In the world of search engine marketing, it is Baidu — not Google — that reigns supreme as the king of search within China. The Chinese search leader is expected to account for around 5% of global digital ad spend this year. In spite of this, most “overseas” (non-Chinese) businesses still don’t advertise on Baidu, including many well-known companies with global influence.
However, forward-thinking western luxury brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Hennessey and Sephora — all of which have done exceptionally well in China — can be seen prominently listed in Baidu paid search results with rich, large-format ads. It makes perfect sense that these companies looking to succeed in Asia would advertise on Baidu.
But what about other companies? How do they know if Baidu is right for them?
We recently encountered an example of a company that’s doing quite well leveraging Baidu. Caimeiju is a domestic American company that has tapped into the Chinese market for US luxury real estate. They maintain a Chinese language website that promotes luxury home listings in cities throughout parts of the United States where there’s a relatively high concentration of Chinese real estate investment.
“We’re providing Chinese real estate investors with a premium user experience, introducing them to the market’s most desirable properties,” explains Jeff Toth, founder of Caimeiju. “At the same time, we’re offering US luxury real estate firms access to the highly coveted Chinese real estate purchasing population.”
Many headline-making listings have appeared on Caimeiju over the years, including the most expensive estate for sale in the United States, listed at $195 million by Beverly Hills real estate agent Joyce Rey. Caimeiju has disclosed in a recent press release that they recently began paid PPC campaigns on Baidu for a few of their clients, including The Century in Los Angeles and Pacific Sotheby’s in San Diego.
So exactly what is it that’s enabled this company to be so successful?
As you might suspect, advertising on Baidu is not the same as the typical small- to medium-sized American business AdWords experience. It isn’t as simple as entering a credit card, choosing keywords and writing a text ad or two. There’s an entire advertiser certification process for Baidu that requires extensive, specific knowledge and expertise in local practices, language and procedure.
On top of that, there is also the process of localizing the website and the PPC campaign for the Chinese market, not to mention learning how to use a whole new advertising platform. Still, overseas companies like Caimeiju are braving the tricky Baidu waters because the enticing opportunity warrants the increased overhead.
To paint a more complete picture of the challenges that must be overcome in order to advertise on Baidu, we spoke with Ryan Chooai, Caimeiju SEO manager and independent Baidu specialist in China, and asked him about the certification process. He revealed a sea of red tape to be navigated, a process maintained by Baidu in order to protect itself.
“As an advertising platform, Baidu needs to make sure the advertisers don’t use their platform to conduct illegal activities in China,” Chooai explained. “If that happens, they need to be able to quickly and easily cooperate with the authorities in order to avoid getting penalized themselves.”
For example, given China’s well-documented food safety issues, companies selling food products must produce a certificate as part of Baidu’s advertiser certification process.
Similar bureaucratic processes are required for other sensitive industries. There is plenty of other paperwork required for certification, including the use of a company seal, a practice not often seen in the West. If that weren’t enough, the process changes from time to time without notice or transparency. Chooai offered up some advice for Baidu certification:
Once certified, advertisers will face additional challenges in building and managing successful Baidu campaigns. While the campaign management is not entirely different from AdWords, the interface is largely in Simplified Chinese, which increases the need for localized talent. In addition, we recommend that all aspiring Baidu advertisers follow these guidelines:
Do you think you have what it takes to be a successful Baidu advertiser? Have any success or frustration stories? Questions? Please leave a comment below and join the conversation!
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