SEO (search engine optimization) around the world including practitioners in China are getting used to promoting a scientific approach by optimizing website content for Google. This scientific approach has all the convincing factors to diagnose a website from site accessibility to content performance, etc. Data transparency is the principle of the practice.
However, in China with local player Baidu taking charge of the game, the search market landscape is unique. Still, Baidu is moving toward the same scientific model with more and more search engine data being opened to marketers over the years. For example, Baidu Zhan Zhang (Baidu's version of Webmaster Tool) used to allow only a six-hour window to verify a website's ownership before the verification expires. Now the six-hour window has been lifted and the verification process is integrated with Baidu Tongji (Baidu analytics suite), which makes implementation sensibly easy. This is an improvement.
Baidu Tongji now also provides meaningful speed test for all the websites in China by diagnosing a website's loading speed according to the three dominant Internet operators: China Telecom, China Netcom, and China Unicom. This is very practical because we can now scientifically realize how our websites work in China on different major Internet backbones in the country (foreign enterprises with websites hosted outside China please take note). Baidu Tongji also provides SEO advice according to Baidu.
Unfortunately, we still miss one thing enabling marketers to fully optimize our China websites: relevant content.
Develop Long-Tail Keyword Phrases
The on-page elements of China websites are usually weak because the brand keywords are always over-emphasized and even dictate the editorial of the website content. In addition, the traffic generated by paid and organic search often competes with each other.
It is not difficult for an SEO to identify these issues and advise the client to optimize the long-tail traffic though. Since the long-tail keyword phrases always embed with consumers' intent (attribution/identifier), they are the best source for expanding content. In other words, long-tail keyword phrases are the direct answers to consumers' search queries.
The solution is logical and simple. However, our SEO customers in China usually run the marketing team in a lean-and-mean structure. Research-based content write-up is a luxury within the marketing budget.
Ironically, they are willing to pay third parties to write Weibo content instead of their own website content. I cannot realize the return of this.
In my experience, I have not read an analytics report that shows social is better than search in terms of engagement to the lead page conversion. I also doubt whether there is a consumer website in China where social media is its top traffic referrer.
Pursuing ranking without relevant content is a mission impossible for the SEO. I would like to suggest a content strategy model as a complement to the technical SEO for marketers in China.
Start researching using the analytics, develop a mapping plan for long-tail traffic against the website content, and analyze the keyword engagement to the lead page performance. If you practice this approach, it will give you a better perspective for the website editorial plan. The end result will ultimately benefit your SEO performance in a more comprehensive way.
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Eddie is the founding partner of Frontiers Digital and the Executive Director of Milton Exhibits Group. Although Eddie studied classical theory of sociology in college and has a MBA, technology always has been a passion with him. He believes that a combination of technology and communication is what the modern marketing is heading towards in the future. Eddie is a member of Search Engine Strategies Global Advisory Board.
March 19, 2014