We had already decided to open an office in Hong Kong when one day I typed “Hong Kong SEO” into Google. I assumed since Hong Kong is a world city with over 7 million inhabitants that there would be a highly competitive SEO industry in place. Certainly much larger than what I was used to in Utah, where there are hundreds of SEO firms competing for keywords, rankings, and clients. Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t find more than a handful of SEO firms that were targeting Hong Kong. And what was more to my surprise was that many of the companies that were targeting the term appeared to be smaller companies or individuals.
You might assume at this point I would be rubbing my hands together in gleeful anticipation of cleaning up in Hong Kong and ruling the SEO market. But quite to the contrary, I was worried. Worried because generally where there is a lot of demand, there is a lot of supply, and where there is little supply this is often a sign of only slight demand. My concern was that I would arrive in Hong Kong, open this branch office, and there would be no clients.
Thankfully, MWI already has some clients in Hong Kong, so I know there is at least some demand. As I’ve lived here over the past seven months I’ve been able to to do more in-depth analysis of the market and while no, there aren’t many competitors, I think I arrived at the perfect time. The reasons there aren’t many SEO firms isn’t as simple as just supply and demand, but a bit more nuanced. Some of the reasons appear to be:
- Lack of demand due to focus on the instant results of PPC. Everyone wants instant, tangible results, and PPC delivers that. SEO is a long term investment with metrics that aren’t as clear cut. So a lot of companies have focused on buying advertising, rather than than search engine algorithms and natural rankings.
- Lack of talent. Everyone gets gobbled up by the banks and other established industries.
- Small market. Yes, there are 7+ million folks in Hong Kong, but that’s a small national market, compared to 300 million in the US.
- Desire for in-house marketing. There is a certain tendency in Asia to want to “own” talent and not outsource anything. In the US it’s quite the opposite–most people don’t want to spend any time on anything that isn’t their core business and will outsource almost everything. Which way is best? That’s up to each business to decide for itself, suffice it to say this means less demand for SEO firms.
Are there other reasons the SEO industry is under-developed in Hong Kong?