How to Use the Top 5 Chinese Search Engines Successfully in Your Marketing

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GAB Team

Search engines are powerful portals to the web. They’re the first thing the average user sees when opening a browser, and guide the user’s journey through cyberspace. Businesses, on the other hand, gather and analyze the vast user data collected by these search engines. From this data, you get an unparalleled view into consumer habits and preferences.

Time has shown, businesses who use this data in their marketing and advertising can impact digital marketing variables like:

  • market share
  • brand awareness
  • public reviews, and much more.

This article is your first step to getting acquainted with China’s top search engines. Gab China, a leading marketing agency, is here to help your business thrive in China’s unique digital landscape.

Digital Marketing in China

China offers the chance to unlock a market of nearly 1 billion potential clients. However, the gateway into this pool is really only opened up by Chinese search engines. So whether your business currently operates in or is expanding into China you need to understand these platforms.  This will help you identify your target audience. You can significantly strengthen your brand’s reach by mastering the art of Search Engine Marketing (SEM).  This is done through paid advertising and search engine optimization (SEO). By using these powerful tools you will be able to market your business effectively and efficiently.

1. Baidu

Often called the “Google of China,” Baidu has been China’s leading search engine since its creation in 2000. It has captured over 72% of the market share as of February 2020. In 2019, Baidu bore over 1.5 billion searches per day and over 2 billion voice searches a month. Each day, Baidu reaches 200 million active users and 1.1 billion mobile devices.  Let’s begin by exploring Baidu’s growth through the years, its strengths, and weaknesses.

Like Google, Baidu has separate “News,” “Images,” “Videos,” etc., linked in the upper left-hand corner. Functions in the upper right-hand corner allow users to customize their Baidu homepage.  They can also log in to their personalized account. Below the search bar is the hottest topics of the day.  The search bar itself says “Baidu一下  and this is like saying “Google it.”

As a Chinese search engine serving the Chinese market, Baidu does not rank websites written in English. It is rare to find English-based search results from Western corporations on the first page of the Baidu search results.

Baidu Marketing: Is it worth it?

Baidu is China’s leading search engine with 1.5 billion searches per day. So yes, this makes Baidu worth the marketing effort for businesses worldwide. How can you take advantage of Baidu Marketing? Besides reaching out to Gab China, Baidu offers several solutions that we will explain in detail.

Baidu PPC

First could be the standard Baidu pay-per-click advertising, which works like Google pay-per-click. After you select keywords related to your industry you fund your Baidu account.  Then you watch the balance disappear as millions of Chinese consumers click on the relevant keywords.

Pro-tip: just like in Google, the Baidu landing page does matter. Gab China offers specialty services to lead you through Baidu advertising.  We will also create beautiful landing pages in Chinese for you.

Baidu SEO

The same way Google SEO is competitive and time-consuming, Baidu SEO requires strategy and consistency over time. After three months of consistently posting quality articles in Chinese on your website you’ll begin to rank on this platform. With a proper strategy, ranking will be even higher after six months.

 

 

Caption: Baidu PPC advertising versus its regular SEO

Other Strategies to Rank on Baidu

While there are several Baidu products that can be utilized, we will detail Baidu Tieba and Baidu Zhidao below.

What is Baidu Tieba?

Baidu Tieba or Baidu “Post Bar” is the most commonly used Chinese forum platform. Started in 2003, the platform is an online community that is fully combined in Baidu’s search engine. Users may search and create Bars (forums) related to their topics of interests.

The platform has over 300 million monthly active users as of 2015. The total number of users is over 1.5 billion.  And these users frequent over 23 million Bars.

What is Baidu Zhidao?

Also known as Baidu “Knows,” Baidu Zhidao is China’s largest question and answer platform. This platform sets itself apart from other discussion forums with its diverse content. Content that ranges from business and tech advice to everyday how-to.

 

One of its best features of Baidu is the user reward scheme “Zhidao Mall.” Baidu hands out digital gadgets, shopping vouchers, etc. as a reward to active users. Content marketers showcase their brand using Zhidao because it often tops Baidu search results.

Entities that have opened official Baidu Zhidao accounts to promote themselves include Changchun’s General Office, Huawei, and Cadillac.

What is Baidu Baike?

Baidu Baike is the “Wikipedia of China.” You leverage this platform by paying to control the content on your company’s page. Hosting an informational Baike page greatly increases user’s trust in your brand.

Baidu Scandals

After sharing Baidu’s features, it is important to cover Baidu’s history and the platform’s image. Before 2019, Baidu had not been carefully working to identify and remove scam websites and false info. Top search results ranked content that individual companies had paid large sums of money for. Ads were difficult to separate from reliable, unbiased results. The lack of transparency and ease of spreading misinformation resulted in several scandals. Baidu now acts more carefully to prevent this problem. However, this continues to be an endless source of suspicion against Baidu.

2. WeChat

Yes, WeChat is a Chinese search engine that is growing in popularity daily. As China’s Super App, WeChat aims to be the only platform where users can do anything.   From the ability to search keywords to getting relevant results. While typically used as a social media platform, WeChat has emerged as a strong contender among search engines in China.

 

 

 

Partnering with Sogou (we will talk more about this Chinese search engine later), WeChat built a search engine that lets its users directly search for content on the Internet.

Since 2017, WeChat’s search function has allowed its users to search in: 

  • WeChat Moments
  • Mini Programs
  • Articles
  • Official Accounts
  • Music, 
  • Stickers, and 
  • Services.

This Chinese search feature makes WeChat a surprisingly good platform for marketers to utilize SEO to promote their products and services.

WeChat for e-Commerce

WeChat is introducing new e-commerce methods within the app. Having the search function is making it easier for users to discover, research, and purchase products without ever leaving the WeChat ecosystem.

 

 

3. Sogou

As mentioned above, WeChat\’s search engine is Sogou which translates to \”search dog.\” Sogou is an aptly named subsidiary and the leading search engine of leading Chinese technology company Sohu, Inc., financially backed by the multinational conglomerate Tencent. Aside from being the primary Chinese search engine within WeChat, Sogou also has its own webpage.

One of the key differences you’ll find between Sogou and its main competitor, Baidu, is the added links in Sogou’s top left-hand corner. One click takes you to WeChat — everybody’s top app. Another to Zhihu — a popular question-and-answer forum backed by Tencent and Sogou. There are also standard links to search in images, videos and an added option to use the search engine in English.  Then you can read up on the latest news in English. This is a notable feature that Baidu currently still lacks.

 

 

Founded in 2004, Sogou is not as popular as Baidu. However, WeChat began to be display Sogou’s search results in public messages, articles, and posts after Tencent’s 2013 purchase. This gave Sogou a significant advantage over other Chinese search engines.  This is because WeChat is the renowned “super app” loved by expats and Chinese residents alike.

Since 2016, Sogou has also partnered with Microsoft’s Bing.  This provides search engine alternatives that display English search results for scholars, students, and expats. This expanded Sogou’s reach and allowed it to obtain more prestige and trust thanks to the rank of its intended audience. By 2020, these strategic partnerships paid off.  Now Sogou’s Chinese search engine market share is 21.1%, second only to Baidu.

4. 360 Search

In 2018, the market considered Qihoo 360 Search a solid challenger to search engine leaders Baidu and Sogou. However, 360 Search’s market share dropped to 1.89% in early 2021 from its high of 5.7% in 2019. As mobile search engine users surge, 360 Search users continue to decline.  This is because the search engine is best suited for desktop use.

360 Search for B2B Marketing

Nevertheless, 360 Search proves a better ROI in more local industries. This is because it’s more flexible than its competitors and provides more freedom when using specific keywords. 360 Search provides dozens of metrics on data such as: 

  • audience location, 
  • keyword mention rate, 
  • key audience traits, and so much more from the backend.

The 360 Search browser comes preinstalled on most computers in China, giving it an enormous foundational reach. With Qihoo 360 being an internet security company first and foremost, many businesses in China also recommend their employees use the browser for its notable security features, making it an ideal channel for B2B marketing. Finally, 360 Search is usually cheaper than Baidu on a cost-per-click basis which may be a better option if your company works with a limited budget.

5. Shenma

Lastly, Shenma Search is a “mobile-first” search engine in China. Its name, which loosely translates to “Divine Horse,” is also a play on the Chinese Internet slang “Shen Me” or “What.” “Shen Me” is a common search term in China. Launched in April 2014, it has become the third leading mobile search engine as of August 2020, accounting for 3.54% of the mobile search market.

Shenma’s popularity is mainly due to the functions it offers. This Chinese search engine comes with a UC Browser – the default browser for most Android devices in China. Designed for mobile searches, it is easy to use and popular with older generation users.  Those who may take longer to adapt to new mobile functions.

Chinese Search Engine for Ecommerce?

An important aspect to consider is that Alibaba Group owns Shenma.  This makes a difference if you choose to advertise your e-commerce stores on Alibaba-owned Taobao or Tmall. Shenma has a large amount of reference information and buyer reviews collected.  This is very useful for Chinese buyers who want to search for as much information as possible before making a purchase.

 

                                   

 

Choosing the right Chinese Search Engine

Chinese search engines can be challenging to navigate, even for Chinese citizens themselves. Some search engines are directly built-in devices which are convenient to use.  Others, on the other hand, are more safe and reliable. Our experts here at GAB China have decades of experience utilizing, navigating, and understanding these unique search engines.  We have accumulated a wealth of knowledge regarding each search engine’s best practices.

Not only can we help your business navigate the detailed ins and outs of Chinese search engines, but we also offer a variety of strategic advertising techniques: from SEO to pay-per-click to so much more. Contact us to learn more about what makes GAB China your best partner for doing business in China.

 

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