Baidu dominates China's search market and provides marketers with access to an advanced search engine marketing platform. In my opinion, Baidu's offerings are strong enough that anybody doing digital marketing in China should at least consider advertising on Baidu.
While advertising on Baidu may be powerful, and highly flexible, it isn't easy because Baidu is also extremely competitive. The key to success with Baidu SEM is to be able to outperform your competitors.
I chose the five tips below based on common issues I've come across with Baidu pay-per-click campaigns. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I hope these tips will help point would-be Baidu advertisers in the right direction.
1. Do not expect perfect keyword targeting
Don't ever expect perfection from Baidu when it comes to keyword targeting. Watch performance for keywords carefully, especially when trying new keywords or new keyword match types.
As a broader principle, it's always essential to test, evaluate, and repeat. In my experience, it's quite common to see budgets run up due to even just one high-volume keyword that isn't performing as expected. This may be due to the marketer's own misinterpretation of searcher intent, but in some cases I am close-to-certain it's due to incorrect keyword matching on Baidu's part. Plus, although click fraud is unlikely on Baidu, it is not impossible, and it may only affect certain keywords. Regardless of the cause, some keywords perform strangely at times, so watch performance closely.
2. Don't translate: Create keywords and ads from the ground up
This tip is for all the marketers out there who hope to create a sister Baidu campaign to match their Google AdWords campaign. At best, translating keywords and ads is a recipe for missed opportunities.
Explaining the potential pitfalls of simply translating an English campaign into a Chinese campaign could fill an article of its own - or a book. To explain it in just a few words, consider what is different between an English campaign and a Chinese campaign:
My advice is to use the data from campaigns in other languages as an important source of information, to be considered in context with keyword and competitor research done anew for the Chinese market.
3. Try out Baidu's chat tool, Baidu Shangqiao
Chinese Internet users expect real-time customer support, often via chat box. If you've seen many Chinese websites, you've probably noticed these chat boxes. Sometimes, they're just tucked neatly in the corner of the site. Other times they're floating around, flashing or popping up in your face.
Baidu provides an excellent chat tool called Baidu Shangqiao that integrates with its SEM platform. It's easy to use, and provides extra data on the user, such as her location and what keyword she searched to find your site.
4. Integrate Google Analytics
Since you're reading an English-language article about marketing, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you're familiar with Google Analytics. Using URL parameters, you can pass important information from the Baidu campaign for use in Google Analytics. You can learn how to build URLs for Google Analytics here.
Note that while Baidu also has an analytics platform, I feel it isn't nearly as useful as Google Analytics is in most cases. Another option for sites with a simple conversion process is Baidu's conversion tracking, which will collect conversion data directly into the Baidu ad platform.
Whether you use Google Analytics or another web analytics tool, it's absolutely essential that you make sure you are able to analyze the behavior of visitors to your website on a keyword basis.
5. Get help with account signup
One of the most common complaints I see online is that Baidu can be a major hassle to get set up with. There are many horror stories out there of accounts taking months to get set up.
Baidu sells ad credit via a complex layered network of resellers. Some of them provide great service, others... not so great. These resellers are often part reseller, part ad management agency. Most of them have no idea how to go about working with non-Chinese clients. And this is where I think most of these horror stories come from.
Plus, most Baidu SEM agencies receive commission from Baidu. So, if you sign up with Baidu directly and then try to get an agency to manage your account, you're going to end up getting charged more.
So, those were my five random tips. What other tips do you have? What questions do you have about Baidu SEM?
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Tait Lawton is the founder of Nanjing Marketing Group, a company that provides Baidu advertising management services, Baidu account setup services and other Chinese-language digital marketing services. You can catch him on Twitter or Google Plus. He also writes the blog East-West-Connect.com.