SYNC3D Search and Social Advertising in China Article July'17

by Edouard Leneveu on Friday 14 July 2017

Earlier this month, Forward3D held a private round table in our London headquarters, discussing the complexities of moving into, and succeeding digitally in the Chinese market. We also shared some in-market specific insights and learnings from previous client case studies as well as successes within the retail and travel sectors.


1. China Introduction: Digital landscape and market overview 

The Chinese digital landscape is unlike other western markets which are governed by dominant search platforms with global reach such as Google, Bing or Yahoo for search and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for social. In China, the digital landscape is protected with what some call the 'Great Fire Wall', which in essence means that all internet access from mainland China has been restricted and controlled. The use of Google is actually banned in China with only a few users using VPNs to access the search engine. This means that there is still traffic coming from mainland China to Google, however, the reach as an advertiser is very limited.


With the growth of the internet coinciding with modern China’s capitalist economic system and a population approaching 1,39 billion people, China has developed its own locally widespread and popularly used platforms.


When it comes to China's online search, it is imperative to ensure you understand and fully utilise the functionalities of local platforms such as Baidu, 360 and Sogou.


Similarly, when it comes to social media, Facebook and Twitter command the social space throughout Europe and the US, but within China, Weibo and Wechat are the big players.


2. Organic Search

Baidu, like Google, does not restrict itself to just search, but also offers a myriad of services. The Search Engine Result Page (SERP) between Google and Baidu are similar and tend to influence each other’s SERP layout. Baidu has however added many unique features to their SERPs to enhance the user experience.


Busting 3 Myths About Baidu SEO in China
Myth 1: You need a Chinese domain ending Busted: You can run a successful website in China without a Chinese domain ending
Myth 2: You need an ICP License Busted: The ICP license is not essential for Baidu rankings factors (but it’s still helpful to gain some marginal advantages, e.g. application and verification for official site badges, brand term ranking protection, etc.) 
Myth 3: Chinese translations are essential Busted: The rule for Baidu is: Origination rather than translation!

The main challenge with organic search in China is the lack of understanding of the platform. Most international and foreign advertising brands struggle to grasp the essentials of how best to help the natural ranking. This is largely due to the fact that Baidu is reluctant to reveal much information on its ranking factors and there is no comprehensive list to follow.


3. Paid Search

As with organic search, Baidu and Google use a similar model of performance and SERP layout functions, however, the ad formats are very different and vary in many ways.


PPC products like Brandzone, Mini Brandzone, Landmark and other ad formats are key to secure exposure on the SERP and to achieve overall performance. Most Brandzone ads are rich media format with great size, available both across desktop and mobile.


360 has become China’s 2nd most popular search engine in an extremley short period of time, but how has this happened? The reason is simple, 360 is the No.1 PC software in China with 514 million active users and over 95% market penetration rate. It also offers 3 years free antivirus solution for users setting up 360 as their main browser. Sogou, the 3rd largest search engine is also the third largest mobile app in China.


A few stats worth reading:

  • 95.1% of internet users in China connected via a mobile device in 2017 - around 695 mln, 3.1% higher than global average 
  • Search volume from mobile is continuously increasing and exceeded desktop in 2015 reaching 72% of total searches in 2017 
  • 65% of mobile internet users shop online via mobile


4. Social Advertising

As with the rest of the world, social media presence is key in China. There is a huge opportunity to increase brand awareness across multiple platforms.

Unlike traditional media channels, social ads can target precise demographics, fans, similar users, interests, device and day parting. Using this data we can ensure that the right users are reached and their responses are tracked. This also provides us with the opportunity to tailor creative to individual user segments.

Weibo Benefits 

  • Open platform for everyone 
  • Used for brand awareness 

Weibo Challenges

  • Difficult to attract attention in such a huge information pool 


WeChat Benefits 

  • Personal platform to communicate with friends and follow official accounts 
  • Can be self-service platform for brands 
  • More than 549 million MAUs with multi-biddable products to meet advertiser’s needs

WeChat Challenges 

  • Basic reporting system with limited data


WeChat has been likened to Facebook mobile, but the closest Western equivalent is possibly WhatsApp – the message app for smartphones as Weibo is a microblogging network, similar to Twitter.


Managing an organic profile is great for brand awareness, but running paid social activities remains very important as it brings the possibility to drive very targeted traffic to the website. Paid social ads are highly accepted among 1/3 Chinese social media users with 4.5% social media users showing clear purchase intention after they see an ad. Only a quarter of social media users express their dislike at social paid ads.


If you are interested in learning more about China online advertising opportunities for your brand, or would like to hear more about future roundtables hosted by Forward3D, please fill in the form below and we will be in touch.

Edouard Leneveu - International Business Development Manager