In the first part of this article, we showed and identified 5 main points that differentiate a Chinese website from its western counterpart that we need to keep in mind in order to build a good one.
Let us summarize some of the main points addressed in the previous article:
- The style, design and structure are more complex and with much more information in opposition to the cleanness of the western websites
- Where to host your Chinese website is one of the first decisions to make. The most of the times we advise you to have a hosting in China. For that you will need a Chinese company to apply for an Internet Content Provider (ICP License)
- The Chinese Great Firewall blocks all websites that do not meet the content requirements that marks the Chinese government
- Your website needs to be ready to integrate with the main Chinese players. Google, Facebook and friends are banned in China; instead you will need to use the BATs (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent).
After this little updating, we would like to further develop this post showing you 5 more crucial things to take in consideration when building a good Chinese website.
When building a chinese website, What else should I know?
6 – CHINA IS MOBILE. BE RESPONSIVE
Adapting our website to mobile is very important in any country, but in China is mandatory.
The Smartphone is, in many cases, the only way they have to access the Internet. Therefore Chinese users are much more familiar with the use of mobile devices. Keep in mind that almost the 50% of all Ecommerce transactions made in 2015 were done via mobile, compared to the also quite high 22% in the United States.
Don’t think any longer and start working on a nice mobile design… Mobile first!
7 – DOMAIN. WHICH ONE IS THE RIGHT OPTION FOR ME
In your approach to domains, three are the main options:
– Not that long ago, to have a .CN was a must. It was not possible to get it if you didn’t have a Chinese legal entity. This has changed over the time and now you can easily get a .cn domain, no matter where your company comes from, just providing a copy of your Company’s ID. As the Chinese international top level domain, your brand might be perceived as having a strong presence in China and might also bring some trust
– On the other hand, we have the .COM domain. Chinese Internet users are increasingly getting used to this domain. Major Ecommerce platforms like Tmall.com, JD.com or Sunning.com may bear much of the blame for this. It can be very good for foreign companies trying to sell their products in the Asian giant to have a .com domain as it might help to highlight the international feel of the brand
– .COM.CN is the ugly duckling in the middle still in use by many brands mixing the good things from the previous mentioned domains, but without reaching their full advantages. In any case it can also be a good solution.
Which language should I use?
Another point to think about is the language to be used. Does your brand have a Chinese name? Then you can also use its pinyin term. Pinyin is the romanization system for standard Chinese: Chinese search engines recognise the pinyin words in the URL and then link them to what they stand for in Chinese characters in order for the website not to lose coherence.
Don’t get crazy about the domain, they are usually not that expensive. So, in case you can afford it, try to get the three of them (.com, .cn and .com.cn), plus their pinyin variants and redirect them to the main one; depending on your strategy.
8 – CONTENT. DON’T GET LOST IN TRANSLATION
It is important to know very well your main target markets as the language will differ depending on it. It might be obvious to mention it, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a company’s target consumer is in Hong Kong, Taiwan or Macao and the language used for the website translation was simplified Chinese instead of traditional Chinese and the other way around. That is a major and silly mistake that takes a long time to revert.
I don’t want to mention either the fact that a Google translated web does not help at all, but I am doing it because I have seen too many. It is mandatory to let a professional team take care of the translations. In 2 Open we separate this process in three parts:
- Translation, interpreting the main message that the customer wants to transmit to the final customer, done by a marketing professional in our team
- External review, done by a professional translator outside the team
- Final review, done by another marketing professional in our team
You might not believe it, but in certain cases we still get minor complaints. This is because Chinese language can be interpreted in many different ways. Therefore translations are always a difficult point in the list.
Is Customization a mandatory requirement?
Let’s not forget about the Chinese cultural customization. Website localization embraces translating and localizing a site into different languages making sure all content (text, images and videos) is translated correctly in an accurate, cultural and technical manner.
As stated before when talking about content, we are also talking about images and videos. There are no written rules and it has similarities to the domain section we discussed above. There are brands like Nike or Zara that prefer to maintain their international feel using western models in their multimedia strategy. Many young Chinese users welcome this method, but not all of them. Depends on the strategy you want to follow.
9 – PAYMENT OPTIONS. CREDIT CARDS? NO, THANKS
In the previous post, we wrote about the BATs (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent). In China, the online payments market is currently dominated by two of these two tech giants – Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat payment with 49.2% and 20% market share respectively.
These companies try to increase their market share by adding more brands and merchants within their ecosystem; something that both companies effectively handle. Also cash is king, as cash on delivery holds a strong position. The fast and vast adoption of electronic payments via mobile is likely to counter this trend in due time.
It is actually China and not the US at the leading edge of the trends towards mobile payments technology. Just for putting an example, both WeChat and Alipay have long used the now famous QR codes to let Chinese netizens pay for purchases and transfer money. It seems they have jumped over some natural technological development processes. This kind of behaviours can be quite normal in undeveloped countries that start to grow very rapidly.
What happened is that they adopted the mobile payment technologies even before implementing some existing ones as a huge percentage of the Chinese population accesses the Internet via mobile devices.
Get ready to integrate Alipay in your website as first and mandatory option. And seeing how fast Tencent WeChat payment is growing, that would be your second natural option.
10 – SEO
Once your website is ready, you will need to submit it to Baidu creating a Baidu Webmaster Tools account (only available in Chinese). That way Baidu will be able to index the site properly and your great Chinese adventure starts!
Search engine optimization done in Baidu is not so very different as the one you could do for Google. Anyway, we would like to note a few differences I think you need to know:
– Meta description – unlike Google and Bing, Baidu still uses Meta descriptions as a ranking factor. Keyword targeted description match users’ queries and their demands, which would help with the click through rate (CTR).
– Indexation – Baidu’s web crawling bot, Baiduspider, is not as advanced as the one from Google. As a result, you will need to help Baiduspider to discover and index your pages in different ways. Without mentioning that you can go to sleep and wake up with huge traffic losses or de-indexed pages usually caused by a penalization. Be careful what you do!
– Link building – On Baidu, it is not about the quality of the publishers’ website, it is more about the unique relevancy of the content (as it relates to your content) and the quantity of links to your pages. Baidu penalizes duplicate content and it also disallows irrelevancy. Authority and quality of the publisher is not that important (for now). In short, the more the merrier as long as it is not duplicate.
– Baidu services – Baidu offers a lot of different products apart of Search; use them and leverage their integrated marketing power. The most useful are Baidu Zhidao (questions and answers service) and Baidu Baike (Wiki service), but there are tons of other services that might be helpful to increase brand awareness and for content creation.
As for the tracking, most people use Baidu Tongji and/or Google Analytics. Yes, you read it well; Google Analytics still works in China and it is the only Google service that still does. You will find many detractors, but for what we have seen there is no huge discrepancies between the data collected by both systems (usually not higher than 5%). And Google Analytics has more functionalities than Baidu Tongji.
It is also important to mention the typography. Chinese language is not easy to read due to the difficulty associated to its typography. With 40,000 characters, they are divided in strokes which amount can vary between 1 and 60. Therefore the font size should be at least 12px.
At 2 Open, we would be pleased to help you.Take the advantages the Chinese market offers.
With the cooperation of our Digital Marketing and Ecommerce Agency, China will be at your fingertips.
Do not hesitate to visit us We´d loved to hear from you!
This article has been edited by Paula Vicuña, from 2 Open.
1. The Chinese online ecosystem is shaped by the actions of the B.A.T.
The B.A.T. is a group consisting of Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. They are the dominant players in the Chinese online ecosystem. The dynamics of their competition and cooperation defines the boundary and possibilities of digital marketing and ecommerce in China. Each member of the B.A.T. dominates important segments of the online ecosystem: Baidu dominates the search engine market; Tencent is strong in social media, and Alibaba fiercely rules ecommerce. The results of this competition can provide inconveniences for online marketers. Baidu, for instance, is reluctant to direct search traffic to Tmall stores and pages, where in some cases a company will need special permission from Baidu to promote Tmall stores using Baidu’s Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
2. Baidu’s dominance in the search market
Baidu’s dominance in the Chinese search market means that most search engine related marketing activities requires the cooperation of Baidu to work. Baidu’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is different from Google’s SEO. Baidu still requires Meta data for proper indexing and it prioritizes loading speed quite heavily. Setting up SEM accounts with Baidu can either be an easy task that lasts for several working days or an excruciatingly slow and cumbersome process, which might take months to complete. This depends on the involved company’s policy match with Baidu’s requirements. There is also a minimum investment requirement for setting up an account. These can range from as low as 6,000 RMB to as much as 500,000 RMB depending on the type of account that is being opened. One of the most important aspects of Baidu’s listing is the absence of brand protection. This means that brand keywords can be bought by any paying parties willing to buy them. This might lead to unfair price based competition between official suppliers and the unofficial ones, or even from someone that sells fake products through proper channels.
3. Wechat is not just a messaging app; it is a lifestyle app that defines online interaction in China
It is hard not to know about Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in 2016, yet many are not familiar with Wechat if they live outside of China. Many foreigners regard Wechat as a Chinese version of Whatsapp but it is far from just a messaging app. To be more precise, Wechat combines the function of many known social media sites and utility apps. Users can chat, post their photos, sell items, make online payments, book a ride, buy transportation tickets, invest their money, and more. In addition to being used as a private app, it’s becoming more and more popular in the work place, mainly used for communications. With so many diverse functions and over 600 million registered users, marketers naturally want to use Wechat as a channel to communicate to their target audience. Wechat offers the possibility of a one on one customer service; creating customized functions to improve the brand experience. However, with the Wechat craze comes the high costs of Wechat marketing. Posting merketing content on a big account with upwards of 100,000 followers can cost as much as 80,000 RMB.
4. The Chinese consumer has embraced ecommerce faster than most markets
The rise of ecommerce in China surprised many outside observers. Many consumers born in the 80’s and 90’s have fully embraced the concept of ecommerce as the main way to purchase items. Anything from daily necessities to premium products can be purchased. The Chinese consumer responds well to online promotions and acceptance of new brands, however, most of them are still price sensitive. Foreign brands selling in the Chinese market to the Chinese consumer are less likely to be successful offline due to the high cost of real estate. Platforms such as Tmall and Jing Dong and vertical e-store are the best way to sell to consumers in China. Ecommerce events such as 11.11 are already a cultural phenomenon in China where the total transactions can be above 11 billion USD in one day.
5. China has one of the most highly regulated online environments in the world
China is one of the fastest growing online markets yet it is one of the most regulated ones. Traffic data going in and out of the country is heavily censored and is significantly slower than domestic traffic. This means that local hosting might be necessary for optimum speed. To publish a website, a company is required to obtain the Internet Content Provider (ICP) license to publish any content online. China has a very strict advertising law. Multinationals are regularly hit with fines for violating the law and some fines can go up to 100 million RMB. It is critical to study the proper regulations and laws before entering the Chinese market to prevent future risks and losses.
6. Mobile is not the future; it’s already the dominant traffic in China
In recent years, PC traffic has been decreasing 15% every year, whereas mobile traffic has been increasing as much as 20% in the same time frame. Many online retailers are reporting that most buyers are using their mobile phones to buy items online. Conversion for mobile traffic is also higher than PC traffic in many cases. This is due to the high penetration rate of smartphones as well as user reliance on mobile devices for online payments. It is easier for users to pay online with mobile phones than it is with their PC. Traditionally, consumers would use their PC to do extensive research before buying online. However, with improved mobile connectivity and mobile optimized websites, many consumers are abandoning PC and in some cases only uses PC for work related activities. The pay-per-click for mobile traffic can create as much as 300% higher than PC traffic in some industries, mainly due to limited advertising space and high demand.
7. Local content through local perspective
The Chinese market is still flooded with marketing contents that are just a direct translation from their original language. Some branding videos of multinational companies do not have Chinese voice-overs, only Chinese subtitles. While these contents do not necessarily fail to communicate their intended message, most have drastically reduced their effectiveness and recall rate due to being less relevant. In order to communicate effectively, companies need to dig deep to find relevant messages and hire local content producers as a bridge to effectively communicate to their Chinese consumers. This is especially relevant when publishing materials online, where the Chinese consumer expects instant gratification, not a bad translation.
This article was edited by Andres Arroyo Olson from 2Open.