Chinese Search Engine Marketing – 360 Vs Google AdWords Vs Baidu
Baidu has the greatest market share and has the most well-developed ad platform as well. Its market share was estimated at 63% by CNZZ in the end of 2013. This makes it the first choice for most businesses that want to launch a search engine marketing campaign in China.
In most cases, I would agree that that is indeed the correct decision – but not always. If you find yourself facing this decision, I suggest you take about five minutes to consider a few of the pros and cons of each of China’s major search engines.
Chinese Search Engine Marketing – 360 (So.com)
The second most popular search engine in China is 360’s so.com, which rapidly gained market share due to being the default search engine used in the 360 Internet browsers. One reason I sometimes recommend the usage of 360 is that it tends to have a significantly lower cost per click than Baidu in many industries.
However, 360 still has some major drawbacks as well. Namely, it usually doesn’t provide a level of results that is on-par with Baidu. Conversion rates tend to be lower for comparable projects. Of course, it is newer to both users and marketers, so I expect results to improve quickly.
Ultimately, it comes down to the niche. Some rules of thumb:
- I would normally recommend 360 as an extra channel to be used in addition to Baidu, rather than a standalone solution.
- Businesses that face less competition in their niche are more likely to find a lower cost per click on 360.
Chinese Search Engine Marketing – Google AdWords
Yes, it’s surprising I know, but I still recommend Google. While the publicly-available stats show Google has a market share of less than 2%, I am certain those stats are misleading.
For our clients’ campaigns, we see much greater traffic coming from Google AdWords campaigns than we should expect if Google has only a 2% market share. In some cases, we see Google bringing in up to about 1/3 the traffic of Baidu. Why the difference? For one thing, search engine users tend to use Google as a place to search for foreign things – that can mean foreign products or foreign brands. So Google does have some more power in this niche. Another reason for the difference in the public stats and the difference we’ve seen with many clients may be that the stats are skewed due to VPN usage. The usage of VPNs and proxies is so common in China that there is a lot of traffic that is actually originating in China, but will be miscounted as being from the location of the VPN server.
Whatever the reason, my advice is to consider Google AdWords as a market entry tool if it can support your budget. In other words, check out the search volumes on Google for the keywords you wish to promote. I can’t say how many times I’ve seen a business that plans to enter the China market say they “need” to be on Baidu even though they only wish to spend 5-10% of the budget that Baidu can support. In these cases, Google is often a better choice. Mainly for these reasons:
- These business are probably already using Google AdWords, so adding a Chinese campaign is not very difficult.
- Google AdWords is, in my opinion, the highest quality pay per click ad platform out there, with a lot more flexibility than others.
- It integrates with Google Analytics better than any other solution.
Chinese Search Engine Marketing – Baidu
Baidu reigns supreme. As such, it’s the basis of comparison and by far the most popular search engine for advertisers.
Baidu has the highest usage, a highly developed ad platform, a handy desktop editor, good security and click-fraud protection. Baidu is constantly being updated too. And, it has a very useful remarketing/retargeting functionality built in to its display network. Overall, Baidu is still the best, and I predict it will stay that way, even with the competition from So.com. If anything, 360 entering the market has pushed Baidu to develop faster.
Besides all these benefits of the platform itself, it’s also important to be on Baidu for the branding purposes – if branding is an important part of your marketing strategy that is. If your brand isn’t on Baidu, Chinese Internet users likely won’t even consider it to be a well-known brand at all.
About the Author:
Tait Lawton, CEO of Nanjing Marketing Group
Tait Lawton runs Nanjing Marketing Group, a Chinese-language digital marketing agency that works for Western clients. He has been working in marketing and doing business in China since 2001. The Nanjing Marketing Group blog covers digital marketing trends in China.