Over the last couple years Baidu, the long-reigning king of search in China, has continued to lose market share to smaller competitors, particularly 360 Search and Sogou (搜狗). While Sogou has been around since 2004, it wasn’t until recent years that it really started to take a bite out of Baidu’s search traffic:
Expecting this trend to continue well into the future, we’ve recently started managing paid search advertising campaigns for some of our clients on Sogou. The aim of this post is to just briefly share some of our observations about how it compares to working with Baidu, as well as a couple of thoughts about the future of China’s search market.
Paid search advertising is still the easiest way for many businesses to test their products or services in the Chinese market because they get instant feedback. If cost-per-click (CPC) rates on Baidu are too steep, Sogou is a great second option for advertisers.
With competition still low, advertisers can snatch up top spots on Sogou’s search results page with less time and money than they’d need to invest for comparable results on Baidu. As its user base continues to grow, advertisers on Sogou will reap the rewards of early adoption.
As we have clients advertising on both Baidu and Sogou, we’re able to directly compare campaign performance on both platforms at the same time. Thus far we’ve observed the following:
The first two points aren’t that surprising, but the last one is quite interesting. We need to collect more data over time to see if this trend continues, but one reason average transaction value on Sogou has been slightly higher may be the fact that Sogou attracts a more mature audience than Baidu, with less than 20% of its users under the age of 23. The majority of its users are 25-44 years old, a large percentage of which have obtained higher education. In this sense it’s possible that the average Sogou user has slightly more spending power than the average Baidu user.
Does that mean everyone should hop on the Sogou bandwagon? In a perfect world advertisers will take a three-pronged approach to paid search marketing in China, leveraging Baidu, Sogou, and 360 Search to ensure they’re reaching as big an audience as possible. Especially in the long-term, forward-thinking businesses that expand early will reap big rewards.
If it’s only possible to begin with one, Baidu is ideal due to the sheer volume of traffic it brings in, but Sogou is still a great option. Its user base will continue to grow over time, so businesses that start now will have the luxury of optimizing their campaigns while competition is still at a minimum. This translates to better positioning for valuable keywords for less money down the line.
Baidu is no longer the only show in town for Chinese search advertisers. Much the same way advertisers in Western countries are expanding beyond AdWords to Yahoo and Bing’s platforms, businesses that want to reach a Chinese audience will need to take advantage of Sogou and other search engines like 360 Search to get the most out of their marketing efforts. The sooner the better.
We’re looking forward to working with Sogou’s paid search platform more over the course of the year.
Are you planning on using Sogou for marketing purposes this year? Let us know below.