China is a fast growing market and most Internet giants including Google and MSN are fighting for supremacy in this Far East market. The press coverage surrounding this turf war is exceptional. What few people realize though, is that while China has a large population and presents great opportunities, there is a much more viable market with equally good prospects of short term growth much closer to home – France.
The French Internet Market Space
Until as recently as 2004 more French people had access to the Minitel system, a two-way Videotex online service similar to Teletext, than the Internet. In January 2006 Nielsen / NetRatings estimated that 26 Million French used the Internet, which still represents only about 43% of the population.
Internet usage in France is quite low compared to the UK (63%), Germany (60%), USA (69%) and even Sweden (75%). As a result, the French Internet market remains relatively unpopulated. With reference to search engine marketing, this means that keyword prices in many industries are far below that in the UK or USA and the competition to secure top 10 positions is not as fierce.
Advantages France has Over China
The GDP per capita in France is $28,700. The GDP per capita in China is $5,600. It does not require a mathematical genius to see that the purchasing power of the French is far more than that of the Chinese. Therefore, even though the population of China is far greater, a lot of that population cannot really afford all the products and services the Western countries would like to sell.
Another distinct advantage with French marketing and Internet promotions is that the Minitel system has allowed the French users to make online purchases, make train reservations, check stock prices, search the telephone directory, and chat in a similar way to that now made possible by the Internet. This means the French are more amenable to spending money online and paying by credit card.
Compare this to the fact that only a tiny percentage of the population of most emerging countries like China and India own credit cards, and the fact that piracy and fraud are rampant and go mostly unpunished in these countries; One can see why search engine marketing in France might prove to be much more fruitful than doing the same in Asia.