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China: Land of Search Engines, Search Marketing and Social Media

China not only has the world’s largest population, but the fastest growing Internet market as well. China represents one of the best opportunities for increasing your company’s global revenues. Mobile phone access to the Internet and e-Commerce transactions are growing rapidly, as is the demand for goods and services fueling a fast growing economy.

Why China? The Numbers Speak for Themselves

China is a world in itself and the Chinese Internet market is the world’s fastest growing online market.

  • Population = 1.3 billion
  • 20 million plus companies.
  • Internet users in China jumped by nearly a third to 384 million at the end of last year.
  • By the end of 2009, the number of Chinese online social media users reached about 124 million.
  • With China’s expanding 3G mobile networks, more than 120 million people used mobile Internet applications last year.
  • Companies launching their advertisements through Chinese search engines are predicted to increase at a rate of 17% annually.

Get to know the most popular China Search Engine: Baidu

Baidu LogoBaidu, Inc. simply known as Baidu started in January 18, 2000. Baidu has evolved into a Chinese search engine for Chinese websites, audio, images, movies and is the first engine in China to offer mobile search. Baidu also offers community services and a keyword-based discussion forum. In April 2010, Baidu ranked 8th overall in Alexa’s internet rankings. Baidu is the first Chinese company included in the NASDAQ-100 index. is the most popular search engine in China and is used by 95% of all Chinese Internet users. Baidu provides an index of over 740 million web pages, 80 million images, and 10 million multimedia files. With the recent departure of Google from mainland China, Baidu is now the only game in town: its Internet search market share in China rose from around 65% to at least 80%. Actual statistics on Baidu’s market share since Google’s departure have not yet been posted as of this writing.

Chinese Search Engine Optimization: SEO on Baidu

Since Baidu is China’s top search engine, ranking highly on Baidu is a must for any websites from companies who wish to succeed with Chinese search engine optimization (SEO).

  • Baidu is particularly China-centric. To rank highly on Baidu a website needs to be (a) localized in the Chinese language and (b) hosted inside China.
  • Baidu’s search results are different than Google’s. It is possible to “pay your way to the top” for your keywords on Baidu. This idea is widely accepted by Chinese users and differs from SEO techniques in most western regions. Even if you choose to pay for high-ranking keywords in Baidu, Chinese search engine optimization is still important. This is because your “natural” ranking is part of the formula that determines how much you will need to pay.
  • Baidu will usually index a new web site into its search results in about 20 days.
  • It is very important that your Chinese website has a stable increase of visitors, or hits, and external links.
  • Chinese websites should have well-prepared meta-data and titles which are short and closely related to your web page content.
  • Domain name: include attractive Chinese words in pinyin, e.g. Taobao, Alibaba.
  • Baidu favors websites that have regular updates, but it will sometimes block “unstable” websites that are updated too frequently.

What about the Chinese Language?

The Chinese language has two major classifications: (a) Traditional Chinese, which is commonly used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia and (b) Simplified Chinese, which is commonly used in mainland China, Singapore and by some Chinese expatriates.

Simplified and Traditional Chinese use different characters for the same word, so it is essential to know which language you will be using and which market you will target before you start your Chinese SEO campaign.

How to start your SEM efforts in China

  1. Define your geographic markets. This will determine which Chinese language you need, Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese.
  2. Choose SEM and localization partners that have experience with Chinese consumer behavior and Chinese cultural values. This is a major requirement in order to achieve optimized Chinese website localization and globalization. Review our blog post about Doing Online Business in China. Make sure that there is a professional Chinese Search Engine Optimization (SEO) professional on your localization partner team.
  3. Start your Chinese Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaign.

China Social Media

In China Social Media is experiencing explosive growth. While the rest of the world generally sticks to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace etc., Chinese Internet users have their own Social Networking Websites.

  • In 2010, the number of Chinese online social media users reached about 124 million.
  • Up to 92% of Chinese internet users are using social media.
  • Top 5 social networking sites in China: QQ alumni (50%), Renren (37%), Sina Space (36.6%), (27.1%), and Kaixin001 (26.4%).

You need to start engaging in Chinese social media to build relationships with Chinese consumers and to announce your products and services frequently in the Chinese language.