Top tips for using Baidu advertising in higher education

If you’re a higher education institution looking to engage with prospective students and their parents in China, then Baidu advertising is highly recommended.

Why is Baidu so important?

Baidu is by far the largest search engine in China, with 70% of the Chinese search market. Furthermore, Chinese buyers aren’t resistant to online advertising in the way that Western audiences are, so it tends to offer a better return. However, online marketing is more heavily regulated than in the West in order to maintain its quality, and the Baidu account set-up can be challenging. To successfully promote your higher education institution to your Chinese audience via Baidu, these are the steps required:

Set up a Baidu advertising account

The Baidu PPC platform has similarities to Google, but the set-up process takes around a month. Many of our clients prefer to outsource the set-up administration entirely to Market Me China to speed things up as far as possible. Broadly speaking, the steps are:

1. Submitting registered website details and company name, along with other required company documents (such as financial information) and a government-issued business licence. (We check this for our clients beforehand, so that all necessary information is gathered and provided in the correct format, and with Chinese language translation included as necessary.)
2. Waiting for Baidu to review all documentation and confirm that it will issue a PPC account.
3. Making your payment to begin PPC advertising. This payment can vary by region and countries, and in some cases, an annual fee is levied.
4. Receiving your login details upon receipt of the Baidu PPC advertising payment, and begin running your campaigns, using Baidu’s PPC tools to target your advertising as far as possible.

– Create your Chinese language website

It isn’t essential to have a Chinese website, but it is highly recommended that you build one before you advertise on Baidu. Without this, the bounce rate will be extremely high. Remember that your audience of Chinese students and their parents will naturally want to learn more about your institution in Chinese.

Depending on the timeframes and resources that you have at your disposal, you could simply translate your existing English language website into Mandarin Chinese. Alternatively, you could invest more and create a dedicated Chinese language website with content, design, user journeys and a payment platform specifically designed for Chinese users – and testing to verify that it hits the mark. This is likely to result in the highest conversions.

– Create your Chinese language adverts

Similarly, Baidu recommends that its advertisers create Chinese language ads. If you use an English language ad, the bounce rate will be high and you’ll be frittering away your precious budget on Chinese readers who can’t understand your content.

– Prepare your hosting

It’s not necessary to host your website in Mainland China, and neither do you need to have a Chinese ICP licence or .cn domain. However, you must be sure that your Chinese audience HE website can operate quickly there. Remember, savvy Chinese consumers are used to browsing online via their smartphones, so speed is of the essence. Baidu also penalises slow-loading websites in search results.

Baidu PPC

As China’s leading search engine, Chinese internet users choose Baidu to find answers to their search queries. With the right PPC campaign, your HE institution can grow its brand awareness, generate instant traffic of pre-qualified Chinese students and deliver conversions. Baidu PPC (Baidu SEM), is the standard approach for paid search advertising. Key things to know here are:

– Baidu offers rich formats such as text, sitelinks and images, which operate seamlessly across desktop and mobile platforms.
– It subtly places natural organic results and paid for advertisements; merging the results for users
Analytics tools are available that allow daily campaign tracking and adjustment of advertising parameters for best effect.

Baidu display ads

The Baidu display network works holistically with the PPC activity to leverage the results of your campaign. Because 90% of Chinese customers will not immediately deliver the desired conversion/call to action, Baidu display network offers retargeting. These display adverts can be run as a campaign through your Baidu PPC account to supplement this activity and to grow brand exposure and awareness, whilst retargeting lost customers.

Baidu display advertising is open to any brand which has a Baidu PPC account and it sends targeted display ads to over 650,000 partner websites and software providers. Its coverage is vast – making 18,000,000,000 daily impressions across mobile, video and desktop. Again, display ads can be demonstrated in a variety of forms – including flash, images, floating and text to make banners, video ads, news feeds and more.

The real power here is down to the AI that Baidu display ads employs to effectively target each audience – using its ‘Baidu Brain’ database which contains rich data on Chinese consumer behaviour to deliver a range of multi-targeting methods, from demographics to interests and including keyword targeting and retargeting.

Marketing strategy

Careful thought needs to be put into an effective HE marketing strategy in a country of sophisticated middle-class consumers who greatly value education and prestige Western universities. Things to consider include:

– Timing PPC campaigns to time with main academic recruitment periods; typically after exam results are released in China and during holiday periods.
Producing rich and engaging content that resonates with Chinese students and their parents. Content needs to demonstrate the quality of the institution, the onward employability of graduates, elements of prestige, the student experience and so forth. Trust is very important here, so content which shares the experiences of Chinese alumni and successful graduates is a good way to engage your target audience. Remember too that Chinese parents will be co-decision-makers, so content must meet their interests and answer their questions and concerns. Targeted market research here can be very useful.
– Regularly assessing and monitoring campaigns so that adjustments can be made on the back of analytics.
Considering engagement and response to the enquires that you receive through your digital campaign. Students and their parents may have different levels of English ability, so if you can use Chinese where necessary to engage, this can build trust and credibility.
– Effectively managing Baidu PPC campaigns with adequate resource from end to end. HE institutions need to research keywords (using the Baidu keyword planner), create search ads, monitor campaign progress, use Baidu Tongji to deliver analytics (only available in Chinese) to assess performance data, produce regular reports with suggestions to further optimise the campaign – and then implement these refinements. Market Me China can deliver this service on a flexible and expert partnership basis.

A note on Baidu SEO

Baidu SEO can be challenging, as around 20% of its traffic is directed to Baidu-owned sites, such as Baidu Zhidao, Baidu Baike and Baidu News. To build a good SEO presence for relevant keywords, excellent content, authority site backlinks, reciprocal linking and other tactics must be used in the right way. Typically, HE institutions will begin with online advertising and grow SEO over time.

Getting to grips with Baidu

Baidu can seem daunting to a Western audience, but its regulated nature does help to safeguard the quality of advertising for the vast audience of Chinese internet users; something that can only be good news to Western HE institutions looking to advertise on the platform. As ever, Market Me China is here to help smooth the process for you and get your PPC marketing up and running as soon as possible.

Find out more

Market Me China works with Western higher education institutions of all sizes to help them to leverage their digital marketing capabilities for greater conversions. To discuss how we might help your HE institution to market more effectively to the Chinese market, please contact us for a no-obligation chat and we will be delighted to assist.