If you are one of the online marketers, PPC marketers, SEO guys, web analysts, and/or webmasters acquiring new businesses through Chinese Internet market:
- Online marketers and search marketers working within China’s Internet will require research tools for understanding trends and keywords, and will need to automate PPC marketing and social media marketing operations.
- SEO professionals focusing on Chinese search engines should use SEO analytics for the websites to gather alerts on SEO issues, search engine spider behavior and organic keyword ranking.
- As Chinese webmasters, Google may collect websites’ data through Google Analytics and Googlebot, and share the data back to webmasters through Google Webmaster Tools. However, Baidu isn’t quite ready on sharing website data with Chinese webmasters.
I did previously mention the above topics on Clickz Asia Blog.
SEM Tools for Brand Marketers Targeting China
Online marketing in China involves search engine marketing through search engines and social marketing through social media sites. Search engine Baidu offers high volume of search traffic that you need and social media site/tool Sina Weibo has been the center of buzz in China’s Internet world. Before you jump right into search marketing and social media marketing in the Chinese market, follow these three steps when planning your actions: trend research, keyword research, and process automation. Let’s go through the list now.
Trend research allows you to better understand Chinese Internet users’ intent and what they are most interested about. As the number one Chinese search engine, Baidu has been collecting the most user intent through its search box. In return, Baidu provides these trend research tools: Baidu Index, Baidu Data Research Center, and Baidu Top Searches.
- Baidu Index: It is the equivalent of Baidu’s Google Trends in China. Baidu index shows you search terms’ volume by the timeline of your choice from geographical regions, by gender, by age, by occupation, and by education level. It also tells you the media’s attention to your search terms with news that have mentioned the search terms.
- Baidu Data Research Center: Offers trend reports by industry for download.
- Baidu Top Searches: Provides top 10 searches in real time and in other different categories including entertainment, people, and life by demographics (gender and age).
- You may also want to verify trends by using tools from other search engines: Google, Sogou, and Soso.
- Google Insights for Search: Needless to mention, this is a great trend spotting tool provided by Google. Google Insights lets you search via search terms, geographical regions, and time frames. You can even filter your searches by verticals (web search, image search, news search, or product search) and select from 27 industries.
- Sogou Hot Searches: Provides the top 10 search terms in different categories including today’s news, weekly hot topics, etc.
- Soso Top Searches: Features the top 10 search terms for categories including websites, pretty ladies, handsome guys, songs, books, people, movies, TV shows, and sports.
Before launching your Chinese PPC campaign either in Baidu’s Phoenix Nest, or Google AdWords, you need to set up keyword lists that are suitable for your business. Both Baidu and Google provide keyword research tools.
- Google Keyword Tool: For each keyword that you run a research on Google’s keyword tool, Google gives you up to 100 related new keywords with numbers in competition, global monthly searches, and local monthly searches, by keyword match types and by geographical regions. You can even enter a URL and the keyword tool will return ‘keywords’ from within the web page.
- Baidu Keyword Tool: It works similar to Google’s keyword tool except that you are required to log in to a Baidu Phoenix Nest account before you can access the tool. For each keyword that you run a research on Baidu’s keyword tool, it will return new keyword suggestions by daily search volume and by competitions. You can even filter keyword suggestions by geographical regions within China.
Chinese keyword research tools has the entire list of tools for keyword research.
- FaWave add-on: This add-on is a Chrome extension that works on the Chrome browser. It allows you to send Weibo messages (Chinese tweets) on multiple weibo platforms at the same time such as Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Douban, Kaixin001, Renren, Google Buzz, Twitter, etc.
- ShowOne: With this weibo management tool, you can write your weibo messages and then schedule your messages to be sent out. The tool only works with Sina Weibo.
- Hearwide: It lets you search for images/photos, merge multiple photos into one GIF image, and send the image with your 140 Chinese characters as weibo messages.
- Baidu Box Computing: Baidu’s concept of ‘box computing’ offers you a weibo form right within Baidu’s web search results pages. All you need to do is to search for the ‘right’ keywords. However, the form only allows you to broadcast weibo messages to Tencent Weibo, Sohu Weibo, and 163 Weibo – no integration yet with Sina Weibo.
SEO Analytics for Chinese Online Marketers
Successful search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns require online marketers to set up analytics to reflect performance and analyze user behavior to your websites. We will need SEO analytics that can give us:
- General Alerts/Information on Website/SEO Issues
- Organic search engine bot behavior
- Organic search engine keyword ranking
General alerts/information on website/SEO issues
Besides jumping into specific tools/systems to analyze your website’s organic search engine performance, you should always refer to the information/reports that are given to you for free from Google’s Webmaster Tools.
Google’s Webmaster Tools offers site information such as various reports by domain and sub-domain. The reports provided include issues discovered by Google’s spider/bot to your site’s Robots.txt, XML Sitemaps, sitelinks, geographic/country targeting, malware, crawl errors, and crawl statistics.
Google’s Webmaster Tools also shows you reports on the average time when loading a web page on your site, HTML suggestions to your web pages, search queries that have led visitors to your site, internal links and external links that are pointing to your site, keyword themes of your site, subscribers to your site’s RSS feeds (if your website offers content in RSS feeds), and Google +1 metrics (new reports).
The Google Webmaster Central Blog provides feature updates to Google’s Webmaster Tools and is a great reference for all webmasters on common and general search engine optimization issues.
Organic Search Engine Bot Behavior
Depending on how much traffic your site is getting every day from all traffic sources and from organic search engines, your website’s raw log file records almost all activities of visitors and search engine robots to your site and can contain from giga-bytes to tera-bytes of raw data on a single day.
Nihuo Web Log Analyzer allows you to process your website’s daily log files and returns analytics reports to reflect behavior of search engine robots/spiders and human visitors. Though for human visitors’ behavior, you may want to stick with using Google Analytics or other free or paid analytics tools; the main point of using Nihuo is to look at and analyze search engine bots’ behavior (i.e., Baiduspider, GoogleBot, YoudaoBot, Sogou Web Spider, etc.).
Besides providing data on top referring sites and top referring URLs, Nihuo gives you data about your website on search engine statistics including top search engines, top search keywords, and top search phrases by country (IP address), by browser type, total bandwidth consumed by all visitors, bandwidth consumed by search engine bots, time spent of each search engine bot on your website, and any individual web pages.
By analyzing search engine bot-related data, you will be able to identify crawling and indexing issues per search engine, and take action to improve your site’s visibility in organic search engine results.
Organic Search Engine Keyword Ranking
How much traffic your website gets from organic search engines (Baidu/Google) depends on your keywords’ rankings within Baidu/Google’s organic search engine results pages.
The Rank Tracker software in Link-Assistant’s SEO PowerSuite allows you to keep track of any website’s search engine keyword rankings.
You should have a keyword list of core/profitable keywords for your website that you expect to rank organically in Baidu, Google, Sogou, Soso, and other organic Chinese search engines. Run your keyword list through Rank Tracker against your website’s domain name and Rank Tracker will show you information including keyword, keyword’s organic ranking, and landing page URL by search engine of the current day.
Running Rank Tracker with the same set of keyword list against your competitors’ domain names will allow you to set up competitive intelligence about your competitors’ organic search engine rankings.
If most of your core/profitable keywords have rankings far behind the top 20 organic ranking and/or far behind your major competitors, it is time to take action.
The Importance of Data Lifecycles for Chinese Websites
China’s fast growing Internet has created opportunities not only in search engine marketing and search engine optimization for websites, but also in data lifecycle. Every decision for your website can be as data-driven as possible, if you know where and how to collect the data necessary for your online business.
Google’s Data Lifecycle
Everyone knows Google is a search engine. But what Google has really established is a data lifecycle between webmasters/advertisers and Google themselves. Consider two processes:
- Google collects website data from all over the world
- Google feedbacks bulk data back to all webmasters/advertisers
How Does Google Collect Data?
Process 1: Google collects massive website data through two major methods: Google Analytics and Googlebot.
- Once the codes are on your site, Google Analytics will start collecting data traffic to your site. Every piece of the data collected will be stored in some Google data centers.
- Google has several crawlers working tirelessly and simultaneously, and Googlebot is one of the major crawlers.
- Googlebot would access a website, move through the website’s internal links, and record all the web pages that it has visited.
- Then Googlebot takes all the page information it collected back to Google’s many data centers.
- Finally Google will decide what web pages should be placed in Google’s index and how the web pages should be ranked in organic search results, according to Google’s indexing factors and ranking factors.
After data collection, Google reorganized the data into more meaningful and useful forms, i.e., reports, before showing them to webmasters and online advertisers.
How Does Google Share Website Data?
Process 2: Google shares website data back to webmasters and advertisers through many tools/systems, but most notably through:
- Google Analytics – Google provides you close to a full view of your website’s traffic sources, where those traffic may come from search engines (e.g., Google, Baidu, Bing, etc.), referral sites (e.g., BBC News, Clickz.Asia, etc.), or social network sites/microblogging sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc). Through Google Analytics, you can get a bit more including traffic sources’ locations (e.g., countries and cities), browser types (e.g., Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer), and visitors’ high-level behavior (e.g., new visitors vs. repeat visitors, loyalty of visitors, etc.).
- Google Adwords – If you buy search ads/display ads and advertise through Google AdWords, you can always log in to your AdWords account, get the reports, review the performance of your ads, and make decisions/adjustment to your spending.
- Google Webmaster Tools – After verifying to Google that you are in fact the owner of your site, Google will give you access to the technical issues of your site from Googlebot’s perspective (surely, this is more for those who work on search engine optimization of your website).
Google? No, It Should Be Baidu in China!
Above is the demonstration of the processes in collecting and sharing website data by Google, but in China, Google’s search share is way behind Chinese leading search engine Baidu. So the bulk data that really matters most should be with Baidu and should be shared by Baidu back to all Chinese webmasters and advertisers. However, is this happening and if not, then why not?
Baidu Analytics: Baidu has only released the beta version of Baidu Analytics (which is equivalent to Google Analytics in China) in late 2009 to selected Baidu PPC advertisers. In 2010, Baidu Analytics has been opened to the public.
Baidu’s Webmaster Tools: Baidu released a so-called webmaster tools to webmasters in 2010. It should be the equivalent to Google’s Webmaster Tools, but in reality, Baidu’s Webmaster Tools has never been up to par due to many shortcomings in functionality.
- It’s not yet Baidu’s intention to share with webmasters a lot of data, other than simply making the webmaster tools a place only for website URL submission (via XML format). Baidu has never been not ready to share too much or any data with anyone. Look at Baidu’s building a Chinese Internet Empire. In Baidu’s philosophy (similar many large-sized Chinese Internet companies), they don’t prefer being collaborative, they prefer to compete.
- Baidu’s intention may be to use the data collected for their own benefit: they found out through their search data that the online travel industry possesses an opportunity and acquired Qunar, an online travel search engine, to head right into the travel industry. In the short-term, this strategy proves to be a better option than sharing all these data with Chinese webmasters and advertisers. Baidu could easily do this again and again to many other industries.
- By sharing less to Baidu PPC advertisers, Baidu continues to keep most of the less-data-driven advertisers aware that most of their spending on Baidu PPC could have been actually wasted cash.
Baidu Phoenix Nest: Though Baidu’s PPC platform has made more and more reports available to Baidu PPC advertisers over the years, it is Baidu’s keyword bidding algorithm and offline negotiation that hinders most of the advertisers.
Baidu’s PPC bidding algorithm is highly tilted toward bid prices that advertisers set to their keywords and places much less weight onto ad ranking factors for example, keyword quality score.
Baidu in their culture loves negotiation with advertisers. The more negotiation they get into, the better chance they are to get advertisers to pay more. Everything, every spot on any Baidu network site has a price, which is acceptable. And Baidu utilizes the most out of it by negotiating ad spot prices with advertisers (as they have a large sales team). But the problem is with the quality of these traffic advertisers get from these so-called Baidu networks.
Without adequate data being collected in the first place from all the Chinese websites and shared back to all the webmasters and advertisers, this data life cycle still has a long way to complete in China’s Internet world.