It’s a topic that crops up time and time again, which is no surprise given the sheer size and rapid growth of the Chinese internet market. Sitting with over 640 million internet users and set to become the largest ecommerce market globally this year, China offers vast opportunities for international businesses. Yet language, cultural, logistical and legal factors can present challenges for companies trying to build a presence there.
So here are 8 key things you should know about China and its biggest search engine Baidu, if you are thinking about investing marketing effort and budget in to this market.
- As I’ve just mentioned, Baidu is the biggest search engine in China with just under 60% of the search share. In the past couple of years, it has lost some ground to local competitors Qihoo 360 (recently rebranded as Haosou) and Sogou but it is still the most important search engine to focus on when launching in China. To give you some context and idea of the reach of Baidu, Alexa data shows that Baidu is the 4th largest website in the world with it trailing only Google, Facebook and YouTube.
- Setting up an account to run paid advertising on Baidu is not quite as easy as for other search engines. It can take several months to complete and involves providing a variety of documents including business licences to prove to Baidu that you are a genuine, trustworthy company. To add more complexity, the application process is all in Chinese, so you will require the help of someone who is fluent in Chinese to complete it and will need to provide translated versions of all your documents. As long as you provide all of the information required, there should be no issues with getting an account opened – just don’t expect it to happen overnight.
- One of the reasons that Baidu has such a stringent application process is due to the prevalence of counterfeit and fake goods in China. This has led Chinese consumers to be wary of purchasing products online, with many choosing to buy internationally to feel sure they are getting a genuine product. By verifying all of its advertisers, Baidu can give assurances to its users that its paid ad listings are all real, quality businesses and they are more likely to purchase from one of those sites, than perhaps a website which just has an organic listing.
- Baidu provides a keyword tool, like all the other search engines, and if you’re planning to run any campaign on Baidu, you’ll want to dig into the data they have and ensure you’re targeting the most appropriate terms for its users. On first look at results, you could be quite underwhelmed with the numbers – until you realise that it shows daily search volume, rather than monthly as we’re used to seeing. In reality, the search volume is likely to be significantly higher than what is seen in other countries.
- Mobile usage is on the rise in China…. Shock horror! While this is no surprise, it is worth noting how significant mobile is becoming in the market. This year estimates suggest that 8% of all Chinese ecommerce purchases will be made on mobile devices, with those purchases being made 67 seconds faster than those made on computers, according to Taobao. Mobile payments are becoming more common place also – in the US only 19% of users have made a mobile payment. This figure is 55% in China. For many Chinese users, mobile represents their only means of accessing the internet so providing a good user experience on all devices is really important.
- I’ve mentioned payment methods in past posts, as it’s a really important factor when it comes to conversions. Showing only the Visa and Mastercard symbols in many countries will cause users to abandon a purchase, as they don’t have those cards. In China, Alipay and UnionPay are the two most popular means of making online payments – and businesses who promote and accept these payments will see significantly higher conversion rates and greater revenues than those who don’t.
- While there are many similarities between search engines, Baidu does have some products which we don’t see elsewhere. One of these is BrandZone, which basically enables a brand to totally own the SERPs with their own brand, ensuring that neither competitor nor inappropriate results can appear on brand searches. The results shown can be a mixture of text, video and images and link to a range of content, to drive engagement and of course clicks. You can expect over 50% CTR with Brandzone – after all, if a user types in your brand, there is a good chance they are looking for you! Brandzone doesn’t work on a PPC model – it’s a set fee for a defined period that guarantees you control of your brand. The costs will vary brand depending on search volume and other factors.
- Oh, and make sure your website is in Chinese! Chinese web users won’t search in English and do expect and want content in their native language. And don’t simply rely on machine translation – as mentioned earlier, trust is really important in China and if you’re content doesn’t read like it’s been written by someone fluent in conversing in Chinese, visitors won’t stay on your page very long!
This is just scratching the surface of the huge opportunity in China, and how Baidu can help you maximize it, but it will hopefully give a few useful hints and if it’s not already, pique your interest in China as a serious target for your business.
Thanks to Sarah Holtzman of Baidu International for some of the insights in this piece.