<img src="https://secure.neck6bake.com/200220.png" alt="" style="display:none;">
Chinese search engine and social media web pages

China Marketing, Digital China

The CMO's Guide to China SEM

In true ‘cyber Monday’ style, the very generous China marketing experts at Brandigo are giving you two for one today on all our China digital marketing insight! If you haven’t checked out our partner piece, The CMO’s Guide to China Digital Marketing, you can head over there once you’ve enjoyed this one. For now, we are going to focus on China Search Engine Marketing, AKA SEM.

As with the rest of the world, SEM here in China breaks down into two main categories, search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising, commonly known as pay-per-click advertising. However, that’s where most of the similarities end. So, to make sure you and your China marketing team are getting the most out of every element of your China marketing strategy, here are 5 things all global CMOs and marketing managers need to know about China SEM.

We don’t Google, we Baidu

This has come up a lot throughout our CMO’s Guide to China Marketing series but it is worth mentioning again. Google is blocked in China where Baidu is the search engine of choice for the majority of Chinese internet users (currently enjoying a 70% market share). So, if you are wondering why your Google Ad campaigns get no traction in China, there you go.

At first sight, Baidu looks very similar to Google and while the mechanics of SEM work in much the same way, there are plenty of China specifics you need to understand to make it work for your business. Organic search results come hard and slow and Baidu uses different algorithms than Google. It is very complex to reach the first page.

Baidu offers more than 40 services, all Chinese language-only, including Baidu Maps, Baidu Baike (like Wikipedia), Baidu Wangpan (a cloud service), Baidu Tieba (a bit like Reddit) Baidu Zhidao (a Q&A community), and so on. Having a relevant presence on as many of these services as possible will help to boost your Baidu SEO performance.

Same Same but Different and it all Starts With Onsite SEO

Just like search engines everywhere, Baidu loves up-to-date, useful information. We mentioned in our other article today the value of having a dedicated Chinese website can bring to your Chinese marketing activities. Making sure this is well maintained with regular new content will enhance your China SEO as well.

Most of China’s web traffic comes via mobile phone use, so again, make sure the mobile visitor experience for your China website is optimized too. Keywords are important (remember these will be in Chinese though) and the Baidu Tongji tool is available to help research them. Don’t forget internal links to content elsewhere on your site, external links, and backlinks from respected Chinese websites will all have a positive impact.

Finally, meta descriptions are very important for Baidu SEO and you have 78 simplified Chinese characters to work with. Google has now moved on from meta keyword tags, but these are still necessary for Baidu.

Incey Wincey SEO Spiders

The Baidu spiders crawl the web much slower than their Google cousins. Making sure your Chinese website has a clear, flat navigation structure will help them go about their business but don’t expect them to be crawling your site as fast or as often. You can manually submit website updates to the Baidu Index to speed things up.

Coding Secrets and Domain Extensions

Baidu does not support JavaScript. JavaScript sites are displayed on Baidu but they aren’t crawled for updates, so they are not ranked. Baidu also has issues reading and evaluating subdomains from foreign websites so for any linking activity, you should ideally be working with websites with a .cn domain extension. As a backup, you can work with the .com domain extension but they will not be as effective.

Clickety Click

Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) has always been seen by marketers as a quick way to drive traffic to your website rather than wait for your target customers to find you organically. By paying for search engine ad space with Google and Bing, for example, you can bypass expensive and time-consuming SEO and make sure your brand is front and center when a potential customer searches for the products or services you offer.

PPC advertising is available in China, but Baidu’s advertising platform is only available in Chinese and can be extremely tough for foreign marketers to navigate. Usually, a foreign brand will need the help of a local agency or have a Chinese team in place which can make it expensive. A lack of transparency can also mean that it’s hard to figure out what your ROI is.

Account set-up is possible for most foreign companies, but the registration process is done in Chinese and can take up to 4 weeks. It is also worth noting that Baidu puts more emphasis on PPC in terms of SEO performance compared to Google.

Baidu ads fall into two categories, Search Ads and Display Ads. Search Ads are your normal PPC ads that most marketers are familiar with. They can be text-based or graphical and can appear to the left of the webpage or above and below the search results. Display ads are graphical ads that can be placed on thousands of Display Network websites via Baidu Wangmeng (a bit like Google AdSense).

So, there is a brief guide to China SEM. Don’t forget that Baidu approved keywords are essential and always track your performance.

Now head over to our CMO’s Guide to China Digital Marketing and don’t forget to catch up on all the other great Brandigo content. You can check out our blogs, social media, and podcasts.


If you want to find out more about how to make your China marketing strategy more effective, or to bring your brand up to speed on the latest China digital marketing tactics, you can download our latest ebook, The CMO's Guide to China Marketing: 10 Top Tips for Your International Brand. Just click on the image below.

The CMO's Guide to China Marketing: 10 Top Tips for Your International Brand

At first sight, Baidu looks very similar to Google and while the mechanics of SEM work in much the same way, there are plenty of China specifics you need to understand to make it work for your business.

- Steven Proud

Global Marketing Director, Brandigo

Other Posts

See All >

China Marketing

Account Based Marketing in China

    Account Based Marketing (ABM) has been one of the key sales and marketing tactics for B2B businesses for the last few years. ...

Read More >

China Marketing

The CMO's Guide to China Marketing: Performance Marketing

On the face of it, performance marketing campaigns via channels such as Baidu or WeChat share a lot of similarities with their ...

Read More >

China Marketing

Influencer Marketing for B2B - Samsung's Successful China KOL Campaign

If you’ve been keeping your finger to the pulse of China marketing, chances are you’ve heard about KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders, aka ...

Read More >