A Guide to Search Engine Advertising on Baidu—Setting Up an Account & Advertising Options
Many European and Western companies do not realize how expensive and time-intensive it can be to place advertisements on Baidu, the largest search engine in China. There is an automatic assumption that it functions in the same way as Google, which is simply not the case. The truth is, Baidu is much more complicated and requires many more offline processes that must be completed before moving into the online sphere. In fact, this process can take upwards of three months until the full Baidu registration is completed.
This article will serve as an overview to setting up an account, and as an introduction to the various programs that Baidu offers to advertisers.
How to Register for Baidu Ads
Unlike Google, where anyone can open an AdWords account and begin running ads in under an hour, Baidu’s registration process is much more complex and in-depth. Baidu requires that companies interested in running ads present certain legal documents. It also dictates that the form and content of the ads, as well as the advertiser’s website, conform to certain design rules and standards.
The information and documents required to open a Baidu advertising account include:
The registration certificate of the company with the original company stamp (in red)
If the account is to be administered or opened by an agency, a power of attorney and the registration certificate of the agency
The domain of the website which is being advertised
5,000+ RMB (about 600 EUR)advanced for the annual service charge (this varies from region to region by up to 600 RMB)
Before an advertising account is enabled for a particular webpage, an extensive review of the website is done by Baidu. This verification relies on both human analysis and software tools, in order to check the structure and appropriateness of the web domain. Here, there are a few key points to take into consideration.
One of the checks is used find any automatic redirects from the homepage or links to a different domain. These types of setups are not permitted, because when advertising on Baidu, one account can only be associated with one domain. If you want to use a different domain (or several), another separate account must be opened. Exceptions to this rule are possible on a case by case basis, and must be negotiated directly with Baidu.
Another point of scrutiny is whether the company name on the website matches that of the name on the registration certificate. Generally, the certificate must match that of Company A OR Company B, and only one name should be listed on the website, unless there is a clearly defined legal relationship between Company A and Company B. Further exceptions may apply, but must be discussed directly with Baidu and may or may not be approved.
In addition to these standard rules, there are also some others that are more difficult to foresee and prepare for. Given the very case by case nature that Baidu operates under for approving accounts, individual requirements and processes can vary depending on the case manager, size of the company, nationality, etc. Exceptions and other special circumstances are negotiated individually by each account applicant.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that once a website has been evaluated, it is no longer subjected to these rules and will not be re-examined. Therefore, it is common practice to do a complete website overhaul following an approval.
V-Verification—The Rule Since 2012
Since 2012, all registered users of Baidu are “invited” to verify the authenticity of their account, as well as their identity. Although this process is voluntary, it should be noted that not paying for this verification from the outset results in advertising costs that are 30% higher than they would normally be.
In order then to get a verification seal (V-seal), the bank account of a company must be verified. The V-Verification program consists of three stages, V1- V3, where V3 represent the highest level. The verification level depends on the amount of time the site has been registered for, as well as any positive reviews it has received.
Baidu, which was founded in 2000, has over a 70% market share and has long been the dominate player for search in the Chinese market. Despite a growing number of viable alternatives, Baidu’s huge user base and diverse product offerings (over 100 applications) make it still the overwhelming choice for advertisers. Each new product and application introduced offers advertising potential, which is very attractive in a huge and growing market such as China.
In addition to its two traditional search engine advertising programs, Baidu also offers two novel ones for which there is not yet a Google equivalent. These are called Q&A Advertising and Baidu Brand Link.
Conventional Search Advertising
In recent years, Baidu has dramatically improved its search engine advertising program. It is now approaching that of Google AdWords, in that the placement of ads on a search engine results page (SERP) is determined by a Quality Score ranking of the ad displayed, sitelinks, click-to-call operability, downloads, and messaging functionality—as well as how it’s displayed on mobile devices.
Baidu Display Network
The Baidu Display Network is also similar to Google’s, with a few notable exceptions. It conducts a thorough analysis of an online user’s gender, location, hobbies, and surfing habits—and uses these to place ads on websites that are visited the most frequently by the desired targeted group. Various sizes and display formats are available, including text, image, flash, floating, in-stream, etc. According to their own published statistics, the Baidu Display Network reaches 95% of Chinese internet users. In comparison with a more conventional search advertising campaign, the Baidu Display Network has a greater impact in terms of viewers and is generally cheaper in terms of cost per click (CPC). Therefore, it can be quite advantageous to use for branding campaigns.
Baidu’s Q&A platform (Baidu Zhidao) started operating in July 2005 and offers internet users the ability to ask questions about all sorts of things online and to have them answered by other members. In July 2013, advertising was introduced to this platform, in which text ads appear at the top of a page mimicking the Q&A layout and formatting. This type of advertising is particularly suited for companies offering complex products or ones where there is extreme competitive pressure. This format allows the advertiser to highlight the features and benefits of a product, without using a hard-sell approach, and can be extremely effective for lead generation.
Baidu Brand Link
This was introduced in early 2011, and serves as a new ad format in the search results. Brand Link brings together ad placement, logo, company description, space for customized themes, as well as videos to the far right side of the SERP. This offers companies an impressive overview to present to potential customers and brand advocates. Brand Link is, as its name suggests, ideal for companies looking to maximize brand awareness. This approach has higher costs associated with it than the others, and a recommended minimum budget of 12,000 EUR per month as an investment.
Now, you have a solid overview of the requirements of Baidu ads, and of the different advertising options available for the search engine.
It should also be noted that for a foreign company to open a Baidu account, it must be done in person at the Baidu Headquarters in Beijing, unless that company already has a Chinese subsidiary. In this case, opening the account can be handled by the designated Baidu subsidiary office corresponding to the region the company’s subsidiary is located in.
As you can see, Baidu advertising is more complicated and time-intensive that other popular search engines. However, its massive user base in China, as well as built-in products and apps, make it a necessary tool for companies looking to gain traction and customers in the Chinese market. We are happy to support your company in these efforts, via our European offices as well as our own subsidiary in Shanghai. For more information and to discuss in greater detail how to get started, please contact Ms. Yi Wu by phone at +49 621 17893 102, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.