China SEM Campaign Pre-launch Checklist
Question: “What do we need to do to launch a successful Baidu search engine marketing campaign?”
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.
1) Understand your overall marketing strategy
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?
2) Define the goal, schedule & budget
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.
- Market research - Gain qualitative feedback from potential customers within 3 months and 3-7K USD.
- Drive B2B leads – Gain leads for a B2B service within 6 months and 3K or more USD.
- ROAS for digital product – Attain a positive ROAS within 6 months and 10K or more USD.
More on goal-setting here.
3) Create a Chinese-language landing page or website
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.
4) Make sure your website loads well in China.
We also check manually from within China, because tools can’t tell you everything.
5) Choose who will be running your SEM
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.
6) Choose who will communicate with potential customers
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.
7) Setup payment methods
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.
8) Gather the documents required for account setup
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.
9) Make sure your SEM team has the data and assets they need
We’ll usually ask for this:
- Google Analytics access
- Original image design files
- Documentation on branding or marketing guidelines, if any.
- Access to edit the landing page (either directly or with a testing tool).
10) Configure your analytics
We usually use both Google Analytics and Baidu Tongji.
A few points to cover:
- Configure goals and/or e-commerce settings.
- Determine how to tag ads with Google Analytic’s UTM parameters.
- Make sure filters aren’t removing valuable data that can be used to improve the Chinese SEM campaign. For example, data from an English-language Google AdWords campaign can be a useful source of inspiration.
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:
- The SEM campaign operator
- Whoever runs English SEM campaigns
- Chinese customer support/salesperson
- Whoever is in charge of the marketing strategy a level up above this campaign.
In our case, we may add some additional people, such as an account manager, copywriter or other search engine marketer.
12) Prepare the campaign
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.
13) Double-check any conversion processes
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.
14) Double-check the budget and campaign parameters
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.