How to market to Chinese consumers online

China’s catching up. From a closed economy based on agriculture and limited trade, to the roaring industrial force it is today, China is fast becoming a huge opportunity for savvy online marketers.

Recently Reseo had its first ever stand at SMX 2012 in April this year and I was quite amazed by how many companies wandered up and asked for help in their attempts to reach Chinese consumers online.

Luckily for us, we’re pretty familiar with China and its major search engine Baidu by virtue of the fact we have in our close-knit team one Chinese national who is a qualified translator and another who can speak and write Simplified and Traditional Chinese, (Ophenia, one of Australia’s only Baidu-qualified individuals and Philip, you know who you are).

Way back in 2008, we began looking at China as an option for online marketing. At the time we were working with a large exhibition and conference centre in Melbourne that wanted to attract Chinese delegations and conference organisers to its venue.

With Ophenia’s help we were able to create our first campaign using Baidu Ads; sending the traffic to a couple of dedicated Chinese language landing pages. We ran Traditional Chinese landing pages for Google Asia in Hong Kong and Taiwan and Simplified for those we served through Baidu.

Remember, Google is still banned in mainland China, so Baidu is one of the few ways ‘in’.

It sounds simple enough, but setting up a Baidu Ad campaign isn’t easy. Chinese companies and the government are renowned for their mountains of red tape, being sticklers for detail and rigid in their conformity to ‘due process’. Baidu is no exception and you must follow their process to the letter to have your account approved and your ads shown there.

And be prepared to stump up at least $5,000 up front before they’ll even talk to you. But it’s yours to spend on clicks once you’ve completed the application.

Without going into a ridiculous amount of detail about the process, if you do make it through to the end, the results can be hugely rewarding.

Baidu Ads are, for the most part, pretty cheap compared to Google Ads. And we have ‘heard’ that there’s another little unknown benefit (or secret) that, unlike with Google, advertising on Baidu helps with your organic rankings too. Cheap ads and higher organic search engine rankings – bonus!

There are some other cool ways to reach consumers using Baidu.

Again, like Google, Baidu has a huge content network similar to AdSense. You can run your banners out over 300,000 Chinese partner websites (Google has about 1,000,000 worldwide). Banner ads are cheap too, at around $0.20c per click. Bargain (if there’s ROI!).

If you’re working for a big household brand like ‘Chanel’ then there’s the ‘Brand Zone’ option. This is where you see a search result page ‘take over’, which prominently shows imagery and additional links, etc. They’re quite cool because it makes it difficult for competitors to get a look in.

This is what Chanel’s one looks like (when translated):


We’ve also started advertising on “Ren Ren”, which is China’s version of Facebook (yup, Facebook’s banned there too, as is Twitter, China’s equivalent being the hugely popular ‘Weibu’ – are you starting to see a theme?).

For some of our clients, (at this stage in the government, tourism, education and recruitment sectors), Baidu in particular is proving very compelling in terms of results and ROI. Ren Ren is also a brilliant and cheap way to build a household brand name in mainland China. Like you used to be able to do on Facebook before every man and his dog piled in, you can get gazillions of impressions pretty cheaply and quite quickly on Ren Ren.

If China’s a growth opportunity for your business, then the ideas I’ve shared above might be worth investigation.

Chris Thomas heads up Reseo, a search engine optimisation company which specialises in creating and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.


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