Before you can expect any sort of traffic or sales online in China, you first need to impress the all-mighty gatekeeper of search engine visibility: Baidu. Just like the west, no holistic digital marketing strategy is complete without a proactive approach to SEO. In this context, proactive means having fresh, useful and consistent content across a variety of platforms; not just on your website. If you’ve handled content marketing in the west and are interested in how to get started for the Chinese market, grab your favorite cold beverage, perhaps a snack, and sit back as we’ll walk you through what it takes to get started.
Zhidao, Tieba, Wenku, Baike – ring any bells? Yes? No? Well, each of these services are knowledge properties of Baidu and just like western sites like Yahoo! Answers and Wikipedia, they’ll almost always appear on the first page of SERPs for relevant queries. With that said, let’s let’s see how we can leverage each platform for content marketing.
1. Baidu’s Zhidao
Zhidao is more or less China’s version of Yahoo! Answers. Similarly to when you type a question into Google and the first result is an answer from Yahoo! Answers, the same can be said about asking Baidu questions and being served answers from Zhidao.
Think of your brand or service – what would a customer want to know? Put yourself in the shoes of your customer/client and brainstorm a list of questions that you’d ask. If the questions haven’t been asked yet, you can go ahead and post the question to Zhidao.
Alternatively, if you find questions that have already been asked, feel free to provide insightful answers and remember to include a link to your site. The highest-rated response to a question will be listed first, so give as much detail as you can! Just be sure to limit the number of links in your response as stuffing too many in there can get your account banned.
As you can see here, the poster asked a question about how much beer brewing equipment costs.
The question was answered Hansen’s, a Beijing-based brewing equipment supplier. They not only gave a thorough answer, they also included a link to their website within the response.
2. Baidu’s Tieba
Tieba is essentially a BBS (bulletin board system) or online community where users can search or create a forum (or “bar”) by simply entering a query within the search bar. If the forum doesn’t exist yet, there will be one automatically created from the query.
One of the things that makes Tieba so great is that the topics can be hyper-specific; anything from niche video games to types of cell phone cases can be a “bar” (topic).
The community is similar to that of Reddit in that not only is there a forum for everything under the sun, the quality and quantity of posts and users is quite high.
Here’s an example of a post about wine from Napa Valley and the area’s history of vineyards. As you can see, the post is not only information-rich, it also includes a link to the Tmall store to purchase the vineyard’s wine directly.
One thing to keep in mind is that Tieba doesn’t allow ads. So make sure to keep your posting informative as possible and try not to include too many links. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and you should be fine.
3. Baidu’s Wenku
Wenku is a free platform that allows users to upload and share documents and files of many formats – .txt, .ppt, .pdf, .doc, .xls and more.
So how can a brand leverage this platform? Well, that really depends on your imagination. Let’s say you’re a beer brewer and you have an IPA with a special hop makeup. You can write an article or upload a document to Wenku giving a background of what makes your IPA special (without giving away trade secrets) – don’t forget to include a relevant link or two if you see fit.
You could also write articles about what foods go best with the beers you brew. Perhaps write up a couple recipes to upload and link to those from your main site – the sky’s the limit.
Here’s an example of how an interior designer shows off the work they did on Shanghai’s Boxing Cat Brewery.
4. Baidu’s Baike
Baike is by far one of the most popular and prevalent of Baidu’s properties. Essentially Wikipedia, Baike is a collaborative Chinese-language encyclopedia that was released on April 20, 2006. As of August 2017, there Baike reports an index of more than 15 million articles.
Baike consistently ranks within the first couple positions for searches on brands, people, places and much more. If there’s a corresponding entry within Baike for your search query, Baidu will serve the Baike article first. So as you can imagine, the opportunities for brands and businesses here is huge.
Just as you would on Wikipedia, you can edit and submit entries to Baike as long as you have a Baidu account. The articles will be reviewed before they go live.
Links are difficult to include in posts, however, it’s still beneficial to mention your brand within relevant articles. Sticking with our wine and beer theme, you can include the brand of your beer or wine in various bar or restaurants Baike entries (so long as they serve your brand’s beer or wine).
If you’re in Shanghai, you might be familiar with Dr. Beer – the western restaurant and brewery on Fumin Lu. Here’s a look at their Baike page:
As you can see, there is indeed a Baike page but it only includes the bare-bones information. Also, up top you can see that the listing’s business card hasn’t been filled out yet – this is a great example of how brands or business owners can really build out their online footprint and leverage these properties.
On the flip side, say you’re a brewer and your beers are now being served in Dr. Beer. This would be a great opportunity to edit this listing to include or mention your beer under the types of beers served (a section that has yet to be created for this listing).
If you’re just getting into content marketing for your brand, business or service in China, this guide should give you enough to chew on. Having a presence across these four Baidu-owned properties will not only increase your brand’s visibility and SEO in China, it’ll also help your organic ranking within Baidu.
This is by no means a be-all end-all content marketing guide for China, but if you manage to create high-quality, useful content across these platforms you’ll be well on your way to the land of qualified organic traffic – a great place to be if you ask me.