China Marketing Blog

5 Myths About Hosting in China and Chinese Domain Names

Tait Lawton — Wed, 03/06/2013 - 13:20

Some of the most common questions I hear from website owners that are considering entering the Chinese market are about hosting and domain names. Questions like “Do I need to host my site in China?”, “Should I use a .cn, .com.cn or something else?” and “Will my site get blocked?”

Unfortunately, I’ve seen a TON of bad advice for these questions online. I think this is a case of the Bad Advice Echo Chamber at work. That is, some time ago, a person or two spread some advice about these issues. And that advice has been repetitively bounced back and forth ever since, like an echo.

Below are 5 myths I’ve come across regarding this issue.

Myth #1: If your site is hosted outside of China, it might get blocked by the Chinese government.

The truth: If the Chinese government wants to block your site, they can do it. It doesn’t matter where it’s hosted.

But why would they block your site anyways? If you aren’t promoting something prohibited, like porn, gambling or political content, it won’t be blocked. There’s room to debate why some sites have been blocked and some haven’t, but hosting location doesn’t have anything to do with it.

Myth #2: Baidu will rank my site higher if it’s located in China.

If you hear somebody who claims to be an SEO expert say this, ask them what evidence they have. If the only evidence they have is from the Echo Chamber, you might as well do your own SEO.

Baidu will temporarily remove sites from its index if they aren’t accessible – this is according to their official webmaster FAQ. It would even be reasonable to assume that Baidu considers site performance in their ranking algorithm. However, that doesn’t mean the site has to be located in China – it just means the site has to load well for Chinese users, including Baidu.

Myth #3: It is best to use a .cn or .com.cn rather than a .com domain.

I can see why people might think this, but I generally recommend that International businesses use a .com domain.

Based on a survey we did before, Chinese users much prefer .com domains over .cn domains. It was only a survey of 34 Internet users, so there is room for more research. However, the results were just as I would expect. As I often say: There’s nobody Chinese people trust less than Chinese people.

Finally, .cn and .com.cn domains are only legally available to people that are either Chinese citizens or have a Chinese business entity. So, for many small businesses this factor alone would put the brakes on any plans for a .cn domain.

Myth #4: But, I can buy a .cn with such-and-such company.

Update: Non-Chinese individuals and businesses can register .cn domain names now apparently. See this post for more up-to-date info.

Myth #5: I’ll just sign up for a hosting account like the one I have in USA (or other Western country). Piece of cake.

Wow, this is one I believed in myself earlier. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Hosting companies in China tend to do things differently. They tend to provide a lot less bang per buck than US hosting companies too.

I’m no hosting expert, and I don’t want to have to become one in order to get a website setup. So, moving away from hosting companies I trust like FullHost.com and HostGator.com can be a big risk. For that matter, it’s always a risk switching from one host to another, regardless of where the new hosting company is located.

So, just keep in mind that there’s a cost to setting up new hosting in terms of time, money and risk. This cost is even greater when looking for hosting in a new country, with different industries standards and a different language.

In closing…

There are valid reasons to host a site in China, just as there are valid reasons to use a .cn domain name as well. I just hope people don’t do it for the wrong reasons.
 
 

 

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Hello Tait, yes i agree 95% percent with all what you said. I receive this kind of questions almost every day too. It seems that there is a lot of speculation by people who really dont know about internet and China and they answer other people's questions...

About hosting yes, you are better off not changing hosting provider if your main target is not Asia. Otherwise your site will benefit from hosting near Mainland China like Hong Kong, where the speed will be much faster.

As an advice to all newbies do not use Mainland China hosting providers. Most of the companies use really bad equipment, no english support, really poor and not user friendly control panels, etc.

Thanks for the useful info. :)

We recently looked around for hosting again too.
We checked Hong Kong hosting companies and found it hard to find a good host. For example, I emailed sinohosting.net support and they replied a week later! I measure response times from hosting companies in minutes or maybe hours - it's crazy that it took a week for them to reply.
I checked www.internetsolutions.hk earlier too, but it didn't look like it was a hosting company. Looked more like a web agency that also provides hosting. I also remember I went to http://www.internetsolutions.hk/hong-kong-hosting.html and did "find" for "cPanel", but didn't see it.
For this case, we ended up going with hosting with Site5 in their Australian location, since about half the visitors for that site are from Australia and the other half are from China.
I still haven't found a Hong Kong hosting company that is exactly what I want (very fast support in Chinese & English; cPanel; monthly payment via credit card; and of course very good performance.) But I would love to hear of one!

Hey Tait - I'd proudly recommend www.vr.org for hosting in HK. Although their base package for HK hosting begins with $40, they are amazing - great service, speed and control. I also tried working with rackspace.com.hk but I found their claims of 'lighting speed customer service' pretty useless since 3 days and I still hadn't had anyone help me setup. Another article that you might like to read is this one: http://www.mychinahosting.com/top-5-web-hosting-companies-in-china/

Hong Kong shared hosting with cpanel is our main service. I call it "service" because web hosting is more than just a product, you need a support team that will give you a fast response any time you need it. Internet Solutions HK was born in 2009 after bad experiences with the major Chinese Hosting players including the other company you mentioned... so we know what our clients want :)

Thanks. I will consider it in the future.

Thanks for your comments.
So, considering that the aim is selling products to Chinese customers, do you confirm that (except for possible better speed) there's no other real need of hosting an overseas website to China?
Thanks,
regards.

Dear HK Host, what about your comments to the article posted by Tait?
Despite all, I've got real intentions about finding good hosting services in
Do you agree about no real need to host a website in China if you want to promote your company/products in China?
Thanks,
regards.

Dear Manolo, i agree with Tait. You can host your website in Mainland China but after testing many different providers i can only say you will not want to renew the service. That is just my personal experience, you can try by yourself. Regards and good luck with your hosting hunting!

You've said enough to persuade me that hosting in China may not be the answer. That being the case, where is a good location so as not to have a ton of latency?

I would guess Hong Kong or Taiwan. But it's best to test first.

Can someone explain how to use .cn domain and host say in Australia? I am told that I cannot use my normal nameservers or they need to be specially registered...you must have your nameserver registered with China Internet Center for ICP, step can be find at http://www.miitbeian.gov.cn/state/outPortal/loginPortal.action

As this was the strict rule control by CNNIC. If not your domain name server will not be recommended by CNNIC.

Sorry, I don't know. We haven't needed to do this before.

Hello, what do you mean by "normal nameservers" you "specially registered". You can register a .cn domain very easily and fast (only need your passport copy or any government issued ID). Then you need to host your site outsite Mainland China. Thats it.

I dont agree, I hosted my site on iPage and found iPage banned in china, whats the solution now? if your web hosters ip address got banned in china like it happened with iPage what would you do, and it almost impossible for you without your company registered in china to register a .cn site.

Hello, most probably you are using a Shared Hosting account (where your site is hosted together with hundreds more) if any website inside that server has innapropiate content according to China they will block the server main IPs.

So, if your website is clean (nothing against China laws) you have 2 options:

A. Ask for a IP change or a dedicated IP.
B. Change web hosting provider that has no blocked IPs.

Actually is very easy to registed a .cn domain name. We offer this product/service as many other companies too. You will only need a passport ir ID copy and in 24 hours you can have your .cn domain name.

I hope this can help you understand more about web hosting and domain registration in China.

Thanks a ton!! I was having hard time battling whether to have chinese domain or not for future growth. Your information is really helpful and lessen my burden.
Hope to have more information how you can help provide chinese-language marketing service for western clients...actually I'm korean but building english website and look forward to expand it into china market.

No problem Haewon. If you have some other interesting questions about Chinese marketing, feel free to send them my way. Most of the blog posts I write are in response to questions from readers or clients.

Interesting article, Tait. I'd like to add two point: first, a site may become inaccessible from China just for having a bad luck of sharing a server with another "banned" site. It means that a site doesn't have to be "political" or promoting vices etc. to become blocked.

Second point is regarding the hosting location. You are right to point out that it makes little difference where a site is physically hosted, however it's only true for a simple sites, like company pages for example. For the sites that provide services to large number of users and those that incorporate large and complex databases, physical server's location directly affects response time. If it's too slow, it may turn away users or get to the point of being completely unusable. So, physical server location does matter in those cases.

Val, You've made very great points and I'm glad you specifically commented about server location and latency. A few others out there may try a CDN ~ what are your thoughts on that? I work out of one of the mid-sized web hosting companies in California, and the CDN topic is frequently brought up. Of course, it would likely incur another cost. In any case, I would agree that if your target market is physically located IN China, they'll be most quickly served by well, -- the closest data-center to them (in China).

I have exactly this issue with my service www.myeasyled.com
It is aimed at US, EU and China, but my chinese customer cannot access it. It is simply too slow for them.
On a recent trip to china (last month) I realised how bad the connexion is with ANY website coming from outside China, and I say ANY... It is horrible.

I live in Poland, but I like to watch HULU+, To do this I use a VPN to locate my IP in US.

When I turned it on inside China, suddenly my service was fast like it usually is, and I could access Google, Facebook, anything.... This is the proof that location of server, or content does not matter, China decided to simply close their Web, and not allow content for the rest of the world to come in...

SAD...

Great tips Tait. Could you possibly recommend some China based hosting providers by any chance? I am also guessing Baidu will rank you better, as most probably China hosted servers will serve the request faster than servers sitting in US or EU.

I can't recommend hosting providers myself. I'd be interested in hearing some reviews from others.

Cheers for the advice. I've already spent more than enough time researching this before finding your 5 myths. This ECHO is a big issue.

Hello, I selling copy bracelet in France, USA and UK and I was thinking that in case they wanted to shut down my website because brand complain about my website.

It will not be more difficult to shut down my website if the website is hosted in China Instead USA or UK ??

Thanks for your help

That's a good question. I would guess that getting hosted in China wouldn't be the best solution. Isn't there another country TLD that you could use that would be easier to get and also give you the protection you want?

iPage doesn't allow sign ups from China as well because of the so called 'fraudulent sign ups' they have detected. Unfortunately, iPage can't do anything about the site block in China. Its the Chinese Govt who has blacklisted iPage server IP's.

Just don't use sinohosting.net. Their servers went down for a week without any comment or reply from their "customer service". They charge you for services that they actually do not provide but still happily accept payments for and then won't refund. And in general, don't expect any reply from them within a month.

Hi Tait,

An Indian company providing web services to small businesses and
retail customers and its product portfolio includes domain name registration, business email, web-hosting solutions, website builders, e-commerce platforms, servers, and digital certificates.

If this firm is now looking in for a business expansion would you think China would be a good option or some place like Turkey in Europe?

Looking forward to your inputs

Thanks

It's really tough to say. I'd need to learn more about the business.

 

Very interesting blog and nice replies. I had a question about HostGator hosting solution. Whether HostGator server IP's are blacklisted by Chinese Govt.

I'm not sure, but I would bet not. I have used Hostgater to host sites visible in China before, but I'm not using it for any sites right now.

 

I have a website in English language, and I want a duplicate of this website in Pinyin Chinese.
To reach this new audience of Chinese people, is it necessary to have a second website address, like 12345.com ?
A regular English-alphabet website address would be meaningless to most Chinese, right?
Or could I somehow use a sub-domain?
I hope that you can answer this very basic question, which surely everyone in my position needs to know when actually making a website accessible to the Chinese population.

 Hi Patrick,
I wouldn't recommend a Pinyin version of your website.  If you're serious about reaching a Chinese audience you need to use Chinese characters.  Pinyin will be far more laborious for people to read.  
You don't need to use a domain with numbers in the url.  English alphabet websites are everywhere in China.  You could use a sub-domain, like cn.yoursite.com or zh.yoursite.com.  

Can a .com URL - registered by a US company and maintained by a US-based DNS - be directed to a website based in China? In other words, do .com URLs work in China when they are associated with websites hosted in China?

For example, mycompany.com is a domain name registered with GoDaddy. The DNS points to an IP address in China, where the site is hosted. Or must the domain name contain .cn -- like mycompany.com.cn? Do I need to register a domain name IN China with CNNIC for the DNS routing to work?

Thanks for the advice!

Yes.
Don't spend a lot on a new domain based on my answer alone. But I'm pretty sure there should be no problem with that at all.
In some cases some specific DNS providers have had problems. I believe some years ago we had some problems with GoDaddy DNS, but then we hosted the DNS elsewhere and the problem was resolved.
 
 

Tait - thanks for the great article.

Curious if you think it's necessary to buy .cn or .com.cn domains just simply to prevent others/competitors from doing it - prevent squatting.

I would, if the brand name was important enough to you.
 
 
 

Hi, I've been reading all the comments and your advice and other advice, and now I'm totally confused, though "As an advice to all newbies do not use Mainland China hosting providers. Most of the companies use really bad equipment, no english support, really poor and not user friendly control panels, etc." has kind of warned me away from hosting in China.
I am shortly going to be using my site to teach English in an online virtual classroom, with 6 students on webcam who can all see me, and I can see them. So it will be essential for me to be able to have a fast speed internet.
But feeling confused now, I'm not sure what the answer is.....

Hi Richard,

Are you sure your site will need to support the video conversations? You could use a tool like GoToMeeting for the conversations perhaps. I think running real-time video chat is a challenging issue on it's own.

An older post but still god value.

To host or not to host in China is always a thorny question and it is made less easy by shady characters who peddle crap to earn a quick buck.

As some posters have suggested not all off shore hosts are accessible in China, but most, lets say well known or reliable ones are. Having said that, remember that BLOGS are forbotten in China unless it is on a China platform. So, if your host is majorly a blog hosting platform OR you share space with a blog you will likely be blocked. Wordpress for example.

Also, and I hate to say this, but you do get what you pay for, if you are on a very basic plan, with limited resources then your site is likely to be slower to open in China, even if not blocked. And be sensible, if you are trying to load FB, G+ or any other social media platform here, well, think about it.

Think about where you are, maybe a closer geo location host is an option. Your basic plan site hosted in say Walalwala might load quickly as you also live in Walalwala, but an audience on the other side of the globe might experience a lag. This has little to do with China or the GFWOC, it is simply a fact of Internet life, the further your site has to go, the slower it gets.

Factor in it WILL be processed by the FGWOC nd the result might be a very slow site in China. So maybe think of locations closer to China to host, Singapore is a good starting point, reliable hosts with an English option. We have not had much success with Hong Kong hosts, some rather well advertised ones tend to over rate their services and ability in China.
Alibaba also have moved into hosting, i think it is called WANGWANG or ALIyun.com but English support is rare... so far.

So, basically, to support the author, do you need to host in China? Probably not, each case needs to be assessed on its own conditions but, as a rule of thumb, all our international clients host off shore and have no real issues. Just remember too, there is an awful lot you can do re the technical side of your site to make it faster, anywhere.... google offer good advice on this, even for novices.

Ps/ webmaster, you might want to do something about rejecting websites as invalid simply because they use the top level domain minus htp etc :.0

Hey Tait, I really love your article and feel this is what exactly I need now. I am planning to open an online ecom shop to sell to China, and can't decide where my web hosting should be.
Well, I am Chinese and have been living in Singapore and have never run similar business before so the whole thing is pretty foreign to me.
Based on what you and others shared earlier, it seems like the web hosting services in China are pretty bad, such as lack of English support. But having one outside China is also risky because of the speed and blocking issue.
Considering my situation : Chinese citizen and living in Singapore, targeting mainland China consumers, where should I have my web hosting? Thanks!

If you want to skip the hassle at first, just go for hosting outside of China that provides decent performance within China.One that we have seen work well for small projects is Site5's Hong Kong server.
 
 

Hi Tait,

Thank you very much for your article, useful reading.

According to the conclusion in Myth #3, it seems that Chinese relies on .com domain as well as .cn.

Just a quick question... what do you think about launching a site with a domain with Chinese characters?

We are launching a business targetting only Chinese people and would be hosted in Hong Kong. Now we are not so sure about which way to take, registering a domain in pinyin or Chinese characters. Which is best?

Thank you for clarifying this for me!

Chinese character domains are used very seldom.

I posed the question to all our Chinese team members and they couldn't even think of one website that uses Chinese characters... and these are a bunch of Internet nerds. :)

 

 

Hi Tati,

thanks for your helpful piece on hosting. I wondered if i could ask your opinion? I want to create an online shop selling directly into China (I'm not concerned about other markets at this point in time). Rather than paying £xK to develop my own bespoke ecommerce site (which would be mobile enabled, have alipay integrated, have wechat and be on a HK server, etc), is there an alternative which would allow me to test the market before investing huge sums in my own website? My concern with some of the website builders e.g. Wix/Shopify/etc is that they are all geared towards google, which is something i obviously want to avoid given my market focus is China. I assume there are other alternatives, though I am struggling to find them. Grateful for any thoughts you may have.

Ellie

Good question. I can't say I can answer that now, but I can ask some co-workers.
Are you able to do any development work on your own?
You wouldn't have a business entity in China at first, right?
 

Thanks Tait. I'd be really grateful for your thoughts.

In answer to your questions,..
- you're correct, I would not be starting my business in china. I am based in the UK and want to use social media to promote cross-border trade on my own website (I speak and write mandarin). I've looked into eg Tmall and other cross border sites but these won't work for me for various reasons so I want to set up my own website in mandarin using a '.com' and host in hk
- I am not particularly IT savvy. At least, I wouldn't be able to do much re website development unless I was using a website builder that was geared towards people like me who are not familiar with programming

Also, I've recently come across a website builder called shopline. It's an Asian start up that, similarly to eg go daddy, helps non-IT-savvy business owners build their own ecommerce site quickly. Their usp is that they are geared up for Asian traders. Once again my concern and issue with them is that they seem focused on marketing to eg Google. I wonder if there is any website builder service that is sufficiently ticks enough boxes to test the market in china before I have the capital to commission my own site. I may have to go straight to the latter, though I'd like to be careful re upfront costs.

Many thanks for your time and help!

Ellie

Hi Ellie, unfortunately we don't know the answer yet later. We may be able to research it later and make a post.
 

Thanks so much for the write up Tait. It's very informative.

A couple of questions. One, from a customer marketing standpoint, how are .net domains viewed by the average Chinese customer? And two, would you recommend choosing a domain name that is written in english, standard or pinyin Chinese? I'm exploring selling a US sourced product in the mainland Chinese market.

Cheers!

Hi Patrick,

.net domains are very very rare. I'd guess that few people know them or what they are. Seems like .net domains aren't really in fashion on the English-language Internet though. At least from what I've seen. What you think?

Actually, we posted something about domain name prefereces once. Check it here: Chinese Domain Name Preferences Not What You Think

 

 

 

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