Today welcomed some interested news in the search world and particularly those with an Easterly looking view. The announcement that Johnny Zhu’s CharmClick and Sri Sharma’s Net Media Planet will form an exclusive deal to partner with Baidu, China’s biggest search engine. I took the time to speak to them both to help State of Search readers understand what this new deal meant for European brands and how this exclusive partnership could help efforts targeting Chinese searchers.
China poses an interesting quandary for many brands and SEO specialists a like. China is one of only a handful of countries where Google is not the major search engine, in fact, it’s far from it with Baidu holding a massive 83% of the search market share. This means that the mutual capability of working from the same platform, whether you’re targeting Spain, the USA or Denmark are lost when targeting Chinese searchers on Baidu. As Zhu said when we spoke “Baidu’s interface is all in Chinese, this makes it very difficult for non-native speakers to navigate and use the platform. Because Baidu has thus far not provided many salespeople, reaching outwards to help companies work with the platform has not been one of their major priorities.” Unlike that of Google who have armies of account managers to help get people started on their platform. The functionality is very different, and the platform is in Chinese, the barriers to entry are higher.
This is what today’s deal aims at overcoming, allowing Sharma and his team at Net Media Planet (for the UK and Ireland) Zhu and his team at ClickCharm (for the rest of Europe) the ability to share their local market knowledge to help people target Chinese searchers through these exclusive deals that has made them a Baidu Service Provider.
As Zhu & Sharma have known each other for a long time, and the deal was struck in an effort to help develop Net Media Planet’s international ambitions, by facilitating others in doing the same. Therefore Zhu, whose CharmClick hold European exclusivity has travelled to London to showcase and launch this proposition and today, expressed his excitement that this deal has moved ahead.
China has long been viewed seen as an area of great opportunity, with many brands vying to invest in its burgeoning population. And with an online population of number 564 million, 242 million of which are online shoppers, the scale of the market is incomprehensible to the West. Johnny and Sri stated that this was one of the main drivers for this deal, allowing this area of expansion for many Western brands to target search in Baidu with the help of their local market expertise. Both stated that it is great for those British/Irish brands that are and looking to take advantage of the market in China and expand Eastwards.
What’s more, such is the online searching habits and consumer psyche “…whether it’s offline or online, this could be a powerful opportunity to test the water”, said Zhu. Zhu also said that through todays deal he’s looking forward to sharing insights on China’s unique online-shopping ecosystem and explaining how brands can gain a foothold in China’s lucrative market.
While not limiting themselves to one particular industry, when asked both Johnny and Sri believe that a very strong opportunity lies in the following industry:
* Fashion/retail – could be a big positive for this, with Western fashion being sought after in many areas of China, but ultimately difficult to find on Baidu.
* Education – it is widely viewed as a very ambitious thing for Chinese nationals to travel to the likes of US, UK, Canada and other similar countries to study. Therefore institutions looking to attract Chinese students could benefit from targeting them in search.
* Travel – Zhu said that of the countries in Europe, the UK is in the top 3 countries that Chinese nationals desire to travel to. The opportunity for travel companies to target informational searches surrounding this is unavoidable.
* There final was interestingly football clubs, with many major clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea making significant pushes to capitalise on the popularity of the sport across China.
“Many people are searching for UK brands in China, particularly fashion brands!” added Zhu. The intent certainly exists, but currently retailers are held back from this opportunity from not appearing competitively on Baidu. Take a brand like ASOS, or even Marks and Spencers, the Chinese struggle to remember how it’s spelled, there may be several ways that locals typing this. Zhu gave the analogy that some people may be searching for ‘GAP jeans’, where gap is the brand name and ‘jeans’ is in Chinese; and this is just one of the possible combinations.
Zhu admitted that the Google and Baidu algorithms looks similar, but he indicated that there are a number of differences. Paid search is very similar, showing the ads on the right (or the left, should you wish), Baidu even allows you to add a logo to the listing (as can be seen in the Sony ad shown below). What’s more, verified ads show a green logo but this status isn’t easy to attain without the know how “in Baidu, all paid ads are reviewed manually, unlike in Google. There is definitely more people management required to getting campaigns live.”, Zhu stated.
To learn more, I suggest you get in contact with Net Media Planet, or keep an eye out for Sharma and Zhu’s keynote and the Internet Retailing Expo taking place in Birmingham on Wednesday 20th March.
Make sure you check back on State of Search on Wednesday where I will ensure that I upload the presentation from the keynote.