China Marketing Blog

An Intro to Marketing on Taobao - "China's Other Internet"

Tait Lawton — Thu, 10/10/2013 - 08:19

Taobao is the world’s largest online shopping website. It is a C2C & B2C platform on which most goods are sold at a fixed price. An average of 4,800 items are sold on Taobao per minute (Chinese link). In 2012 they announced sales of over 1 trillion Yuan (157 Billion USD) for Taobao and sister-site TMall.

So, how should you go about marketing on Taobao?

For marketing on Taobao, it’s best to not consider it just a website. Instead, look at it like an entire ecosystem – an ecosystem that is somewhat separate from your other marketing efforts. Why is Taobao an ecosystem on its own?

1) Taobao is The Starting Point

Taobao users often go straight to Taobao. As an example, I was doing some keyword research for a Baidu campaign. I asked my wife “How would you search for ‘baby food’ on Baidu?” She replied: “Taobao”. In other words, she would rather go straight to Taobao instead of using a search engine. For many Chinese Internet users, Taobao is the default starting place for searches for anything to buy. This is different than in the West, where we would generally consider the search engine to be the first step in the buying process.

What’s more, Taobao even blocks Baidu from indexing its pages.

2) Taobao Offers Multiple Marketing Channels

On Taobao, sellers can make use of multiple marketing channels, similar to how they would market their products on the Internet in general.

  • Taobao SEO tactics can be used to help increase the rankings of a seller’s products for when users search them on or Taobao’s sister sites.
  • Taobao has its own pay per click platform built in. It’s less-sophisticated than Baidu or Google’s platform in my opinion, but still uses the same basic concept. Sellers can configure ads for their products or store, set keywords and bids.
  • Taobao has its own affiliate network too! Sellers can configure ads and commission payouts. Publishers can then post affiliate links on their websites or elsewhere and earn a cut.

3) Taobao Is Part of a Family of Sites

Besides, the Taobao network includes many sub sites, most notably:

  • TMall – A B2C platform meant to provide real (not counterfeit goods) only. Businesses must prove their authenticity in able to sell on TMall.
  • Alipay – China’s most popular online payment solution.
  • Alibaba – B2B trading platform.
  • Yitao – A shopping search engine.
  • Aliwangwang – Chat app integrated with Taobao.

4) Taobao Supports Apps

Taobao sellers have access to many free and paid apps. These range in functionality from store design, to marketing to analytics to store management.

So what does it all mean for you?

Keep these points in mind when you consider your strategy for the China market:

1) Taobao is NOT the equivalent of eBay. It is much much more. As is common in most aspects of creating a localized marketing campaign for China, the playing field is different in China.

2) There is potential for you to run a marketing campaign that is Taobao-centric rather than search engine-centric. I can’t say if it’s best for you or not. But if you’re selling consumer goods online, and if your budget is limited, it’s at least worth considering.

3) Taobao marketing can be approached in different ways. Taobao is such a diverse ecosystem, that there are many ways to go about Taobao marketing. Even if you have decided to market on Taobao, there’s just about as much to consider as if you were launching a standalone site. You’ll need to consider your Taobao site content and design; your products; your customer support; the marketing channels you use; how external marketing efforts will interact with your Taobao store; etc.


If you’re thinking about marketing on Taobao, or just getting into e-commerce in China in general, feel free to contact me for information or services.



hi Tait,

very good article.
how does the chinese law accept the C2C model? Is it border-line ?

If people are not searching for products through baidu, do you for what kind of things they are using organic results ?

best regards

C2C like Taobao? It's quite acceptable under Chinese law as far as I know.
People use Baidu to search for information, or basically anything else besides consumer products. Well, they search for consumer products on Baidu too - but when selling consumer products in China, it's important to note that many users will choose to go to Taobao.

Hey there... I am curious on the entire pay per click, and other marketing tools to increase users from seeing my site. Being a foreigner that cant read Chinese well, do you have tips or links where I can learn to bring more traffic?

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