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7 Ways to Advertise Online in China

How and where do I advertise online in China?

That’s the billion dollar question we get asked all the time and in this article, we’re going to share with you the 7 best ways that we advertise online in China. There are more, but these are our go to channels before we consider others.

The truth is advertising in China for foreign business is hard. It isn’t because Chinese consumer is immune to advertisements, or that they don’t like to buy foreign products or services. It is because China has such a foreign environment, almost nothing you know and love in the west exist in China.

It has a completely different ecosystem, different rules, and a vastly different language, so you must forget everything you’ve learned and start as a beginner again. There is no Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube. But fortunately, there are similar channels…

1. Baidu

As you may probably know that Baidu is the Google of China since it literally owns 70% of the search market share in mainland China. While contrary to popular beliefs Baidu did not initially copy Google, but it is also apparent that it has copied many aspects of Google. Their user interface looks virtually indentical to Google.

Google has Adwords, Baidu has something similar call “推广 – Tuiguang” which literally translate to “Push Wide (To Promote)”, and they’re very similar.

Ads & Bidding Methods

If you think that Baidu ads and bidding methods are just like Google, you’re almost right. Yes, Baidu has Text search ads and display network ads just like Google. But there are some key differences.

When managing keywords in Adwords you’ll have a choice of Broad Match, Modify Broad Match, Phase Match, and Exact Match. Tuiguang, on the other hand, doesn’t have Modify Broad Match, instead, they have Phrase Synonym Match which is due to the fact that there are a lot of Synonym in Chinese compared to English.

Usability & User Interface

Tuiguang UI(User Interface) is not surprisingly similar to Google Adwords. Both UI looks very similar and has many similar features, but overall Adwords has a much better usability experience.

The biggest downside to Tuiguang is that it is difficult to setup. Unlike Adwords, literally, anyone can create an account and start advertising in just minutes. Tuiguang requires you have a business license, proof of ownership of your website, a minimum of 50,000 RMB (roughly $7,200 USD), and it takes about 45 days to process the account.

Is It Good?

Currently, Baidu has the most powerful display network and search network in China. And if you’re looking to pay for query base advertising then Baidu is great.

2. Sogou

If Baidu is the Google of China, then arguably Sougou would be Yahoo in terms of market share. However, Sogou is only a subsidiary company of Sohu, Inc. which offers a variety of internet products in China.

The one key different between Sogou and Baidu is that Sogou has partnerships with many social media companies in China like WeChat to allow users on Sogou to be able to search for contents from these social media platforms.

Ads & Bidding Methods

Sogou and Baidu are very similar in terms of ads and bidding methods. It searches and displays traffic volume is not nearly as big as Baidu but it also has considerably fewer competitions. Just like Yahoo, and Bind in the west since most people love to advertise on Google, the average CPC (cost per click) tend to be cheaper on these 2nd and 3rd place search engines.

Is it Good?

Many people have reported that Sogou seems to give the advertiser a better ROI but this is not confirmed and your result will vary.

3. Qihoo 360

Qihoo 360 again unlike Baidu, Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd. Did not started off as a search engine. It was originally selling third-party antivirus software online and later started to sell their own antivirus products.

Qihoo 360 expanded into the search business (so.com) much later in 2016 and currently owns about 10.52% of market share. Qihoo 360’s biggest accomplishment is that own the second most popular Browser in China right after Internet Explorer by Microsoft.

Ads & Bidding Methods

Pretty much the exact same as Sogou, smaller traffic volume but similar ad placements and bidding methods.

Is it Good?

Very similar to Soqou, low traffic, but decent CPC (cost per click).

4. WeChat

It is hard to market to China without ever mentioning WeChat. It is the most popular instant messaging app in China with well over 750 million daily active users that spends on average 90 minutes every single day chatting with their friends.

Paid advertising on WeChat is very tricky, and this is especially true if you’re a foreign business without a legally registered business in China. Actually, it is difficult for foreign business to do pretty much anything in China.

In order for you to do paid advertisement on WeChat you must have at least one verified official account, this can be subscription or service. It doesn’t matter but it must be a verified account. On top of that WeChat advertising is not cheap at all. And often out of the reach of many small businesses. However, there is a way around that…

Ads & Bidding Methods

There is only 2 type of ads on WeChat so far. Moment ads, and Sponsored Banner Ads on the bottom of subscription accounts. You can target your ads on moments by age, location, interest, and gender. As for bidding method, there is really only CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) and they’re pretty expensive for both ad placement.

If you’re a small business and do not have a huge advertising budget then we recommend you look for smaller less popular key influencer on WeChat to endorse your product or service.

Is it Good?

WeChat is a great ad platform if you’re looking to advertise your brand and you have a decent amount of ad budget. But if you’re a smaller business with a smaller budget then it is better to paid key influencers on WeChat to promote your products or services. But of course, the cost of influencer will vary.

5. Sina Weibo

A lot of people calls Weibo the “Twitter” of China, and in a way, it is, I mean it does look similar to twitter but does not exactly have a limit to 140 characters per post, at least not anymore. Besides, in Chinese language, each character is literally a word.

What many people outside of China don’t know, however, is that there is actually two major Weibo own and operated by 2 different company. Unlike twitter, the term “Weibo” literally translates to “micro blogging” and is not own by any company. The weibo that most Chinese people refer to is actually Sina Weibo, there is, however, a Tencent Weibo which is not as popular.

When we are talking about advertising on weibo here, we are talking about Sina Weibo and not Tencent Weibo. I know it’s confusing…

Ads & Bidding Methods       

Out of all the online platforms in China, Sina Weibo is actually the easiest to obtain a business account for foreign businesses, you just have to go through Sina’s foreign business registration process and pay them $1,000 USD per user that is going to be attached to your account.

The actual ad platform for Sina Weibo is called FenSi Tong, it has very similar targeting as Facebook or Twitter. You can target your audience by age, locations, interest, gender, and even keywords. It has banner ads, sponsor posts, and interactive ads.

As for bidding, there is Cost per Engagement (CPE) or Cost per Mille (CPM).

Is it Good?

Although Sina Weibo is no longer in its glory days, and WeChat has surpassed it in many metrics but it is still a very great platform to advertise on. First it is still vastly popular in China, and second users on weibo are looking for news or information, and not just chatting with their friends.

In our opinion, Sina Weibo should definitely be one of the channel foreign advertisers should consider if you want to market in China

6. Toutiao

Very few foreigner will have heard of Toutiao but it is absolutely a great platform that all advertiser should consider if you want to market to China. Toutiao literally translates to “Headlines” and is a news platform that uses advanced machine learning (A.I) algorithm to aggregation and distribution personalized “news” or contents to the users.

Ads & Bidding Methods       

Although Toutiao platform is relatively new compared to all the other platforms we’ve mentioned here, it does have a pretty robust ad distribution system. It has 11 different ad types that we’ve seen so far and 2 very unique way of bidding.

One of which is CPD which is Cost per Day this is where you can pay to display your ads to everyone who uses Toutiao for the entire day (24 hrs). The second is GD which stands for Guarantee Delivery, this is very similar to CPM but the amount of impression you pay for is pre-define.

For more information on Toutiao advertisement check out this post:

Is it Good?

As with any ads platform, your success will depend on many factors. How good is your creative, how good is your ad copy, etc… but overall and from our experience with Toutiao so far it is a solid channel for advertising online in China.

7. Youku & Tudou

Both Youku and Tudou are online video streaming sites, very much like Youtube with the nearly identical user interface.

Prior to 2012 Youku and Tudou would be two separate channels that are nearly identical, but in 2012 they decided to merge to form Youku Tudou. However, even after the merge Youku and Tudou has a separate platform but how you would advertise on both platform is virtually the same.

Ads & Bidding Methods       

Obviously, since it is a video streaming platform the majority of the ads are going to be video ads. One key difference that we should mention between Youtube and Youku Tudou is targeting. Youku Tudou has very limited targeting and you can really only pay for impressions. Which makes it ideal for brand base advertisement. Alternatively, to video ad, there are also banner ads, just like youtube, but video ads are much more effective of course.

Is it Good?

It is a good platform for brand advertising if you have a large budget. It is much harder if you’re looking for a direct respond from your ads.

To finish off this post, these are only 7 most popular ways to advertise online in China. There are certainly a lot more channels we did not cover in this article such as Lofter, Renren, some E-Commerce sites in China, Offline Channels, Online Magazines, etc…

But as a foreign business owner the biggest challenge you’ll have with advertising in China is to get all the account setup as it will require you to have a registered business in China. Alternatively, you can have these account setups for you from a 3rd part agency.

Hope you enjoy this, tell us your experiences and leave a comment below.

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