One Billion Searchers

Hang in there, folks. It’s the last session of the day. Then we all get naps, and maybe even food. Huzzah for food!

This time my favorite Brit, Mike Grehan, is moderating the One Billion Searchers panel with speakers Stephen Noton (Adverted Internet Advertising Agency) and Bill Hunt (Global Strategies International).

Mike starts things off saying that search is in China. It’s an interesting place because it’s one of the few places where Google isn’t the leader. It’s actually, "Google, who?" China has its own search engine and you can’t overtake the country overnight.

[Seriously, Mike, help a girl out and s-l-o-w d-o-w-n!]

Thankfully, Mike is done (love you, Mike!). Up first is Stephan Noton to talk about understanding users in China.

Searchers in China are very different than users in the States or elsewhere. Twelve of the top 100 China Web sites include numbers. Why? Because there are 13,500 Chinese characters. That means if you were designing a keyboard to have one key per character there would be more than 13,000 keys! Even I don’t want to type on that. Stephan says this is why so many businesses have adopted the number platform. Sounds smart to me,

Stephan shows the audience the (really, really long) Google ad that was issued when Google officially changed its name launched out there. If you want to know what it felt like, stare at the wall for 10 minutes.

The home page for Google China is very different from the one here in the United State in that as soon as you start typing the search box drops down to offer a guided search (search suggestion). Again, this goes back to the fact that there are so many characters. It helps users to find information a lot quicker.

Two products Google is currently testing are:

Popular Searches: Breaks down popular searches by category, allowing users to click to navigate to the search results page. Instead of having to type in [this week’s biggest music performers], Popular Searches would just display "Justin Timberlink". Yes, Stephan really did call him Justim Timberlink. Heh.

Website Directory: This is a list of Web sites based on categories and services. It’s algorithmic based, which means it isn’t just a static list.

Stephan talks about, which is one of the top 10 Web sites in China. It has tons and tons of links on the page without a search box above the fold. They know users are coming here as a destination site, not to search.

Stephan identifies Jianfei Zhu (who is in the audience) as the Matt Cutts of China. He monitors all Chinese./Japanese/Korean algorithms for spam. He has a blog at It’s in Chinese but you can use Google Translate or another service to translate it. Hmm, might be worth it.

Since they use guided search in China, it makes search engine optimization a little easier because search marketers know off the bat what queries searchers are using Also you can use Google China’s Popular Searches function.

He says that the long tail China doesn’t really exist because users don’t do as many searches as we do. They rely more on the guided search.

Next up is Bill Hunt

China is one of these interesting things, says Bill. It’s definitely a market that’s growing like crazy. He’s a little surprised there aren’t more people in this session (me too, actually. There are only like 25-30 people here!).

China is paying attention to search. If you go to a conference the entire first row is bloggers. Yeah, what’s your point, Bill? :)

Bill lists a bunch of the issues he’s faced in China

  • It is tough and also an advantage to being a foreigner in China. When you come in to speak, if you have any kind of credentials you’re treated like a rock star. Apparently this applies to known bloggers, as well. Sweet! Being a foreigner you can get away with not knowing the customs, but that ends quickly.
  • Budgets are small from local companies.
  • Can’t make changes to the site due to WW restrictions.
  • Some large (international) companies in China are more sophisticated than their (US) corporate HQ.
  • Clients are very particular about their contacts in your company.
  • Allowing the client and interactive agency to save face. Things are very much relationship based.

Relationships are everything. They are absolutely critical to success. You have to be introduced to the right people at the right places. Many Westerners underestimate this. It’s about who you know and how well you know them. Who do you work with?

Your employees will make or break a deal in the long run. Most of the advertising out there is branding. It’s not about trying to convert. If you do decide to tap into the Chinese marketing, make sure you’re willing to be flexible and do things their way. Don’t go to dinner and ask the host not to bring anything out with a head still on it. Hee!

The search marketing community in China is growing vapidly, as indicated by the doubling of search conference attendees. Bill has seen a 10x increase in requests for China projects.

Sophistication of Adoption: Blending between scams and more advanced than USA. Bigger companies are in many cases more advanced than their US HQs.

Demand for Information: Traffic to search blogs increasingly significantly
Increase in Chinese centric blogs and content. 1000+ companies offering search services. About 10 to 15 agencies really stand out.


  • Many agencies offer PPC as search engine optimization.
  • SEO is simply Meta tags optimization or black hat.
  • PPC is 2 to 3 steps from actual buyers.
  • Integrating more advanced techniques.
  • Social media optimization is being announced.
  • Deep and broad partnerships.

Recommendations for marketers:

  • Check the credentials for the people you’re meeting.
  • Confirm they are doing the work and they’re not outsourcing them.
  • Establish goals and document them in contracts.
  • Do periodic checks of the quality of the ads and the effectiveness of campaigns.

Agencies should pick their teams effectively. Offer incentives for employees to maintain loyalty. Build your relationships with the engines and organizations like SEMPO. Pick partners well and do a lot of research on their capabilities and ad networks.

Top Online Activities in China include getting news (93 percent), listening to and downloading music (85 percent), playing online games (84 percent), and using email (69 percent).

Most users are still accessing the Internet via desktops (96 percent), though accessing via mobile is becoming trendy at 27 percent. The growth in mobile search is due to interest in Internet and availability of 3G handsets and connectivity.

Key Observations for Baidu:

  • It’s the most popular search engine for lifestyle searches, not for business. Google trumps Baidu in business searches.
  • Baidu’s results are overwhelmingly influenced by paid advertising campaigns.
  • Baidu has its greatest reach with young lifestyle centric searchers.
  • CPM advertising is most popular with Baidu.

What does this mean to the world? New travel opportunities for Chinese have resulted in significant to country information sites. There are a lot of opportunities to market to the Chinese if you do it on their terms and comfort level. Access to information about Chinese companies will be easier to locate. Access to information about China and Olympics.

The key to succeeding in China is relationships, patience, diligence and an open mind.

During the question and answer segment, one of the attendees asked what kinds of things are Chinese users buying online. The truth is most people in China still don’t trust the Internet. eCommerce is still very much in infancy. Online marketing is mostly for branding because people still don’t trust the Internet. Something to keep in mind.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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One Reply to “One Billion Searchers”

Thanks Lisa, I was really interested in that session. Going to SES Beijing in a couple of weeks and should have even more info. Too bad an international savvy blogger like yourself can’t accompany Mike on the trip. It would be great exposure for Bruce Clay, are you listening Bruce?


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