You may already be operating a Chinese language version of your company website, based in your home country or in China. Or you should be at least thinking about starting one if you want to be taken seriously by your Chinese customers.
Here are a few tips to spare you some of the pain and frustration that comes with trying to develop a site that:
- Works in China,
- Is legal,
- Fits Chinese usability standards,
- Achieves your business goals.
These points apply to both B2B and B2C customers.
If you host your website outside of China, it may be very slow to load. If you host it in China, you need a lot of paperwork. This is a problem that almost every company entering China faces. Many companies will host their website in Hong Kong – outside of the legal territory of mainland China – with acceptable speeds.
If your website is hosted in China, you must obtain an ICP license from the government bureau that controls the Chinese internet. They want to know who you are, who is responsible for the content, and how to contact you. It is fairly straightforward to apply, but you need quite a few company documents. This is much easier if you have a local subsidiary to apply under their Chinese name.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO on Baidu, China’s most popular search engine, does not follow the smart algorithms of Google. Companies that invest in Baidu pay-per-click receive better scores, and rise to the top of even the organic search sections. Also, Baidu does not trawl the web as often as Google, so your content may be slow to update in the search engine.
If you are planning a pay-per-click (PPC) or SEM campaign, be prepared to submit quite a lot of paperwork for verification – including even proof that you own the website and a business registration document. Companies that do not have an ICP license or a local subsidiary may face delays or even be blocked from registration.
More than half of Chinese Internet users use their mobile phones to surf the internet. This means that your website should definitely be responsive to different sizes of smart phones and tablets. Also, if you are using WeChat as part of your social media strategy, you might want to directly attach your mobile website into the WeChat menu – a great way to utilize existing content without having to rewrite or program something new.
Social Media tags
If your website was translated directly, it may still have Facebook, Twitter and YouTube icons with links to those sites. Of course here China, they are all blocked, and only a very small segment of the population uses VPN software to get around the Great Firewall. If you are serious about your China marketing, it is time to integrate Chinese social media – whether it is WeChat, Weibo, Youku or others.
Who is going to post news and take care of the website once it is up? Do you have a content plan in place so that it stays fresh? If you are also running Chinese social media these should also be kept up to date.