The Simple Guide to Chinese Website Transcreation

First posted: Mar 18, 2022
Last updated: May 25, 2022
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Your website is a key hub for your future customers to learn more about you. If it works well, it should persuade them to move on to the next step, whether that’s booking a call with a salesperson, making a purchase online, or something else.

If you’re trying to ramp up sales in China, the website will still be an important part of your marketing mix.

Having great Chinese-language content is worth it because China makes up about a fifth of global GDP and has a different digital ecosystem. 

However, there is a multitude of ways of going about it. A great website should be informative, persuasive, and easy to find via Baidu search. It needs to load quickly, even within “The Great Firewall of China,” and load fine on various devices. It should also look professional (beautiful even), and the content should resonate with your target Chinese audience.

So, how do you do it all, stay on time, and stick to your budget?

We’ve worked on hundreds of different websites and tested many different ways of dealing with content, design, development, hosting, etc. In this short guide, I’ll explain our go-to method that should be the best choice for over 80% of businesses out there.

This process is called “transcreation” because it’s part creation and part translation.

The video below shows a real-life example of a Chinese transcreated website we made, and this blog post will help you learn how to transcreate a website.

 

 

The key to a great website is the content. That’s where we spend 90% of our effort, and this post will go into it in detail below. But first, before delving deeper into the subject of transcreation, I’d like to list some key points about website design, development, and hosting.
 

 

Website Design and Development Do’s and Don'ts

Entering the Chinese market doesn’t mean you need to do everything totally anew. If you can cut out the useless stuff and double down on the important stuff, you’ll see better results.

 

Don’t Do a Redesign

I recommend that you do NOT rethink your design and brand visual identity from the ground up. If you have a successful business with an existing logo, website, and other brand assets, those can and should be used for China too.

Here are the benefits:

  • Some users might move between your Chinese and English content. Design consistency will give them a better impression of your brand.

  • Instead of spending time rethinking your design, you can do something else—like create great content for Chinese users.

Also, one caveat—this blog post is relevant for businesses in B2B, software, education, finance, and most other niches. But I’d say it isn’t really relevant for anything to do with fashion, design, or businesses where the product itself is highly localized for China. For example, KFC in China is much different than KFC in the US.

Instead, we create a Chinese-language website with a very similar design to the English version.

 

Create a New Site on WordPress

Should you add Chinese content to your current website or create a new one?

We normally recommend a new website. The main reason is that our agency can optimize the new website for traffic and conversions much faster than we could if we only have limited access. Other benefits of creating a new website:

  • The Chinese content will be at least partially different from the English website. Having a separate website makes it easier to build out the pages and navigation for Chinese users specifically.

  • It can be hosted in China.

  • Other performance optimizations specific to China can easily be made to the Chinese website only.

It’s best to use a content management system you’re very comfortable with.

We use WordPress because we’ve used it many times to create websites: It’s easy to use, and we know how to make adjustments so it loads quickly in China.

If you choose to use another system and build it yourself, keep in mind that some of the website’s resources might not be accessible within China, so you’ll need to find alternatives. We have more about that in this post about optimizing Shopify for China.

Regarding domain names, it’s usually best to choose one that’s almost the same as your current domain name, except with the “.cn” extension instead of “.com.” However, it’s still acceptable to use a “.com” domain name if that works out better for you.

 

Host in China (Ideally) or Near China

Ideally, you should host the website within China. However, this requires a Chinese ICP license, which can be a more expensive option.

Another option is to host near mainland China, such as Hong Kong.

If hosted outside of China, you can further improve speed by using the “Pro” Cloudflare CDN plan, which is only about $20/month.

Also, make sure not to use YouTube embedded videos on your Chinese website because YouTube is blocked in China. Instead, you can use Bilibili, and there are more details about that here.

 

Use Google Analytics

I assume you’re using Google Analytics. While the Google Analytics interface isn’t available in China without a VPN, it can still gather usage data from within China.

Optionally, we recommend you use Baidu’s analytics tool as well, especially if you’re advertising on Baidu.

 

Transcreating Chinese Website Content

Now, in the section above, we got the design, development, and hosting out of the way. In case you need more details, check the China Digital Marketing 101 guide. 

Content is king!

  1. Content attracts traffic via organic search.

  2. Content persuades users to move on to the next step.

  3. Content helps educate and delight your future customers.

For website transcreation, we spend at least 90% of our efforts on the content.

 

Transcreating the First Content

We recommend that you at least translate all the essential content for helping Chinese readers understand your business and then take the next step. That next step may be an on-site purchase, contacting you via a lead form, following your WeChat account, etc.

Plus, if you are selling a product or service that is quite complicated and of high value, you should create even more content—enough to help your future customers learn enough to feel comfortable buying from you and using your product/service. 

However, not all of this content needs to be created upfront. You can start with the essentials and then build up from there.

To start, all you need to do is create a spreadsheet with a list of pages. For each page, you need to know the

  • page topic,

  • keyword targeted, and 

  • source material(s).

 

The Topics

To come up with ideas, try asking yourself some of these questions:

  1. Which pages on your English website are relevant to Chinese readers?

  2. What questions do Chinese customers often ask you?

  3. Do your Chinese competitors offer additional information that you are missing?

  4. Imagine you are the future Chinese customer—what else would you want to know?

 

The Keywords

Once you have your list, take a moment to list which keywords will be important for SEO purposes. 

If you don’t know how to start, I recommend you put yourself in the shoes of the future customer and write down descriptive phrases with six or more Chinese characters.

These keywords should be used in the titles, headers, and body content of the pages you create.

 

To Translate or Create? (Source Material)

When transcreating, some of the content you create will be translated directly from English-language source materials, while other content may be written uniquely for the Chinese market.

It’s important to plan this ahead of time because you might need to gather content from multiple sources, set up meetings with people who can provide the necessary insights, etc.

But which content should be translated, and which should be written from scratch?

For the homepage and key landing pages, we usually write it anew. That’s because those are key pages for persuading users to move on to the next step.

The process we use is more akin to copywriting than translation. We’ll make sure to have a thorough understanding of the businesses’ customers and positioning, then we'll develop a few ideas and come up with the copy. This is not a mechanical process.

For many pages, we’ll often translate the content but only use minor modifications.

Regardless of whether a page is rewritten, translated (or something in between), the content should be checked at least twice. We usually do it like this:

  • The translator/writer creates the first draft.

  • A second person on our team edits it.

  • A third person on the client’s side reviews it as well.

 

Transcreation is an Ongoing Process

Once you have your website operational, you’ll already have gotten through one of the most troublesome periods for launching marketing in China.

Of course, a website is an ongoing project, not a one-time thing. 

You should continue to post content, whether it’s blog posts, guides, ebooks, video courses or whatever it is. That will continue to help bring in more traffic and drive more conversions. What’s more, if you create the content for your website, there’s no reason the content can’t be adapted and shared to WeChat, Zhihu and other places as well. That’s something that we talk more about in the China Digital Marketing 101 guide.

Hopefully, this short guide is useful for you. While I can share these tips and the general process, it’s impossible for me to teach you how to actually write amazing Chinese-language content. For that, you’ll need to practice, practice, practice, or hire the right team to do it for you.

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