There are 144 million or 150 million or .. Internet users in China (different sources, different stats). A couple of million more or less, on the whole it doesn’t matter too much. It’s a big number and it’s growing.
At the same time Chinese online marketers are getting ready to target these users.
I attended SES Xiamen which was held last Friday and Saturday and instead of the normal overview of search related news I thought I give you an overview on what happened there.
More than 1000 persons participated in the second installment of SES China, co-produced by Inway Ni and his team from TimeV and Search Engine Strategies and organized by Chris Sherman from Searchwise.
The participants, almost double the number of last years SES in Nanjing, were eager to learn, eager to find out what’s the best way of positioning websites high in the Search engines and how to advertise using PPC and other methods.
It was my first conference and the first thing I noticed was age. 98% of the participants were younger than 30. The small number of foreign speakers and attendants were beyond that age which is one sign that the SEM industry in China is young. Young people that grew up with the Internet and that want to make it work.
Another thing I noticed is that, taken from the presentations, the questions and the participants I talked with, on the whole the level of understanding of SEO/SEM is young as well. Many of the sessions I attended were for a big part focused on the fundamentals of SEO. How to structure a website, how to link, the use of title tags etc.
The Keynote was delivered by Yvonne Zhang, VP of Yahoo China/Alibaba. Yahoo China (or China Yahoo since they renamed themselves), the number 3 search engine in China, trails behind leader Baidu and number 2 Google.
Yvonne Zhang mentioned that China is a difficult unique market where you cannot carbon copy a foreign model.
Yahoo wants to go a new road and if I understood well, it will come down to adjusting it’s search to a more web 2.0 version of search. The idea is to integrate traditional search, user generated content on properties like Answers and also Taobao and Alibaba as well as editorial content.
A search will give the user more cross-property results. A search for a product (my interpretation) will result in websites about the product (traditional search), user generated content from Answers, links to Taobao auctions of the product etc.
It’s a shift in strategy that Yahoo hopes will help them catch up or at least keeps it current share stable.
During the 2 days, 3 rooms were constantly packed with participants. The sessions ranged from buying search engine advertising, marketing research, link building, case studies and domain strategies to a Site Clinic and lessons from spamming.
Most sessions were a mix of foreign speakers and Chinese speakers. There was a noticeable difference between the speakers, where the foreign speakers tended to be more informational and the local speakers more promotional.
There were great exceptions here. The star speaker, Stone Chen, a well known Chinese SEO, gave a vivid and thorough overview of the current state of Chinese websites and where improvements need to be made to become more SEO and user friendly. See also the SEO state of Chinese websites.
The Search Engines
Yahoo China, being the premier sponsor, was very well represented at the conference. Google was represented by Jianfei Zhu, a member of Google’s webspam group and a top engineer on Chinese webspam. Baidu was unfortunately not active during the conference.
As China’s leading search engine it would have been nice to get their views as well. Hopefully they will be there next time.
The conference was bi-lingual, with simultaneous translations.. This part could use some improvements, as well as for the Chinese to English translations as for the English to Chinese. At times I got slightly lost as did some Chinese participants listening to the foreign speakers.
It was only the second SES in China though and I’m sure next year will be even better.
It were 2 intense days with lost of sessions, lots of partying (Yahoo threw a great bbq with all kind of games) and a unique chance to meet up with other SEOs, foreign or Chinese. There is a difference between meeting someone online and seeing them for real.
The second SES in China was also the second time for the China Search Marketing Tour, which brought the speakers Rand Fiskin, David Temple and Ian McAnerin to the conference.
If you want to know what’s going on in the world of Chinese SEO, a conference like this is the place to be. You can go by yourself or join the tour and have the chance to see something more of China as well.
I have read it on many blogs before, and I can confirm it now and will say it once more (before I go over the top:). If you work in SEO/SEM go to one of the conferences, whether it’s SES, Pubcon, or the new SMX. It’s the best way to get to know others in the industry and learn new things.
Next year the plan is to hold SES China again in Xiamen.
In other articles about SES Xiamen I have written about the current state of Chinese websites through the eyes of Stone Chen and (hopefully) useful information if you want to start targeting the Chinese Internet market.
Gemme van Hasselt is an Internet Marketing Consultant, living in Shanghai, and owner of Tiger Internet Marketing.