Being the second largest search engine in China, 360 Search is a powerful alternative to Baidu. In fact, 360 Search SEM can become a very effective tool for China marketing strategy.
When considering China SEM strategy, Baidu is usually the one that gets most attention from marketers. It is primarily due to its larger reach – by different accounts, Baidu holds between 60 to 70% of China search engine market. On the other hand, Baidu doesn’t enjoy the same type of dominance as Google does in the West. It is also becoming more difficult every year for Baidu to maintain its lead as it has to fight off increasingly aggressive and sophisticated competitors.
One such powerful competitor is 360 Search which has been a solid number two in the market for the last few years. By different estimates, it currently holds 25-30% of Chinese search engine market share. Its main search so.com, is the 4th most visited website in China (after baidu.com, qq.com and taobao.com).
360 Search covers about two thirds of all Chinese internet users and claims to develop its own unique ranking algorithms. It is also the first Chinese search engine to offer online fraud compensation.
Search engine is not the only product of 360 Search. The company also owns several popular internet properties such as 360 directory – the most visited portal in China, China’s number one Android app store, China’s second most popular internet browser and the most popular anti-virus program.
It also produces its own mobile phone brand, car accessories as well as various electronic devices ranging from security cameras to smart watches.
Why 360 Search SEM can be an effective addition to China marketer’s toolbox?
First of all, in general, 360 Search keyword bidding price tends to be considerably lower than Baidu’s. It is not unusual to see 360 Search bidding price to be half of that of Baidu’s for the same keyword.
Second, marketers report that, on average, the conversion rate is about 15% higher with 360 Search vs. Baidu. This fact alone is a good enough reason to include 360 Search in the overall marketing strategy alongside, or sometimes, instead of, Baidu.
Third reason why some marketers may favor 360 Search SEM is the fact that it is easier for a foreign company to register an advertiser’s account with this search engine compared to Baidu. Although, all Chinese search engines have to follow the same rules set by China’s internet authorities and require similar paperwork, processing of an application with 360 Search is often faster and more straightforward.
When it comes to initial costs, 360 Search and Baidu also differ significantly. Unlike Baidu, 360 Search doesn’t charge account setup fee. However, the initial ad spend deposit requirement is higher compared to Baidu: it is currently set to minimum RMB 30,000 vs. Baidu’s 5,000 (it is negotiable in some cases). On the other hand, there is no time limit on how long it should take to spend that budget on the ads.
Finally, the campaign management backend is also somewhat easier to navigate compared to Baidu’s (although both are only available in Chinese).
In subsequent posts, we are going to take a closer look at different 360 Search marketing options.