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How to implement an effective SEO strategy in China?

Though it may seem complicated, it is possible for a foreign entity to succeed in the online Chinese market as long as you incorporate the above SEO strategies.

seo china
Image: KnowTechie

China, as a country has made a mark in the online shopping sector. It boasts of a 21% share in the overall percentage of internet users from all over the world. A quick comparison will show you how China is on the next level in matters regarding online spending.

For example, in 11/11/2019, Alibaba recorded a $25.3 billion during a flash sales that lasted for 24 hours. On the other side of the world in the US, during a Black Friday sales, the highest amount spent was $3.5 billion.

However, despite there being a huge market force and online presence in China. Succeeding as an online entrepreneur in China requires an in-depth understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

The Current Status of SEO in China

The first step to carrying out SEO requires an understanding of the search engines. Unlike in other parts of the world where Bing and Yahoo are the most commonly used search engines. In China, local search companies such as Baidu and 360 are most widely used. You should also know that Google doesn’t work in mainland China.

Though these search engines look similar to Google and Bing, they feature complex algorithms. Most of which have been tailored to identify content suitable for China. You will be surprised to know that these search engines can tell whether your company is or isn’t registered in China.

What are The Requirements for Registering a Business in China?

If you haven’t registered your business in China, chances are, your SEO tactics will be futile. It is mandatory for you to have a Chinese business license for your business to rank higher on local search engine result pages.

It is quite simple for these search engines to know whether you have registered your business or not. All sites that have been licensed by the Chinese government have an ICP registration number at the footer of the website.

You will need the following requirements for you to get an ICP license for your site in China:

  • A physical address in China 
  • If you are an overseas company, then you must state this during your license application
  • Approval from relevant authorities
  • Other necessary requirements

It is only after you have acquired an ICP license that you can kick start your SEO tactics in China. Not only will the local search engine crawlers perceive your content as relevant to China, but your pages will load faster, and your clients will benefit from the improved user experience.

What If It Is Impossible to Get an ICP License for Your Site?

As you can see above, registering a business in China does have its fair share of challenges. There are a lot of requirements to be met and having to register a business only for the sake of ranking higher on search engines isn’t the right way to go.

If this is the case, then you should focus more on other SEO strategies that we have listed below. Note that, if you find it difficult to host your site in Mainland China. You could host your website in Hong Kong. This latter option doesn’t require ICP registration, and it is super affordable than hosting in neighboring countries.

Below are some of the best SEO strategies you can implement in China;

Mobile SEO

Optimizing your website for mobile users can make a huge difference. This is because 52% of consumers in China solely rely on their mobile devices for online shopping. You can achieve this by registering both a mobile and desktop sitemap to local search engines. Note that you don’t need any license to accomplish this strategy. You can make use of the tools such as the Baidu Webmaster to submit sitemaps. The biggest downside of these local search engines is that it may take a while for your site to be fully indexed.

On-Page Optimization

Similar to Google, Bing, and Yahoo, the local Chinese search engines have the same objectives. That is, to only portray relevant and useful content to users. This is why you should focus on the below on-page SEO tactics.

Keywords: Using the right set of keywords can make you rank higher on Chinese search engines. You should first research on the set of keywords before adding them to your main content, meta-tags, headings as well as subheadings. Since the keywords will be in Chinese, you should seek the services of a translator if you aren’t familiar with the language.

URLs: The Chinese search engines, such as Baidu rely on Pinyin. Therefore, you should stick to Chinese characters when coming up with your website URL.

Friendly Backlinks: One thing that Google has in common with Baidu is that both have changed their approach towards the use of backlinks. They both prioritize friendly backlinks. In that, if you are running an online clothing store, you should get backlinks from relevant sites such as fashion and design. And, not backlinks from food sites. You should also backlink to RELEVANT authority sites.

Bounce Rate and Time-on-Page: China has a bounce rate of more than 80% for websites. This is mostly because most users prefer mobile devices and can thus be easily distracted. To improve your visitor’s time on page, you need to make use of multimedia content which appeals to a massive population of the Chinese users. The trick is to come up with top-notch content that will ensure your visitors spend more time on your page.   

Language: As mentioned earlier, if you are unfamiliar with the Chinese language. You should seek professional translation, copywriting, and research services. This will help in the optimization of your content for China. Pay attention to the following;

  • Chinese Characters – Always stick to simplified Chinese characters since they are the dominant choice for most Chinese individuals.
  • The Language is Different – During keyword research, you will realize that in China, there is little or no keyword variations. For instance, in the west, ‘hotels in New York’ and ‘hotel in New York’ means two different things. In China, when a person is looking for reviews of the best hotels in Hong Kong, they will use ‘hotel Hong Kong’ keywords. And they will still use the same keywords when they are finally looking to book a hotel. You need to understand that there is a lot of competition when it comes to keyword optimization.
    Translation – It is advisable to stick to professional translation services. Because, if you decide to use translation apps or sites. It may be hard for Chinese search engines to index your site.

Keep Off Subdomains: From an SEO point of view, you will have a better chance of ranking higher if you own a stand-alone site than hosting on a sub-domain. As you approach the online Chinese world, note that the competition is fierce. And hosting your content on a sub-domain will keep you a step behind your competitors.

Meta Descriptions: Meta descriptions do more than help you rank higher on search engine result pages. But, they also give end-users a sneak peek on what they can expect to find on that web-page. Baidu allows you to write 70 characters as your meta-description.

Final Thoughts

Though it may seem complicated, it is possible for a foreign entity to succeed in the online Chinese market as long as you incorporate the above SEO strategies. Implementing an effective SEO strategy in China requires dedication and patience.

Hosting a server in the mainland should be your number one priority. If you fail to acquire an ICP license, Hong Kong is your next best option. With the assistance of a Chinese speaker, you can conduct thorough keyword research and analysis. Feel free to also higher an SEO expert who is familiar with the Chinese Online Industry.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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