Baidu vs Google: 5 reasons you need to be using Baidu Ads in 2021

If you work in advertising or marketing and haven’t considered using (or at least heard of) Baidu (百度), you’ve got some serious catching up to do. With a large majority of the Chinese market share and over 600,000 alliance websites, the question is, why wouldn’t you choose Baidu if you’re doing business in China or targeting Chinese consumers/leads? 

There are Baidu competitors within China and Asia, but none of them come close to matching the reach of a Baidu ad. Their market share is huge (75.46% on all platforms and 92.67% on mobile, which equates to around 700 million people), so you should always start with Baidu advertising first. Baidu also continues to grow each year, with 558 million Baidu App monthly active users just in May 2021.

Research has shown that, unlike activity on Google, Chinese consumers don’t mind online ads, and believe that any company willing to pay to promote their products in this way must be reputable. They also know that there are strict government rules for advertising online as the Chinese internet has a long history with false advertising, even resulting in death. It is perhaps a different attitude to customers in the West, but with the reach of Baidu ads, the potential marketplace for new business is colossal.

Not sold on Baidu yet? Here are our top 5 reasons why you need to be using Baidu ads:

#1: Google doesn’t work in China

Chances are you’re accustomed to using Google Adwords and would prefer to keep doing things this way. Unfortunately, like many Western internet services, Google services have been blocked in China for some time and are not usable. This includes:

  • Search
  • Display
  • Gmail
  • Translate
  • Drive
  • Youtube
  • Play Store
  • News
  • Maps

Some instances of services like Google GDN (display ads) and Google Analytics (URL tracking) work in China. However, they cause loading problems for websites that need to route information through the Great Firewall, so marketers use Baidu Analytics instead. Although Google has tried to develop a solution to their ‘China problem’, their project ‘Dragonfly’ has been terminated.

If you’re serious about doing business in China, the best option is to accept that using Chinese marketing options will be the only viable solution! Since mid-2018, there has also been a significant crackdown by the Chinese government on VPN usage which means even many foreigners in China are giving up and switching over to Baidu for ease of use.

#2: Baidu is easily one of the best advertising platforms in China 

While Baidu PPC can’t compare to the maturity of a product like Google AdWords, it is easily the best and is developing fast compared to other platforms in China. 

In recent years the Chinese tech market has been plagued by social platforms and advertising platforms faking engagement numbers to appease shareholders desires for growth. Many of these applications have targeting options like Facebook for selecting interests, job information and demographic information, but often these options don’t seem to work well at all. Baidu’s core targeting functionality is centred around keywords used in the search engine. Its targeting and accuracy have been proven to be much better than other platforms (at least for the time being).

"Businesses (especially B2B) can expect far better conversion rates from Baidu than any other advertising platform which instead of targeting keywords prefer a more spammy (impressions per million) approach."

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#3: Lower CPC (Cost per Click) for a Baidu Ad

Baidu is an advertising anomaly in China, where advertising costs (especially print, video, sponsored posts or influencers) are exponentially more expensive than similar methods in the West. On average (varies depending on keywords and industry) Baidu has a cheaper CPC than Google for similar search terms. 

Working primarily within the B2B industry, we have noticed that it’s common to find that popular search terms are usually around 25-40% of the cost of the same keywords in Google. Baidu does have some strict payment terms, requiring an initial deposit of at least RMB 6,000 (USD 939) if you are a foreign company NOT based in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Singapore, United Kingdom and France. You will also need to pay RMB 1,000 as a one-off service fee and RMB 600 annually for the Company Authentication fee. But the overall cost of your campaign should be comparatively lower. You can learn more about the cost of Baidu advertising here.

#4: Baidu is growing rapidly

China’s current domestic internet usage is around 940 million people. With Baidu developing native mobile search applications all the time with Chinese mobile carriers, it’s likely to continue growing in the coming years. 

Baidu is also laser-focused on the search market, with around 99.7% of its income coming from online marketing and advertising services (compared to Google’s 88%). Baidu’s success is expected to carry internationally where there are no internet restrictions. Chinese users who live overseas or are travelling overseas will expect to use Baidu as their primary search engine.

#5: It can be difficult to get started on Baidu

Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a list of reasons why you SHOULD be using Baidu? Well, one of the best reasons why you should be using Baidu is almost always overlooked: the barrier to entry. Like all services in China, Baidu is subject to the laws and requirements of the Chinese Communist Party, which (unlike Facebook and other platforms) doesn’t want just anyone to advertise. This means that to get started on Baidu, you will need to provide a lot of paperwork and registration information of your Chinese company (International companies may also apply in Hong Kong). 

To give you the rundown on everything you need to get started, see our “Master Guide to Baidu”. There is also an approval process for ads, and you will be assigned a service representative whose job will be to check in on you and make sure that you aren’t advertising anything that might be deemed sensitive in China. Now, all this might seem like a fairly good reason not to use Baidu ads, but it’s actually an excellent opportunity for companies who are willing to put in a little effort which many of your competitors won’t bother doing.

None of these processes is ‘hard’. It’s mostly just time consuming and requires Chinese/Hong Kong administrative help to provide the correct documentation to appease the censors. Getting started with registering a foreign company in China usually takes around 2 months, OR starting in Hong Kong can be done within weeks with the help of a local agency. If you don't have or aren't willing to open a company in China, you can register a Baidu account as an international company. However, in order to use a Baidu ad as a landing page, you need to send the website URL for review. In this case, we recommend using Baidu landing pages as your website won't load fast enough in China without a local hosting solution.

So now that you see the potential for advertising in China, where do you get started?

  1. First, download our free eBook on everything you need to know about doing Baidu ads in China. Understanding how things work and the requirements for getting started are crucial for success.
  2. Hire a Baidu ads specialist or an agency with the experience to help you get started. Baidu marketing can be challenging and advertising in China requires a completely different strategy. If you would like to speak to one of our ‘Baidu qualified’ specialists, please contact us.

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Does your company need assistance with advertising in China? Speak with one of our marketing experts to find out how we can help.

Laurent Ross

About the Author

Laurent Ross

11+ years of work in client and project management in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand - Laurent is uniquely qualified to manage campaigns which require a deep knowledge of both Western and Chinese digital systems.

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