In July the China Internet Information Network Center (CNNIC) published its bi-annualreport into the state of the internet in China (report in Chinese).

The report is a good guide into the browsing behaviour of netizens, the common phrase used to describe Chinese internet users.

The report is based on surveys sampling 30,000 Chinese residents older than six, from all of China’s administrative regions.

In this article, I’m going to examine the implications of the report and use the findings to help guide B2B marketers to understand the search engine market in China.

For more on this topic read Econsultancy's other posts on seven on-page SEO tips for Baidu, or download the Baidu Search Best Practice Guide.

Chinese internet users

As of June 2014 the number of Chinese netizens went up from 618m to 632m, a 2% increase from December 2013. The internet penetration rate in China now stands at 46.9%, well below the rate in America and Europe.

Mobile netizens increased by 5% to 527m. The number of Chinese web users who use a mobile device to connect to the internet increased by 2.4%.

Chinese web users also cemented their reputation as heavy users of the internet by spending an average of 26 hours online. This is an increase of around one hour compared to six months ago.

In fact, when compared to a year ago the increase in time spent online is around four hours. Between June 2012 and June 2013 the increase was closer to two hours.

To all intents and purposes the internet population in China is growing at a steady rate. Internet usage is on a steady upward trend too. 

The question that always interests me, though, is what do Chinese netizens do when they go online?

Chinese search engines

One thing Chinese internet users do is use search engines to find information, products and services on the web.

In the six months from December 2013, Chinese search engine use rose from 490m to 507m people. On mobile 406m people used a search engine, up from 365m people in December 2013.

There are five well-known search engines in China: Baidu (百度), 360 Search (360搜索), Soso (搜搜), Sogou (搜狗搜索) and Youdao (有道). The former two make up around 84% of the market share.


A search for 'Burberry' on Baidu

In January 2013 Baidu (baidu.com) held 72% of the search engine market in China and Qihoo’s 360 Search (so.com) had 11%. By January 2014 things had changed significantly. 

Baidu’s market share had dropped to 58%, while Qihoo’s had increased to 25% matching exactly the amount of market share that Baidu lost.

What has come out of this is the fact that Baidu and 360 Search are the undisputed market leaders of online search in China, in both users and market share.

Baidu and Qihoo

Qihoo’s rapid expansion of its market share and users has seen its revenues increase and marketers are seeing potential there. In the first three months of 2014 Qihoo 360 rang up US$265.1m in revenue, a 141.3% increase from Q1 2013.

By comparison, Baidu generated US$1.53bn during this same period. These numbers don’t suggest that 360 Search now holds 25% of the paid search market. But 360 Search’s rapid growth has got marketers in China interested nonetheless.

Qihoo has grown its search engine from nothing to 25% market share in the space of two years. It has a 5% larger audience than it had a year ago. Netizens using its PC browsers rose by 2% compared to last year.

Qihoo 360 is China’s leading internet browser and security software suite. Monthly active users of its PC-based products and services have clocked in at a huge 479m people.

A search for 'Burberry' on 360 Search (so.com)

It is the mainland's fastest-growing online search service and undisputed number one internet security provider.

On the other hand, Baidu is the basis of comparison for all other search engines in China. It has the highest usage of all the other search engines on the market. In Q1 2014 keyword advertising was still the top priority of Chinese advertisers.

In 2013 keyword advertising and contextual advertising brought the primary revenue in the Chinese search engine market. Search engine advertising revenue, namely revenue from keyword ads and display ads, accounted for 87.8% of the total revenues of search engines.


According to iResearch keyword advertising revenue took up 74.1% of the Chinese search engine market. Revenue from display ads of advertising alliance and navigation ads accounted for 13.7% and 4.5% respectively.

Why use Baidu and 360 Search?

One reason that so.com is becoming popular for paid advertising in China is because it tends to have a lower cost per click (CPC) than Baidu in many industries. Conversion rates on 360 Search tend to be lower for comparable projects though.

In the long term I’d suggest that conversion rates on so.com will improve. This is particularly true for businesses that face less competition in their niche who are likely to find a lower CPC on 360 Search.

Users and marketers know what they get from Baidu and therefore conversion rates are higher. People use what they trust, but as the market is shifting so are user’s perceptions.

But from a digital marketing point of view Baidu is still best. It is constantly updated and therefore is always ahead of the game.

Baidu has a very good desktop editor and good security and click-fraud protection. It also has a very useful remarketing functionality built into its display network. There are 600,000 websites that partner with Baidu to display banner ads.

Baidu is China’s most popular search engine and this will be the case for a while to come. But the market is slowly shifting and savvy marketers are looking at ways to leverage the new players on the market.

Final thoughts

So.com is now accounting for a quarter of all internet queries in China. In August 2014 the usage rate of so.com was 29%.

Qihoo has managed to build a captive audience for its portal, browser, and security software. This captive audience has helped drive users to its search engine, so.com. 

So far, 2014 has seen 360 Search drive up revenues from paid search advertising. There is still plenty of room for both Baidu and Qihoo 360 to co-exist in China’s paid search marketing space.

If Qihoo’s revenues increase in line with its increase in market share and users, then 360 Search will start to become a very popular platform for advertising. It’s for this reason that marketers in China have been attracted to using 360 Search for paid advertising.

What will emerge in the near future is a clearer understanding of which platform has a better conversion rate for certain industries. Also, it will be easier to compare cost per click statistics for both search engines once 360 Search is more widely used for paid search marketing.

Do you use either Baidu or 360 Search for paid advertising? If you have any questions please leave a comment. I’d also love to hear your thoughts.

Author : Misha Maruma
Source : econsultancy.com

Categorized in Market Research

The American government has cited Chinese Internet controls as a trade barrier in a report that comes as Beijing tries to block its public from seeing news online about the finances of leaders’ families.

Chinese filters, which block access to websites including the Google search engine and social media such as Twitter, are a “significant burden” on businesses, the U.S. Trade Representative said in an annual report on trade conditions.

It gave no indication Washington plans to take action but highlights the economic cost of pervasive Chinese censorship that also draws criticism from human rights and pro-democracy activists.

On such issues, Washington is at odds with Beijing, which sees strict control over information as essential to protecting the Communist Party’s monopoly on power.

China restricts access to online materials by requiring traffic to pass through state-controlled gateways linked to the global Internet. Controls have been tightened since President Xi Jinping became party leader in 2012.

The filters, known informally as the Great Firewall of China, are in line with Beijing’s advocacy of “Internet sovereignty,” or allowing governments to impose control on the freewheeling Internet within their borders. Xi called in a speech in December for the creation of a global “governance system” for cyberspace.

This week, Chinese Web users have been blocked from seeing news reports about documents from a law firm in Panama that say relatives of political figures including Xi own offshore companies.


State media have carried brief reports on the revelations but with no mention of Chinese figures.

Chinese regulators block access not just to websites operated by human rights or pro-democracy activists but also to dozens of news, entertainment and social media services that operate freely in other countries.

“Outright blocking of websites appears to have worsened over the past year, with eight of the top 25 most-trafficked global sites now blocked in China,” the USTR says in its National Trade Estimate.

It said much of the blocking appears to be arbitrary, including a home improvement website in the United States.

Asked about the complaint, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing welcomes foreign investment and protects the rights of foreign companies.

“Polices aimed at attracting foreign investment will not change, nor will policies to protect their lawful rights and interests and to create a good business environment,” said Hong Lei on Friday at a regular briefing. “We hope all countries can respect another nation’s choice of the route for Internet development, Internet management and Internet public policy, as well as its right to participate in regulating the international Internet.”

Foreign and local companies in China that rely on the Internet for sales, accounting and other internal functions complain the filters hinder their operations.

Almost 80 per cent of companies that responded to a survey released in January by the American Chamber of Commerce in China said they were “negatively impacted” by the controls.

More than half said they were blocked from using online tools or accessing information. Only 5 per cent said they were not hindered in any way.

Chinese also complain the filters hamper their ability to interact with customers or business partners abroad or apply to foreign universities. Some get around the filters by using virtual private networks, or VPNs, that route traffic through unblocked websites, but Beijing has begun to block them as well.

“This censorship not only prevents this country’s people from getting information quickly, but it also, bit by bit, isolates China’s Internet companies internationally,” said a posting on the Sina Weibo social media service signed by Bao Beibei, an investment manager for a Beijing technology company.

U.S. officials previously have labeled Beijing’s Internet controls a barrier to business but have yet to file a complaint in the World Trade Organization or take other action.

In 2011, the U.S. trade envoy, Ron Kirk, asked Beijing to explain its controls, citing WTO rules that require member governments to publish details of restrictions that might affect business. Kirk said the filters create “commercial barriers” that hurt U.S. companies.

The USTR never indicated whether Chinese authorities replied.

In 2009, a WTO panel ruled China’s censorship system for movies improperly restricted imports and Beijing promised to change it.

Chinese authorities have released few details of how they pick which online material to block.

When asked about specific incidents, government spokespeople sometimes suggest a technical problem abroad must be to blame. However, researchers have traced some blockages to servers operated by state-owned China Telecom Ltd.

The controls have allowed Chinese Internet services such as search engine Baidu to flourish by blocking or slowing access to foreign competitors such as Google that dominate other global markets.

Source : theglobeandmail

Categorized in Search Engine

Upon discovering that it had been hacked by China, the Canadian government’s scientific-research body did digital damage control on an enormous scale. Firing up its vintage fax machines, it jettisoned scores of computer servers, bought its staff hundreds of new laptops and drew up a list of about 20,000 corporate partners in Canada whose secrets risked being collateral damage.

Records newly released to The Globe and Mail reveal these and other details about the extensive fallout from this nightmare at the National Research Council. The hack of the NRC was highlighted in July 2014, when the then-Conservative government blamed China, making it the only cyber-espionage campaign that Canada has ever pinned on a specific state adversary.

While hacks of government departments occur relatively routinely, the NRC could be considered a more valuable target than most. For decades, it has been routing tax dollars to fund cutting-edge research in agriculture, engineering and computer science. Placing bets on Canadian companies helps the NRC work to ensure future prosperity, and its staff gets a glimpse of emerging technologies and proprietary business plans. 

That’s why the Canadian government was alarmed when federal officials announced two years ago that they had “detected and confirmed a cyber intrusion” within the NRC by “a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor.”

But while prime minister Stephen Harper's government took the unprecedented step of allowing officials to make the controversy public, it remains unknown how or when Chinese hackers first infiltrated the NRC’s computer systems, or what drew them to it in the first place.

The records released to The Globe under the Access to Information Act show only the aftermath. Job No. 1 at the agency was to warn the “clients” – corporations, academics, entrepreneurs – via phone calls and mailed letters that they were at risk. “The NRC has been the target of a cyber intrusion. As a result the information held in our systems from your organization may have been compromised,” one form letter reads.

One version of this letter in the NRC files was accompanied by a spreadsheet of more than 20,000 Canadian firms, most of them apparently engaged in government-sponsored research.

“As a precautionary measure, NRC informed all clients and research partners involved in business relationships and research activities of the cyber intrusion,” spokesman Guillaume Bérubé said in reply to questions about this list.

Several of the companies that were contacted by The Globe said they felt that the fallout was minimal because they were careful, even before the hack, about sharing trade secrets with the agency. Their biggest gripe with the NRC was that correspondence and payments became frustratingly slow in 2014. “It wasn’t back to the buggy, but it was pretty close,” said one entrepreneur, who asked not to be named.

This was because staff at the scientific agency had been told not to use computers to communicate. E-mail “must not be used to transmit secure, sensitive or confidential information,” one memo read. “The preferred way of transferring confidential information … is paper (fax, mail, courier),” another said.

Clients were to be told that “if you must share sensitive information with the NRC, the best practice is to do it via physical media” – meaning on paper or via USB sticks.

As the hack was announced publicly, one enterprising NRC employee wrote that he found a stash of safe digital devices. “I’ve dug up a box of brand new McAfee USB keys that we bought a few years ago,” he told colleagues in an e-mail. Calling them “state of the art” for their encryption capability, he said they could serve as a “stopgap, at least until NRC gets in more for everyone.”

Even the act of plugging a smartphone into an NRC computer was deemed risky. “Instead of using your computer to charge your phone, charge it through a wall outlet,” one memo says.

The agency started to pull the plug on almost all of its existing computer architecture as it created the data equivalent of an airlock. The hope was to move electronic files from the NRC’s legacy “black” environment to a blank slate of new machines dubbed the “green” environment.

The in-between step was the “grey zone,” a locked-down “scrubbing” station with no external network connectivity and which banned unfamiliar digital devices and outsiders. “The process of scrubbing data to be taken out of the Grey Zone can take a long time. We have seen up to 40 minutes to scrub 1 GB [gigabyte] of data,” one employee complained.

The NRC’s initial hope was to have fully rebuilt systems within a year. Most are in now place, but the Canadian Press recently reported that some parts will not be ready until July 2018.

Early this summer, the NRC announced that it had embarked on a partnership with its scientific counterparts in a foreign country.


That country is China. This new joint venture with Guangdong province aims to better fund collaborative Canadian and Chinese research projects.

The NRC was asked by The Globe why it would want to do business with a country that allegedly stole from it just two years ago.

Mr. Bérubé said simply that “global collaboration is a competitive necessity to generate new business opportunities.” The NRC spokesman added in his e-mailed reply that “the government of Canada is committed to deepening our trade relationships with established and emerging markets, including China.”

Over the years, the NRC has engaged in several foreign partnerships, and has done business with China before.

But Peter Phillips, a University of Saskatchewan professor who specializes in agriculture and innovation, suggests that several motivations could be at play in the new partnership.

“There’s an old adage that if you can’t beat them, join them,” he quipped.

He added that 2014 will be remembered as a painful year at the NRC. “Everything was down to hard copy, paper, and fax machines at best,” he said. “And this is our largest research organization in the country.”

Source : http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/records-show-extensive-fallout-from-chinese-hack-of-national-research-council/article31695327/

Categorized in Internet Technology

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