Baidu Advertising is a powerful tool in the Chinese marketing arsenal. When used effectively, it can elevate a product or brand to eye-watering levels of exposure. When used badly, it can lead to huge costs and very little impact. Below, we look at several key considerations any marketer must understand and employ if they wish for success.
Baidu Advertising is not Google Advertising
There’s a common refrain that Baidu is China’s Google. In some senses, it is true. It commands the lion’s share of searches by Chinese internet users, is used frequently by almost everybody connected to the web in China, and has several shared additional features, including a cloud service, image search and location-based products. When it comes to PPC advertising, however, there are several key differences. Here are a few:
- Paid ads and natural search results are much less distinct, visually, on Baidu (much to the advantage of advertisers).
- Longer ad copy. Baidu allows for 50 characters in the title, and 80 characters in two lines of copy; although based on search relevance and page formatting, often only the first line will be displayed.
- Baidu PPC fees are paid up-front, and an initial down payment is necessary when registering. Top-ups are possible, but it’s important to plan carefully to avoid a campaign being abruptly cut short by delays in money transfers.
- There are restrictions on the types of products and services that can be advertised on Baidu. It’s important to abide by regulations prohibiting or limiting the advertisement of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, financial services and sensitive content.
- Landing pages must hold an ICP license (more on that below).
Superlatives in ad copy are a huge no-no.
- Many Baidu searches refer to Baidu Zhihu, Baidu’s equivalent to Quora. PPC advertising on specific Zhihu pages is an additional means to get targeted click-throughs.
Localize your landing page
Localization includes a couple of key steps. First, legal. As of the latest rules, which came into force in April 2021, Baidu is providing two options for the landing page, in accordance with laws on content management in China. One is to use a Baidu-provided H5 page, mini-program or mini-site. These are built using Baidu’s ‘Jimuyu’ tool, and are reviewed for content before being allowed online.
The other is to develop a website and apply for an ICP license. The basic requirements to obtain the license are that the website be hosted in China, and its content reviewed by the authorities. More on that here. After the URL is set as part of a PPC campaign, it may not be changed, and URL redirections upon landing are strictly prohibited.
Second, the UI, UX and content should all be localized. This means getting experts to translate copy in a context-appropriate way, and constructing the page in a way that appeals to China’s internet users. There are significant differences in the way websites are expected to look and operate in China and elsewhere.
Baidu Advertising for mobile
Another popular refrain is that in China, the internet is mobile. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to adapt landing pages for small screens. Responsive design is a must for websites, but Baidu’s proprietary Jimuyu service is perhaps best suited for this task. It has in-built templates for H5 pages, mini-programs and mini-sites, and a number of agencies exist to help build them from the ground up.
Example of the Baidu advertising campaign Jimuyu H5 for our client Wolters Kluwer
The added advantage to using Jimuyu is increased functionality with Baidu’s app. While the search engine is primarily still browser-based, its app now records 200 million daily active users. Integrating with its interface increases the value of any PPC campaign.
Set the right goals
Taking into account the idiosyncrasies of Baidu PPC laid out above, it’s important to adapt goals instead of simply applying the goals that might have been developed with the use of Google PPC in mind. Just as different media allow for different forms of messaging, different ad platforms allow for different outcomes. For example, Baidu Advertising campaigns can be very useful for the following things:
- Building brand awareness among Chinese internet users
- Leading to conversions for China-based products and services
- Generating buzz about product launches, events or activations
But they’re not particularly useful for:
- Linking Chinese users with products or services not based in China
- Creating dynamic campaigns in which landing pages adapt or change frequently
- Integrating with global campaigns
There are a few important things to note here. One is that Baidu PPC limits negative keywords to 100. Another is that a typical campaign will have 20-30 keywords. This makes it incredibly important to do thorough research. Do not rely on automatic translators; allocate budget and time to get the help of a professional translator, and double-check with native speakers.
Consider how competitive the competition for ranking is, and whether it might be possible to unseat the top spot. The chances are, it won’t be. Adjust strategy accordingly, by reviewing and comparing the keywords from URLs that are ranked lower than the top spot.
Baidu advertising account backend, with the keywords search and expansion system
Search volumes, levels of competition and estimated bid costs of keywords are searchable through Baidu Keyword Planner, which is available from the Baidu ads members’ backend.
Bidding and quality scores
The prices for bidding on keywords frequently fluctuate, and may do so during a campaign. It’s thus important to continually keep an eye on spend, and adjust budgets accordingly. As mentioned above, PPC campaigns are paid for up-front, and transferring money may take a few days or even a week, so it’s a good idea to incorporate some collateral into each campaign budget.
Baidu Advertising has a function where it’s possible to bid for URLs, as well as keywords. This means that when a given URL is returned in a search, the ad will appear too. By researching relevant websites that are ranked highly, it’s possible to piggy back on their SEO.
When a campaign is over, but there’s still hope that the ad page will rank highly in organic searches, bear in mind that Baidu now controls for content. When ranking, its algorithms are moving away (albeit at a slower pace than Google) from traditional SEO factors like keywords, text and meta-text. They’re moving towards ranking pages according to what they deem to be high quality content. More on that here.
By understanding the differences between Baidu and Google Advertising, and the nuances involves with using Baidu PPC, there’s no reason why brands within China or internationally shouldn’t find great success with campaigns. As with all things marketing in China, it’s vital to avoid the mistake of assuming that the platforms work in exactly the same ways as international platforms. It might take a bit of time and money to adapt, but that is in the nature of thinking globally, acting locally.
With its HQ based in Shanghai and with offices around the world, Sekkei Studio is a 13 years old Digital Marketing Agency that has been helping companies and governments with their Digital Strategy and execution in China. Contact us to get more information about how we can help your company with Baidu advertising campaigns.