech internet. In fact, last year the site – which was set up in 1996 – had over six million users. But how has Seznam.cz managed to stay ahead of the powerful Google, which has long been the top search site in many countries? That’s a question I put to technology journalist Petr Kočí.
“I think the reasons are several. One of them is historical: Seznam is actually an older company than Google, and it acquired a huge market share back in the 1990s.
“Most people just got used to using this service and they don’t see a reason to change their search provider, because Seznam just works. It speaks their language.
“It’s focused on the local market and most people when they search, they search for local services and local businesses. They just like the simple, straightforward way Seznam works, I think.”
But in other countries what you might call the incumbent big search engines were overtaken by Google. Why didn’t that happen here?
“I think they are actually quite clever about approaching their customers or their audience.
“For example, they know very well that Czechs are keen hikers so they released a great free app with maps that cover the hiking trails in the Czech countryside. It builds the relationship of the customers with their brand.
“This is something that Google as a global company just can’t do – these small things that react to local specifics, local demand.”
And is there any other reason do you think that Czechs could be conservative when it comes to their internet searching?
“People read in the news that Google cooperates with the NSA, or the US government, providing data to them on a daily basis. They basically fear that American spies are reading their emails every day, which of course is not really true, but they could if they wanted.
“They think they are safer at Seznam. But Seznam is also obliged to give their data to some agencies.”
Also I guess one aspect of Seznam’s big success is its link to the Novinky news website. The two of them kind of go together. When you go to Seznam, Novinky is there, its main headlines.
“Yes, this has been very successful cooperation. They just help each other very well. The newspaper provides content, the search engine provides traffic and this combination is so strong that no-one has been able to beat them on the Czech market, so far.”