How to recruit Chinese international students with Baidu PPC advertising

When your HE marketing department is strategically planning how to recruit Chinese international students to your institution, Baidu PPC advertising is highly recommended to be included as a key digital channel in China.

The importance of Baidu to the Chinese market

Chinese students are confident in carrying out their own research when creating a university shortlist. Physical visits and local partnerships are important when strategically planned and targeted, but they can only hope to reach a very small proportion of total potential students in a country with 1.4 billion inhabitants! The key to success lies in utilising the vast power of digital media in a nation where 731 million people use the internet (Source: CNNIC Statistical Survey on Internet Development in China, December 2016)

However, the household names for digital marketing in the West – Google, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – aren’t used in China. Instead, the in-country search engines and social media to master and target are Baidu for search and PPC (with around 70 percent of the Chinese search engine market), along with Wechat, Weibo and YouKu for social marketing. These digital channels are complex and specialised, requiring in-depth expertise which can be accessed by an experienced Chinese marketing agency.

In this article, we are going to focus on the value of Baidu as a channel for HE institution marketing – specifically, with regards to Baidu PPC advertising.

Key things to know about Baidu PPC

  • When used correctly, Baidu PPC is a highly effective way of driving qualified prospective student traffic (and their parents) to your Chinese language website.
  • Baidu PPC tends to offer better results than PPC equivalents in the West.
  • Baidu PPC can accelerate your incoming traffic volumes, especially when complemented with longer-term Baidu SEO activity to optimise your organic search.
  • Baidu PPC can increase brand awareness and recognition and help to begin the vital brand engagement process between your HE institution and prospective Chinese students.

Steps to success with Baidu PPC

So let’s look specifically at how Baidu can be utilised for HE marketing success – growing your HE brand’s exposure and building its reputation, generating rapid traffic and facilitating conversions in the process.

To maximise the value that Baidu can offer for your HE marketing efforts, a three-step approach is recommended as follows:

1. A dedicated Chinese website or landing page for Baidu PPC campaigns

Chinese students are digitally sophisticated and expect to find potential universities rapidly and simply on Baidu, with a Mandarin language / simplified Chinese website available for their parents who usually pay for the fees. Hosting should be arranged locally (e.g. in Hong Kong) for rapid speed and performance and a Chinese domain name(.cn) is recommended to show that you are serious about building a meaningful, long-term and value-adding position within the China market. The website must also be mobile optimised as over 95 percent of Chinese visitors will come via mobile devices. The actual website should not simply be a like-for-like translation of your existing English language website but should feature Mandarin language content that has been created specifically for the Chinese student market and their parents. For example:

a) Your HE brand positioning must be distinctive and clear – as many Western universities appear to be largely homogenous to Chinese students.

b) Chinese students trust recommendations from Chinese alumni – so include testimonials, profiles and links with existing and former students via integrated social media feeds (WeChat, Weibo and YouKu).

c) Chinese students want to see employability rankings for HE institutions as a core driver of their decision-making process (China is an extremely vocational market).

d) On-site SEO is recommended to be applied intelligently and consistently to ensure the website is highly ranked over time.

e) Monthly maintenance (e.g. fixing broken links and adding fresh content) and user journey / experience analysis is recommended to be carried out so that the Chinese site can be continually optimised, updated and adjusted to meet user needs.

2. Baidu PPC account set-up

Baidu may be the search engine of choice for proactive students in China, but it is difficult for Western universities to set up their own Baidu PPC account – unlike on Google. HE institutions must go through a prolonged and complex process, which begins with submitting legal documents for approval, along with an initial PPC advertising fee and once this is processed you will receive your Baidu PPC account login details. Sounds complicated? No worries, we are here to help you to handle the complicated account setup process.

3. Baidu PPC campaigns for traffic-building and application lead generation

To actually launch your PPC advertising campaign, you will need to structure your account for campaigns,  ad groups, keywords, ad copies, as well as implement Baidu Analytics (Tongji) code on your Chinese website for data tracking and conversion analysis. Please note that these accounts are both only available in Chinese, and for this reason alone many HE institutions prefer to use the services of a specialist Chinese marketing agency with specific expertise in the field.

Top tips for getting the most from Baidu PPC

  • Use the Baidu Analytics facility to identify the right keywords and terms for the most clicks, highest dwell time and optimum conversions.
  • Use your Chinese PPC marketing expert to know exactly which times of day to advertise, what type of campaigns to run and what content to craft. (Of equal importance, local Chinese language expertise means that you won’t have to waste time using keywords and phrases that simply don’t resonate with a Chinese audience.)
  • Regularly review your Baidu PPC Analytics reports to adjust and improve ongoing campaigns as they progress. This helps to attain the best balance of quality traffic and conversions for the lowest CPC and best ROI on your marketing budget.

To find out more, and to access the specialist help and support that you need to succeed with Baidu PPC, please contact our friendly and helpful team of China marketing experts at Market Me China.