We get asked that a couple times a week. While the response can vary based on the situation, there are a few points that are common to almost every SEM campaign we do.
First let me mention though, while we’re usually asked about Baidu, let’s remember that it’s not the only search engine in China that can deliver good results. So I’ll answer this question for Chinese search marketing in general, which might include Baidu, 360, Sogou or even Shenma.
I hope to make this list concise and actionable. It’s meant for the marketing manager that would oversee a Chinese SEM campaign as part of a larger campaign.
Missing any of these items could cost you a successful campaign.
If you’re going to run a Chinese SEM campaign, or any campaign in China, you need to understand the context of your businesses’ overall marketing strategy.
Are you just entering China? Why?
What is the goal of the SEM campaign? Sounds simple, but I see so many companies get this part wrong. For reasons beyond this post, China is a complex and challenging market. An experienced marketer should be able to help give you balance expectations.
For budget, it’s helpful to do some initial research on search engines, keywords and competitors. All the Chinese search engines have tools to do this, but they aren’t as easily accessible as Google’s tool and are harder for non-pros to read.
In general, here are some reasonable goals, schedules & budgets. Since we often help companies that want to start small, I’ve chosen the smallest possible budgets and shortest possible timelines.
More on goal-setting here.
Your English page won’t cut it!
Your Chinese landing page that was translated by a translation company is also very unlikely to be effective. In my experience, I’ve seen a lot of poorly-translated website content. But even if it is translated well, it will still just be a Chinese version of content meant for Western eyes.
At the very least, you need a Chinese-language landing page written with the intent to get your Chinese visitors to convert.
We also check manually from within China, because tools can’t tell you everything.
Will it be done with an agency or in-house?
You will need an agency to set up your search engine accounts, but should they manage your campaign? Or maybe train your in-house staff? I find people usually have an existing opinion on this. My opinion is that our agency will always outperform in-house staff in the short-term.
Even if you’re trying to run an efficient e-commerce business and don’t normally have on-site chat support, you should have it when entering the market. Chinese consumers are trained to expect it. Plus, you’ll gain valuable insights from real website visitors.
We recommend this be done in-house when possible, and that the customer support person regularly shares their learnings with others working on the marketing campaign.
If you’re selling on your site, you’ll need to set up some form of payment that’s common in mainland China. Here’s our guide on that topic.
In all cases, you’ll require a certificate of incorporation for the business to be promoted, as well as a document showing bank account details. The processes change over time, we keep the Baidu account setup guidelines here.
Note that I put this step after choosing who will do your SEM work. Once you sign up your Baidu account with an agency, it might be locked with that agency. So we recommend setting it up with the agency that you’re going to work with.
We don’t lock accounts, but some do, even if they don’t cover it in their contracts.
We’ll usually ask for this:
We usually use both Google Analytics and Baidu Tongji.
A few points to cover:
Get your team together and brainstorm for the campaign. Start drawing out some keyword topics, ad copy concepts and a potential account structure.
People you must have in this meeting:
In our case, we may add some additional people, such as an account manager, copywriter or other search engine marketer.
Now, finally, it’s time for the nitty-gritty campaign preparation. Write your ads, prepare keywords, negative keywords, account structure, etc. Set parameters like budget, device type, geography, etc.
We have some planning documents we use that help bring potential issues to the forefront. Then we share those with everybody from the step above.
This could be a post on it’s own…or a book. You can find some related posts in this section. Another good resource is Baidu’s ‘business school’, although it’s all in Chinese. For this post you’re reading now, I’m assuming that you’re a marketing manager, and have chosen somebody else to operate the SEM campaign.
Go on the site yourself and check the contact forms. Have somebody from within China manually check them too.
Try out the e-commerce purchase process.
What is the actual budget entered in the search engines? Double-check so you don’t overspend.
Also check other limitations, such as geography, time of day & time of week.