As long as Baidu remains the largest search engine in China, Baidu PPC advertising should always be the first choice among pay-per-click campaigns for businesses looking to reach Chinese audience.
In general, the reason Baidu PPC advertising can be highly effective is the fact that users who are actively searching for something already have a buying intent. It means that they are more likely to convert, in other words to become the actual customers compared to those who are passively looking at ads or are still in the process of discovery of a specific product or service.
Baidu PPC advertising is, in principal, identical to Google’s equivalent, although there are several important differences to keep in mind. First of all, due to the fact that Chinese internet is tightly controlled and regulated by the government, opening a PPC account is, by far, more complicated process than with Google.
In contrast to Google AdWords account which is free and only asks for a Gmail account and a credit card, Baidu requires some serious paperwork, a fee and a deposit to get it going.
Currently, only legally registered companies, domestic or foreign, can advertise with Baidu. Obviously, opening Baidu PPC advertising account for a Chinese company is much easier than for a foreign one, it is also cheaper and faster. Overseas business entities are required to provide business registration certificate at the minimum and are often asked to submit additional documentation. This is why it is recommended to enlist a help of professionals who are experienced in dealing with Baidu on behalf of a foreign company.
Once the account has been registered and activated, it operates in a similar way with Google, although the back end interface is entirely in Chinese. In addition, the structure is significantly more confusing and takes some time getting used to. Once again, even if you are fluent in Chinese, it is always a good idea to outsource Baidu account management to someone who is well familiar with it instead of attempting to do it yourself.
Baidu PPC advertising with search ads
On the most basic level, there are two sections in Baidu account: search ads and display ads. Search ads are those that are displayed on search results pages in response to user query. In Baidu, they come in a few different formats.
The most basic format is a text ad complete with a title, two lines of description and URL at the bottom – quite similar to Google. There is also a verification level assigned to an ad which is designed to inform users on trustworthiness of a particular website and an advertiser.
Some text ads can also include additional links to separate landing pages. By offering several options, such arrangement increases likelihood of that ad being clicked, although this format is more expensive.
Baidu brand zone
Baidu Brand Zone is another option that is most suitable for businesses looking to build brand awareness rather than achieve direct conversions. This type of ads typically include images, text and multiple links. Such ads are CPM (cost per mille/1000 impressions) based and therefore harder to measure. The price for such ads depends on their size and the position making the advertising in Baidu Brand Zone to be the most expensive type of Baidu marketing.
Using images with Baidu PPC advertising
In general, in order to increase the CTR (click through rate) advertisers would try to include images in the ads whenever possible as well pack more links into an ad. Carefully designed text that fits well with dynamic keywords (those that show up in response to the relevant query) is another important factor to consider. This is where A/B split tests come handy and, fortunately, Baidu offers unlimited ways to test and fine tune the best performing combinations.
Another good reason to include images with the ads is the fact that more users, especially on mobile, use pictures to search for products. Baidu’s picture matching algorithms continue improving offering more opportunities to display matching ads.
Baidu PPC advertising for mobile
Mobile search is another major area of Baidu strength where it holds even larger market share than on desktops. Optimizing ads for mobile involves setting up a call button that dials the number automatically by user simply tapping it from their phones. It works in both mobile browser and Baidu app.
If the business is particularly interested in reaching mobile users, it is worth investing in creating mobile friendly ads with suitable images and shorter, more concise text.
Baidu display ads
Display ads is the second major method to advertise with Baidu. It involves placing image ads (banners) at the most relevant sites that are part of vast Baidu ads display network. This is what is often called remarketing (or retargeting) – the ads are displayed based on a specific user’s history of visiting sites or searching for a particular term.
Technically, it is identical to a much larger Google’s ads display network, which, like many other things, has been copied by Baidu.
Both search ads and display ads are managed within the same Baidu PPC account sharing advertising budget that can be split between the two methods.
Typically, it is hard to predict in advance which PPC method would bring better results, therefore you should expect it to take some time to determine how to best allocate the budget between search and display ads.