According to China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC), number of Internet users in China is more than 103,000,000 in 2005.
More than half of Chinese Internet users were below 25 years of age. Out of the total, 32 per cent are students, 12 per cent are professionals and nine per cent are from business and service sectors.
People use Internet mostly for email, reading news and searching for information via search engines. Online shopping spending in China in 2005 was around RMB 9 billions, and will rise to RMB 30 billions in 2007. You can expect there will be a doubled growth in the subsequent years.
With the above figures, business persons must understand the value of using Internet to explore China market. Search engine marketing should be the most cost-effective method to reach Chinese Internet users.
In fact, China region does not only refer to the Mainland of China. You may also be aware of Hong Kong and Taiwan. Interestingly, Chinese in these 3 different areas have very different cultures due to their historical backgrounds. Even in the Mainland, people from different provinces speak totally different accents of Chinese languages and also differ in their daily life practices. For example, people in GuangDong and Hong Kong usually speak Cantonese. They speak Mandarin only when they talk with people from other provinces. Moreover, people in Mainland and Taiwan are usually not that good in English. Yet in Hong Kong, many people can speak and read English well. Therefore, you must notice the differences in order to write effective website copies to cater for different China Region readers.
Another important thing to note is that people from Hong Kong, Taiwan, GuangDong, Shanghai and Beijing usually have a higher spending power.
Search Engines in China
Major search engines in China include Baidu, Google, Sina and Yahoo. According to a study by CNNIC, Baidu has 51.5% market share, Google has 32.9%, Sina has 4% and Yahoo has 3.7%. Just based on the above figures, you may think that it should be most appropriate to spend most of your effort in Baidu and Google, right? The answer is “Yes or No. It depends!” Why?
This is because China Region is large and with complicated cultural differences. It is difficult for you to target the whole China Region unless you have millions of budget. If you are small to medium sized companies, decide your target region and focus on it first. For example, if you choose Hong Kong as your target market, I can tell you Yahoo Hong Kong is the most frequently used search engine and no almost one uses Baidu in Hong Kong!
Another point worthwhile to mention is that Google is rated the best search engine in China and the rating means a highly probable translation to its future growth in market share, according to a study made by Keynote Systems.
Paid Search Engine Marketing
Popularity in paid search engine marketing (pay-per-click) in China is increasing. Baidu, Yahoo and Google have their own programs. In order to succeed in a complicated region, search engines mainly rely on agents to sell their pay-per-click marketing. Pay-per-click is a new concept in China, and people there think it is too far too complicated. Therefore, agents usually sell paid search engine marketing by monthly flat rate according to the different schemes. It is somewhat different with the western world.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization is quite a new concept in China but acceptance of this concept is increasing. Currently, there are many black-hat spammers and white-hat optimizers in the country. In China, people usually optimize for Google and Yahoo only, and use paid search engine marketing for Baidu.
The link building process in China region is somewhat different with the western world. Link exchange is uncommon in Hong Kong and Taiwan. It is far more popular in the Mainland. However, the link format is quite different. First, high quality links are usually obtained from personal/ business relationships. Second, reciprocal link format in the western world is usually composed of a Title with hyperlink and description of site but in Mainland, it is only composed of Title with hyperlink. Seems like a link farm? However, it is a common practice in China. Therefore, obtaining meaningful links in China region is no easy task.
Key Factors in Chinese Search Engine Marketing
Many people make a common mistake. Their websites do not have a Chinese version but they want to promote their website in the Mainland and in Taiwan. English may be their mother language but it is not a mother language for Chinese. To succeed, you must have a Chinese version. In addition, you need to notice that traditional Chinese is used in Hong Kong and Taiwan while simplified Chinese is used in Mainland. Sometimes, wordings used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland are also different from each other.
If you are serious in getting online sales from Chinese but are not familiar with their languages and cultures, you had better use an Internet marketing company located in the China Region to help you.