Getting started with search engine marketing in China can feel daunting. Where to start? Everything looks so different! It’s tricky enough deciding on an SEO strategy for a website written in your own language, right?
Now, to reach the Chinese market, you have to get your head around search engine marketing in China – appealing to Chinese users, showing sensitivity towards Chinese culture and dealing with copy and keyword research in Mandarin.
Luckily, a lot of the same principles apply to both search engine marketing in the west and in China. With the help of this easy-do-use guide, we hope to show you that – particularly with the right partner – ranking well on Chinese search engines isn’t quite as tall an order as you might think.
The 5 top search engines in China
So which search engines should you be trying to rank for in China? Baidu is far and away the market leader. But it’s not the only Chinese search engine. There are a few other options it’s certainly worth taking a look at.
Here are the five top search engines in China:
In China, when it comes to Baidu vs Google, there’s just no competition. Internet users in China can only access Google via a VPN, leaving Baidu to dominate the search engine scene.
Baidu currently commands 86.84% of the search engine market share in China, with Google trailing far behind at just 2.2%. That’s why ranking well on Baidu is a big deal for both Chinese and international brands.
Time to get to grips with Baidu? Start with the Baidu English version. Read our article – How to use Baidu in English – to find out more.
Sogou translates into English as “search dog”. This search engine is the second largest in China – and it’s owned by Tencent (who also own WeChat).
Because of its relationship with Tencent, Sogou search results contain social content from popular social platforms WeChat and QQ. This content isn’t available to other search engines so – whilst small in comparison to Baidu – Sogou still has a very defined USP for Chinese internet users.
Shenma is owned by Alibaba – another big tech player in China. This search engine markets itself as a mobile-only search engine, prioritizing results that champion the mobile user experience. They also claim to be the best resource for results relating to shopping, books and apps.
360 Search is owned by Qihoo 360 – a respected internet and tech security company that offers free antivirus software. 360 Search is often installed as standard on new computers in China and has clear appeal for security conscious searchers.
In fact, many Chinese businesses ask their staff to use 360 Search as their browser because they see it as the safest search engine. This makes it a good search engine marketing option for B2B brands.
The WeChat platform is part and parcel of everyday life in China. It has an incredible 1.24 billion monthly active users. WeChat is literally a super app which allows functions beyond your imagination. People use WeChat to chat with friends, for gaming, for online shopping, for booking hospital appointments, and to make in-person payments.
WeChat search allows users to search the vast WeChat network–including WeChat Moments, WeChat Official Accounts and WeChat Mini Programs.
How to do search engine marketing in China
Search engine marketing in China isn’t really all that different from search engine marketing in the west. It’s all about making your website appealing to both a Chinese audience and Chinese search engines, through a combination of great web content and a few techy tricks.
To do search engine marketing in China successfully, start by looking at the following tips:
Launch a locally hosted site
If you want to get off on the right foot with Chinese search engines, you need a locally hosted website. That means your site should be hosted on Chinese servers and have a Chinese .cn domain.
This is because the Great Firewall makes international websites load very slowly, so they are then ranked lower by search engine algorithms. Local hosting will help your site to load faster and send all the right SEO signals.
Make the mobile experience a priority
Just like Google, Chinese search engines want to see sites that have been optimized for mobile.
In 2020, over 963 million people in China accessed the internet via their smartphones. This figure has been growing steadily year on year and looks set to surpass 1 billion in 2021.
When your site adapts perfectly to mobile devices you get good site speeds and a lower bounce rate – all of which feeds into your Chinese search engine ranking.
Focus on creating localized content
What happens when you type in a search to Google? You get a long list of results in your own language. These tend to be well-written websites that are easy to read and understand.
It’s the same in China. Results written in Mandarin using simplified Chinese characters are prioritized. And in order for Chinese search engine bots to read your website, every aspect of that website has to be translated into Mandarin – copy, tags, meta description…
Just be wary of automated translation services. Shoddy translations won’t help your website to perform well in search results. It’s critical to ensure that Chinese users can read and understand your website with ease.
Link out to localized social media
Keep things local with your social media presence is also crucial. Chinese search engines value outbound links to Chinese social media platforms and may even penalize sites with links to non-Chinese social – such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Also remember that YouTube and Vimeo videos won’t show up if you embed them in your website.
To get the best possible ranking on Chinese search engines, build a presence on WeChat, Weibo, QQ, Douyin and XiaoHongshu – and link out to these socials from your website. Ensure that when people click to see your socials that these too are designed with a Chinese audience in mind.
Develop a Chinese keyword strategy
A good keyword strategy is another great way to impact your Chinese search engine ranking. Conduct keyword research in Mandarin, decide which keywords you want to implement on your site and then place them strategically throughout your website content.
As with Google, keyword stuffing is counterproductive. Sites are penalized for sticking keywords into copy where they don’t really belong so try to build pages that prioritize both keywords and readability.
Equally, you need to be careful to avoid words and phrases that have been blacklisted by the Chinese government as the Great Firewall will automatically block your content.
Kickstart your search engine marketing with AdChina.io
Working out how to do search engine marketing in China is a big challenge if you aren’t fully immersed in the country, its language and its culture.
That’s why working with a local search engine marketing team can really boost your search engine ranking and your appeal to Chinese audiences too.
Using the Baidu Keyword Tool from AdChina.io – we make it so easy for you!
Here at AdChina.io we offer a range of marketing tools to help international brands break into the Chinese market. One of our most popular is the Baidu Keyword Tool. And it’s absolutely headache free!
This is what you need to do to get started – simply register with AdChina.io to set up your Baidu account from outside China, then use our tool to research the search volume of all your target keywords.
The interface is in English so it’s easy to navigate. Other helpful AdChina.io services for search engine marketing in China
We help international brands with:
- Baidu SEO
- Building a Chinese website
- Online advertising in China
- Chinese social media marketing
- Chinese content marketing
- Chinese translation services
We have all the services you need to successfully manage your search engine marketing in China–and reach online Chinese audiences in lots of other ways too.