On the 27th of June 2013 Baidu made one of its rare public appearances in Europe. Representatives of Baidu were invited by China Connect to host a "Baidu masterclass" at the Maison de Chine in Paris. This one-day session was aimed at digital marketing professionals who were interested in finding out about new ways in which Baidu (platforms) could be leveraged to reach Chinese netizens.
The unknown giant
The day was kicked off by an introductory session on Baidu in general. This session was hosted by Kaiser Kuo, who is the Director of International Communications at Baidu. Amongst other interesting facts on the company, he revealed an impressive statistic: 92.8% of Chinese netizens enter the internet through (a platform owned by) Baidu - this equals to approximately 500 million internet users in China. Additionally, Baidu actually is the biggest digital media platform in China, responsible for 30% of total digital ad spend in 2012 and therefore has a huge impact on the Chinese media landscape.
Next up on the program were Yuhong Cui, Senior Director of Union Business at Baidu and Michael Chen, General Manager of Key Accounts, National Channels and Regional Sales. They introduced the participants to technical advancements Baidu has undergone in the past (i.e. voice search), as well as how Baidu specifically leverages big data analysis to decipher the connection between brand and brand representative (i.e. Nike and Roger Federer) in order to understand at what time and place "true value" is created for the advertiser.
Baidu in Europe
If you are an advertiser in Europe who would like to use Baidu services, you will not get around CharmClick. This company acts as Baidu's intermediary and representative in Europe and is your very first point of contact if you want to create a Baidu account. Johnny Zhu, General Manager at CharmClick presented the different types of ad formats available on Baidu. As opposed to other search engines, Baidu offers a so-called brand-zone (see image below), that shows up for brand related user queries and only for brands that were verified with Baidu.
WP Baidu, Brand Zone 2
In the afternoon, Arnaud Rofidal, CEO at altima spoke about the issues related to web analytics in China. Disregarding the fact, that the "great firewall" has caused accuracy issues with Google Analytics in China, more than 80% of the most important e-commerce websites in China use Google Analytics! [Tweet this!] He furthermore advised that advertisers also make use of Baidu's analytics service called Baidu Tongji to complement the data available through Google Analytics.
The last session of the day was held by Stanislas de Nervo, Managing Director and Co-Founder at Datawords. He ran an interesting Q&A with Michael Chen mainly on how companies can protect their brand on Baidu. The answer was to make full use of the services Baidu offers to official brands. This includes having a customized brand-zone (triggered through your protected brand keywords only), an official Baidu Baike page (similar to Wikipedia) and engaging with users through Baidu Zhidao (Q&A platform).
Even though the masterclass only lasted a day, there were many important takeaways from this event: Baidu is not solely a search engine. Baidu is Wikipedia, Facebook and Quora all in one - and it is so much more (this approach of integrating many different platforms under one brand was also successfully applied by Yandex - Russia's leading search engine). Baidu is huge and for Western companies it will be essential to understand how to leverage Baidu's services to reach Chinese consumers. Baidu is also constantly changing and venturing into new markets (recently Brazil and Indonesia with hao123.com). Although its algorithms might not yet be as sophisticated as Google's, one can certainly expect that gap to shrink in the future.
The complexity of Baidu might at first be intimidating, but once deciphered, it shows to be a homogeneous system, that allows users to find a wealth of information using different platforms that are all interlinked. Don't simply think of it as a "Chinese Google", because that's not what it is, nor what it aims to be.
If you are interested in possibilities to engage with your Chinese audience on Baidu, don't hesitate to contact us for further information.