Most of us in the west have learned to completely tune out online advertising, especially when it comes to search engine ads. In fact, a whopping 198 million people are using ad blocking plugins on their browsers. Online advertising may be facing troubles in these parts, but search engine marketing in China is driving their e-commerce economy like no tomorrow.
Not many people can argue with the business potential present in the Chinese market, especially in the booming e-commerce space. Despite the huge opportunities, doing business in China is far from plug and play. The list of huge western companies who have entered China proudly and left prematurely is long indeed.
There’s a lot of reasons why these companies may have failed. But if new businesses are looking to succeed in selling to China in today’s digital era, they are going to have to learn how to market their products effectively. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as translating your advertising into Chinese either.
The good news is that it actually may only require a simplified approach to begin a targeted campaign marketing to the Chinese audience. If your business is selling the right kind of products, search engine marketing (SEM) is most likely going to be your best bet.
Search Engine Marketing in China is Cheap
For starters, SEM is by far the cheapest form of advertising you can do in the Chinese market. On a search engine like Baidu, the largest search engine in China, the SEM product operates much the same as Google Adwords. It’s the same pay per click (PPC) style that you are already used to. The process of bidding on keywords works the same way too. So if your product is unique enough and there is a demand for it in China, you could be doing very well very quickly.
By now you are probably thinking about how you almost never click on Google ads. But in China, 47% of people actually don’t mind online ads at all. Moreover, the audience in China generally believes that if companies are willing to spend money on promoting their product, this should indicate that they are confident in their products. China is an especially frugal marketplace, so this phenomenon makes sense. The majority of products aren’t even advertising at all. That doesn’t mean the advertising space online isn’t crowded - but a company selling unique products from foreign markets definitely has a chance to use search engine marketing in China.
So SEM is cheap and for the right products it could make a lot of sense. But how do you know if the product is right? Turns out that search engine marketing in China isn’t only good for selling, it’s perfect for doing research as well. A search engine like Baidu has a fully functional keyword research tool. And just like Google it can help you get a really good sense of how much action a set of keywords has.
Before setting up an shop in China, companies can test conversions with and collect information with SEM. They can do this by setting up a landing page (or a few landing pages) and promoting it via Baidu. This way, a business can decided whether or not it makes sense to set up a full operation in China. They can also get information for much cheaper than a research company can likely provide it.
In China, Search Engine > Social Media
Companies in the west spend a lot of time and money developing a social media strategy. This is a great investment when platforms like Twitter and Facebook can serve large audiences across the world. But in China, there is no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube, and no anything else you are used to. China does have their own versions of all these platforms, and they are very active, but there are many reasons why social media shouldn’t be the first thing a company goes to when entering the Chinese market.
Navigating the different platforms, developing a winning strategy, working with and identifying influencers is a daunting task. Is it impossible to market a product on social media in China? Absolutely not. But compared to SEM, the investment required for social media success in China is huge. Social media also requires daily monitoring, whereas SEM runs and get results on autopilot.
What about an SEO strategy? Everybody loves free traffic. But consider this: SEO for the western market is a heavily involved process. It involves knowledge based on the work of thousands of experts who are working each day to master Google. In China, not only do the search engines work differently, but often times the information about SEO available is more mysterious. This reality makes the path to SEO success in China much more difficult. In short, your SEO team might be able to work wonders in the west, but they won’t be able to do anything for your business in China.
Traditional Mediums? Not For Foreigners.
Then of course there are the traditional forms of advertising like television, radio, and print. Although these mediums can get results for local companies in China, it takes a lot for foreign companies to see results. There’s also the fact that online ad spending now takes up almost 50% of the total advertising dollar in China. Something to think about down the road, but not something to consider when breaking into the market initially.
SEM on a search engine like Baidu presents the best option for the fastest and most cost effective approach into the Chinese market. Marketing on a search engine can help companies tap into a marketplace that is already up and running. Down the line, invest inother mediums like social media and develop a working SEO strategy. But in the initial stages of a Chinese expansion, nothing beats search engine marketing.
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