Search Engine Optimization for China

We are currently working on a new Web project for a client that wants to sell their products in Europe, Africa and China (+ Taiwan + Hong Kong + some other Mandarin speaking populations in Asia). For now we are completing the website development and we will be launching the SEO work for the English and French versions of this Website (Audience in Europe & Africa). However for the Chinese part we are still making some research about it. We want to work on SEO for the Mandarin and English versions to target Chinese populations.

So I will be really glad if anyone here on SPF worked on SEO / SEM / Social Networking projects for some sites that are mainly targeting asian markets especially China can give me their input and some key points about their experience! And help me know what SE like Sina and Baidu want? Is it worth it to cnsider Google, Yahoo, … too? What about Social networks?
Anything regarding SEO in Asia & China would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your help! :slight_smile:

First let me say I have never done any SEO for non-English.
However, I have a lot of Chinese friends and have visited a number of times so the following may be of use.

As well as English & Mandarin you will probably need to do Cantonese as well, this is the main language used in Hong Kong and parts of S.E. China
You may want to SEO using traditional chinese characters (for Cantonese & Taiwan), simplified chinese (for Mandarin) and Pinyin (A Romanized version of Chinese characters used in teaching Mandarin and needed to input chinese characters with a Qwerty keyboard)

Baidu is a must, China’s biggest search engine. Although Google is not there at the moment they may return in the future, also (despite what people say) you can still search in China with Google if you are a visitor with a smartphone, I’ve done this many times.
Social networking-wise, try QQ, Renren,,, and Wiebo

Best wishes, sounds like you have your work cut out

Thanks a lot for the input irishman!
These are really good points :slight_smile: I found about some of those by myself while doing some research last days!
One point that bothers me a bit is that the client only have a budget for 1 Chinese version! So iti is gonna be either Mandarin (what theclients insists on having now) or Cantonese!

So in your opinion is Cantonese really more important than Mandarin?

It depends where he thinks most of his work will come from.
Mainland China is predominantly Mandarin, or Putonghua as they call it in China (meaning 'standardised Chinese), Honk Kong & S.E. mainly Cantonese (named after the Canton area). In theory all Chinese schools regardless of location should be teaching Mandarin but if the kids only use Cantonese at home it won’t develop. I know at my Chinese school in the UK where most of the kids & adults originated from Hong Kong, the Chinese students there had difficulty following Mandarin.
If your client wants Mandarin then go with that, he is paying after all. Make him aware of the limitations, maybe he will come back later to add Cantonese.
Did you follow the bit about Pinyin?

Thanks again! It is clearer for me now! I will be meeting the client on thursday to discuss the SEO strategy.
You mean Hanyu Pinyin? I have a small idea about it!

aha, i am chinese. And i have been a seoer and a programer for years.
As we mention SE, we will think it’s BAIDU and GOOGLE.
More than 80% use BAIDU
and other use Google , Or Soso(a product of tencent)

by the way , Social networks Social Markting is very important and useful for chinese people.
the WEIBO is similar with twitter.

Yes, Hanyu Pinyin. The ‘Hanyu’ bit refers to spoken Chinese and Pinyin is how to write this in Roman characters to teach pronunciation or to type it on a Qwerty typewriter.
For example, if you want to enter the Chinese character for ‘Hello’ on a pc or phone you would type ‘Ni Hao’ and then select the characters suggested. The alternative to this is to have a pen & tablet so that you can write the Chinese character yourself but I find this way much slower.

Good points Irishman and Josh :slight_smile: Thanks for the input!
Tomorrow I will meet the client as I said!

Good Luck!

I have a question on this topic. In regards to SEO for China, should one have their URLs in Chinese characters (e.g. [noparse]你好[/noparse] ) or is it better to have them in transliterated romanized script (e.g. [noparse][/noparse] )?

Does the same also apply to other non-romanized languages (e.g. Arabic, Greek, Japanese, Sanskrit, etc.)?


Never saw any URL in Chinese characters actually …
I would use Romanized characters in English.

As concerning SEO for China in general,
onpage factors are still playing a big role for Baidu. More than for Google. If you try to build backlinks for your chinese domains, you won´t need to specify and vary so much (in comparison to link building strategies for U.S., UK or European projects).

By the way, is there any good backlink trader (except teliad) that you can recommend us?

Social media networks are playing a very big role for China.
You´ll have to check out, which network is important for you. I recently read an article (internet world) about the top 15 social networks in China:

Renren (leading network)
Sina Weilbo (microblogging service)

tencent Weibo
Jiayuan (online dating)
Tao Jianghu
Bai Shehui

Could that be because you used a Western search engine?

If you used a Chinese search engine you would be able to see either the Chinese characters and/or the Romanised characters. For example, I have my home pc in England set up for both, so when I search a Chinese company I get 2 sets of urls, 1 in Chinese characters, 1 in English. If I were in China I would get 1 in Chinese characters and 1 in Pinyin (I’ve used the internet many times in China and if I could work in English that would be great, however I can’t)

Most people I saw in China used Pinyin to input their searches so you have to optimise for this, but a lot (especially the older who never learnt Pinyin) use tablets and pens so they can write Chinese characters, so you need to cater for them as well.

So, I must to tell u that
Jiayuan, Zhenai, Baihe, iPartment NOT really social networks


Thanks for your annotation.
However, a lot of networks to deal with :wink:

Interesting what you tell us, I usually use but obviously from the UK, Spain or Germany. I never saw any URL in Pinyin.

“Most people I saw in China used Pinyin to input their searches so you have to optimise for this”

Sure peopel in China usually use Pinyin to input their searches,
but the question is, how are the URLs displayed to them? in Romanised or Pinyin characters?

If you use Chinese characters in the URL, both and would correctly display them in the URL in search results. See attached screenshots.

Thanks for that YangYang. I did a screenprint of my own to try and show this but it wouldn’t upload.
Re:-Pamela’s question, I have never used Arabic, Greek, Japanese, etc but would guess the same goes for these. Maybe someone with experience in one of these languages can help here.

FWIW, I have incoming links from Japanese sites, and they display in Japanese characters in Google Webmaster Tools.

This is interesting. I’ve never done non-english SEO. I think you really have to extend your work to the english SEO because targeting only Chinese web would limit your resources.

Not if you are Chinese -based and selling to Chinese customers who live in China.
Do you think French websites (and few nations are more anti-English language internet dominance than the French) would appreciate being told to SEO in English?