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Thread: Search Marketing in China 2007, reported by

  1. #1
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    Search Marketing in China 2007, reported by

    A good article by, based in the US.

    Search Marketing in China 2007


    As I write this, I'm aboard a flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco after 14 days visiting 5 cities in China, including the SES conference in Xiamen. My experience in China, while both eye-opening and remarkable, has given me neither the depth to claim expertise nor the breadth to offer a wide spectrum account. However, I feel it is my obligation to share as much as possible about what I've learned, personally & professionally, to benefit search marketers around the world whose experience with China may be even less than mine.

    A brief background on my trip will help to provide context for this article. In early 2006, Ian McAnerin and David Temple, friends and fellow search marketers, invited me to join them on the first ever China Search Marketing Tour, which took place just before SES Nanjing in April of 2006. I turned first to Shakil Khan's blog - Chinawhite - for inspiration. After reading through nearly a year and a half of entries (and emailing my good friend Mike Grehan), I decided that a visit to China was absolutely essential. Unfortunately, it wasn't until this year that I was able to undertake the journey. I brought with me Si Fishkin, my grandfather, whose familiarity with both the search marketing world (through his work with SEOmoz and coverage of several SES conferences in New York) and China (via several previous visits) made him an excellent traveling companion.

    We departed Seattle, WA on May 14th, spent 2 days in Xi'an, 4 days in Beijing, 2 days in Shanghai, 3 days in Xiamen, and 1 day in Hong Kong before returning home on May 28th (2 days were consumed by travel). During this trip, I endeavored to learn and absorb as much as possible about China, with particular attention to the online and search world. I've attempted to be brief, slightly humorous (when appropriate), and as illustrative as possible with examples and photos.

    Overview of Chinese Search Usage & Statistics Data

    In order to provide value to those with a short attention span or precious little time to spare, I've provided the most valuable and compelling pieces of data first. Although I implore even the busiest search marketer to read further, I understand that in many cases, this simply isn't possible. For you 3.5-hours-per-night sleepers, here's the essential data:

    Internet Usage in China vs. US:

    * 154 Million Regular Internet Users in the United States - 68% of the total population
    * 150 Million Regular Internet Users in China - 10.5% of the total population
    * XX Million Mobile Internet Users in the United States - XX% of the total population
    * 450 Million Mobile Internet Users in China - 31.5% of the total population

    Search Engine Market Share in China:

    * Baidu - 62%
    * Google China - 20%
    * Others (including Yahoo!, MSN & Sina) - 18%

    Important Websites in the Chinese Search Landscape:

    * Baidu (search, media, entertainment, content, news, blogging CMS)
    * Sina (blogging CMS, news, entertainment)
    * AliBaba aka Yahoo! (business to business professional directory)
    * Sohu (news, blogging, entertainment, connectivity, mobile services)
    * MSN (particularly important for messenger)

    How Chinese Users Interact with Search Engines:

    Eye-Tracking Results from Enquiro Study on Chinese Search Engine Usage for a Commercial Research Task
    Google US (left), Google China (center), Baidu (right)

    Notes from the Enquiro Study:

    * Google US users spend 7.6 seconds on average scanning Google's search results
    * Google China users spend 30 seconds on average scanning Google China's results
    * Baidu users spend 55.2 seconds on average scanning Baidu's results
    * On both Google China & Baidu, there is far less interaction with right-hand column, "sponsored" search results than in the US
    * Baidu's areas of heaviest usage were in the search box (to attempt a new query) and at the bottom of the page (where additional query refinement choices are offered)

    What Activities Do Chinese Internet Users Do Online, and How Popular is Searching?

    * Get News - 93%
    * Surf the Web - 86%
    * Listen/Download Music - 85%
    * Play Online Games - 84%
    * Use Email - 69%
    * IM/ICQ - 67%
    * Use Search Engine - 63%
    * Research Product/Service - 63%
    * Look for Job Info - 61%
    * Study for Online Degree - 58%
    * Look for Health/Medical Info - 54%

    In Comparison, What Activites Do US Users Do Online, and How Popular is Searching?

    * Do Email - 91%
    * Use Search Engine - 91%
    * Find Health Info - 79%
    * Check Weather - 78%
    * Get Travel Info - 73%
    * Get News - 67%
    * Buy a Product - 67%
    * Surf Web for Fun - 62%
    * School Research - 57%
    * Job Research - 50%
    * See Sports Scores - 45%
    * Read Blog - 39%
    * Online Games - 35%

    The above stats basically reveal the motivations for going online. Chinese users are far more centered (currently) on leisure-type activities such as downloading movies and music, and playing online games. Interestingly, this is similar to online patterns of other new and emerging markets; the early adopters will often use new technology for recreation, and later consider adoption for other applications.

    Which Internet Activities Do Chinese Users Do Most Often When They're Online?

    * Email - 56%
    * Get News - 54%
    * Search Engines - 52%
    * Info (products, health services, govt, etc.) - 41%
    * Forum, BBS, etc. - 37%
    * Download Video - 36%
    * IM - 35%
    * Download Music - 34%
    * Online Games - 27%
    * Blogs - 25%
    * Shopping - 24%

    What Do Chinese Searchers Use Search Engines to Look For?

    * Entertainment - 68%
    * Work or Study - 56%
    * News - 43%
    * Knowledge - 43%

    Who Are Chinese Searchers?

    * More Men Search - 61% of men & 56% of women use search
    * More Young People Search - 60% of 16-34 year olds, 50% of 35-44 year olds, 48% of 45-54 year olds, 27% of those 55 and older
    * More of Those with Higher Income Search - 69% with income over 2000RMB/month, 44% with income under 800RMB/month
    * More of Those Who Have Been Online Longer Search - 72% of those online 6 years or longer, 44% of those online 2 years or less
    * More of Those with Higher Education Search - 76% with BA or higher, 67% with 2 years college, 44% with middle school or lower

    How Sucessful Do Chinese Searches Consider Themselves?

    * 14% say they usually find what they're looking for
    * 56% say they often find what they're looking for
    * 30% say they sometimes find what they're looking for

    How does this compare to US Searchers?

    * 92% of US users consider themselves "confident" about their search abilities
    * 51% of US users consider themselves "very confident" about their search abilities
    * 87% of US users say they are successful "most of the time"
    * However - most US users search only on the first page of results, don't use "advanced search" and don't know the difference between paid and organic search results

    *** Continued ...

  2. #2
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    Experiences from SES China 2007 in Xiamen

    SES in Xiamen featured three simultaneous tracks over 2 days, with content translated to both English & Chinese (as necessary depending on the speaker). Approximately 1000 attendees participated in the conference, along with 30+ speakers from China and around the world. 15+ companies sponsored booths in the conference, including Yahoo!/Alibaba, X, Y and Z. Baidu elected not to send participate publicly in the conference, despite their importance to the Chinese online landscape. Interestingly, several savvy attendees did notice "stealth" attendance from Baidu employees. Unlike US conferences, there were many participants that elected not to identify their names or company affiliations.

    Speaking at the conference was a fascinating experience, particularly in the reliance on translators. During each session, headphones were available and translators dictated in English or Mandarin as necessary. Although there were some complaints about accuracy and thoroughness, my personal experiences were, by and large, positive (though obviously, I can't vouch for the quality of translation from English to Mandarin). The most challenging portion was certainly during Q+A, when questions were put to speakers in both English and Mandarin, and we relied heavily upon our translators. I personally presented and sat on three panels and, despite the challenges, felt confident about my ability to understand and answer questions accurately (for access to my presentations, see this blog post).

    During my time in and around the SES China conference, I spent considerable effort asking attendees and fellow presenters about their attitudes towards search, their personal search engine usage habits, and their feelings on the direction of search in China. Below, I've listed many of the most valuable takeaways, but be aware that these are opinions, rather than factual data.

    * Baidu's results are overwhelmingly influenced by paid advertising campaigns, and ad spends with Baidu can reward a site's rankings throughout the results (even for keywords which are not specifically bid upon)
    * Baidu is generally the most popular engine not out of relevancy (in which it severely lags behind Google), but because of entertainment-related search content. For example, I was shown how virtually any copyrighted content (movies, music, games, files, software, etc.) could be accessed through Baidu for free. A common example given was that the Spiderman 3 movie was available for download from Baidu's movie results a week prior to its wide release in the US.
    * Google China is the preferred engine for business users, early adopters and those seeking serious research
    * Baidu has a far greater market share outside the major cities and among those with less education, online experience, and income
    * MSN is extremely popular on Mobile devices and for IM conversations
    * E-commerce is virtually non-existant in China, due to both the extremely low rate of credit card ownership (or other online payment system such as Paypal) and the absence of cost-efficient, reliable shipping
    * Google Maps is an extremely popular application in areas of China that have been accurately captured
    * Advertising revenue currently dominates the online economy in China; CPM-based ads are the most popular format, though Google's AdSense and other contextual programs also exist
    * Chinese users are far more likely to read and click on ads than North Americans or Europeans - there is considerbly less "ad-blindness" in China

    As far as the status of search marketing in China, my impressions are that the savviness of both search engine users and search marketing professionals (and web development) has a very long way to go. I believe it compares well to webdev/marketing from 2000-2001 in the United States. E-commerce is even less developed, being closer to 1995 levels, and unlikely to change significantly until Chinese consumers adopt an electronic payment method. Of course, as we've seen from regions like Eastern Europe, growth can occur extremely quickly, and there's certainly no lack of enthusiasm for adoption of new technologies in China.
    A Review of the China Search Marketing Tour

    Si and I first joined the formal portion of the China Search Marketing Tour on our second day in Beijing, where we met Ian McAnerin, David Temple, and 6 other attendees. For 3 days in Beijing, 2 in Shanghai, and the trip to and from Xiamen and Hong Kong, we traveled as a group, visiting sites, participating in activities, and eating meals planned by David and Ian. The total cost per person, including airfare, was ~ $5,500 (note that this is not the tour price, as we added some elements to our personal trip).

    Rather than go into the specifics of the tour, I shall instead provide a list of positive and negative elements. Let's start with the good parts:

    * Traveling with a tour guide who could speak Chinese and English with perfect fluency made many of our experiences possible and a good number of tasks much easier
    * Having a tour group enabled us to save considerably on meals, accomodation, and airfare
    * Traveling with other search marketers made many of the meals, events, and journeys considerably more enjoyable
    * David Temple's knowledge of China as a whole and of the Chinese language, combined with his natural outgoing, affable personality gave us a terrific perspective and built positive relationships wherever we went
    * Of the official activities selected for the tour, the majority were excellent choices and wonderful experiences (in particular the Great Wall location in Beijing and the Old Town in Shanghai)
    * Several times, we elected to change the agreed upon schedule, and David, Ian & our tour leaders were always very accomodating
    * Our tour guide in Beijing, Simon, was fantastic - smart, funny, charming, reliable and exceptionally well-versed in all things China & Beijing

    Now on to a few more troublesome elements:

    * The hotels throughout the trip were generally low quality and, in some cases, in less-than-ideal locations as well
    * The biggest misstep was undoubtedly booking the incorrect conference hotel in Xiamen - though to be fair, when the trip was planned, the hotel booked by David and Ian was the correct venue, which only later changed (and no one, myself included, caught the update in time)
    * Several of the pieces of the tour included stops at restaurants or shops that benefited the tour company (through kickbacks), but were not of particular interest to the tour group. As we spent more time in China, the group unified to rally against these less valuable/interesting (and often, out of the way) venues. This would occassionally upset our tour guides, who appeared to have some degree of interest in seeing that we were taken to these businesses.
    * Many of the best parts of our experiences were not included in the tour - including the Panjiayuan Market and 798 Art District in Beijing. Of course, the tour's flexibility made these excellent stops possible, which is certainly a positive.

    Overall, I believe that the tour was an excellent decision, a good experience, and a great way to see a lot of China. I also believe that if the tour runs again next year, many of the less positive elements will be remedied. This is only the second year the tour has run, and so the kinks are still being ironed out. My biggest hope would be that the hotels are significantly upgraded - my impression was that none of the attendees would have struggled with an increase in price.

  3. #3
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    Ya...I got a friend who used to work in China as software developer and he told me that E-commerce at China already so mature and their IT people are so skillful. When I look at E-commerce in Malaysia, we still have long way to go...

    Another thing to share here, if you visited some China website, you will notice that they like to use hyperlink a lot, i really mean it. Don't be surprised that if you see a web page fully covered by hyperlinks.

    From the information architecture standpoint, this is definitely not a good design. Overloaded information will scare visitor away. My friend's China friends said that's the way website show they have huge amount of contents. I was so surprised with the answer and then come to conclusion that culture does really influences web design... what do u think?

    P/S: admin please remove this post if it is not suitable to appear here. Thank you.

  4. #4
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    Those Chinese websites from China mainland are informative - many links (contents).

    Their online newspapers and portals of various categories, be it entertainment, healthcare, automobiles, mobile phones, collectibles etc are really informative with many contents (link), not just textual contents and also photos. Right now, not just photos, videos. Their BT/P2P sites are amazing.

    Our M'sians newspapers and portals look plain. If looking carefully, our M'sians Chinese newspapers (especially SinChew) have more contents/links and more photos, but still cannot beat these from China Mainland - really massive contents. Their online newspapers also cover massive foreign news with photos - easily to be absorbed and visualised.
    Last edited by genzy; 06-08-2007 at 05:16 PM.

  5. #5
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    If some information is not that easily found in Google, can be easily found in Baidu.

  6. #6
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    good food for thought

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