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Why Website Localisation Really Matters: Your Business in China in 2023

Why does website localisation matter in China? If you run a business that uses a website for marketing or sales, then you already know that a well-optimised web presence really matters to your bottom line – like we all know a well-maintained engine makes for a more efficient car. It’s just common sense. What isn’t so common is understanding exactly how website localisation works for your website in China – the driving force of your presence in the Chinese market. 

With over a decade in the digital space in China, we’ve updated our years of research and successful client case studies to create this short guide for you in 2023.

Why should you localise your website for China?

Most people understand that China operates on a slightly different system from the rest of the world. We’ve all heard about the incredible opportunity of tapping into the huge Chinese market to sell your goods and services. However, you might have heard at least a few horror stories about how things can go badly wrong in China.

Some businesses don’t take the time to understand how the PRC actually works, especially for something as niche as website localisation in China. Our goal here is to help your business enter China online in the right way. 

What is the right way to enter the Chinese market?

The right way avoids legal pitfalls and maximises your return on investment. The right way is to understand how to position your brand for success in the local Chinese market.

If you want to do well in the PRC, your business really needs to be successful in the art of Chinese website localisation.

So what do we mean by “Website Localisation For China?”

Website localisation is when you adapt your website to the culture and language of your target market. This is usually decided on a country-by-country basis. It can be complex. Localisation deals with things like language, culture, purchasing habits, legal requirements, and payment methods. However, if you take your business seriously, then whether or not to localise really isn’t a question.

Website localisation for China isn’t quite the same as it is for most countries, so let’s get the rules of this game clear…

The Most Important Question: Language

Just ask yourself this simple question…You want to buy something online – will you browse a website written in a language you don’t understand? Do you feel comfortable making a purchase from it? Or do you just click away when you feel the “I don’t get it” moment?

Engage With Chinese Internet Users

If you want to be successful in engaging Chinese internet users, then your content needs to be easy for them to understand. The official and most commonly used language is Mandarin. The majority of the 1.4 billion people living in the PRC speak Mandarin and read and write Simplified Chinese characters. If you don’t present your Chinese web content in a way that Chinese internet users understand, then you may as well be doing the equivalent of asking a typical westerner to read Mandarin. In more than 99% of cases, it just isn’t going to fly.

Your Brand Name In China Is Also Extremely Important

 Your brand name needs to be well crafted in the Mandarin Chinese language. Coca-Cola is a good example of a Chinese brand name done well. 
After a failed first attempt, the soft drinks giant chose 可口可乐 (Kěkǒukělè) for the Chinese market. “Kěkǒukělè” sounds similar to Coca-Cola and means “tasty fun.” Not a bad localised brand name for a soft drink, right? It is important to remember that, if you get it right, you can actually really optimise your Chinese content, rather than make it just passable. See this as an opportunity.

Coca-Cola matched the personality of their brand with a nice, short, and catchy name. There is a bit of an art to creating a solid brand name in Chinese. If you want us to expand on this, then drop us a message and we’ll create something on the blog for you.

Want to build trust and credibility with Chinese consumers?

One major expectation you must meet is that Chinese consumers want to real-time chat with your company or brand during the pre-sale process. It’s important you have a live-chat function where your customers can ask you specific questions about your product or service, including if a product is in stock and how long delivery takes. 
Live chat in China is best done via China’s “super app” WeChat. WeChat customer service is a standard business practice in mainland China. You need to make it yours, too.

Legal Requirements For China Website Optimisation

You have two main hosting options to consider when you set up your website for the Chinese market. You can host directly inside Mainland China, or set up as close to China as possible. 
If you want to host inside China, get ready to jump through a few hoops first.  You need to:

  • Get a Registered China Business Licence- a process in itself
  • Apply for an ICP licence. This can take up to two months

Or you can skip all the admin and just use cloud hosting in Hong Kong. By deciding to host your site in Hong Kong, you get:

  • No regulatory hassle – unlike setting up inside Mainland China. No licences are needed in Hong Kong. It is as quick as setting up at home.
  • Fast and reliable internet, hooked directly up to Mainland China and inside the “Great Firewall of China
  • Immediate access to the Chinese market. 

SEO in China Means Baidu – Not Google

Thanks to the “Great Firewall,” Google doesn’t work in China. Baidu leads the search engine race in the PRC, with over 60% of the local market share.  Baidu also dominates mobile search and accounts for over 95% of all of China’s mobile traffic.  

So how can you rank well for Baidu in China?

Create content in Mandarin made for Chinese businesses and consumers, and written in Simplified Chinese characters. This will give you the double benefit of direct marketing to Chinese visitors to your website, as well as higher search rankings.

As Baidu is a Chinese search engine, it heavily favours you if your content is in Chinese. Content on a Chinese internet provider is also a plus for Baidu. You need Simplified Chinese in order to connect with the local audience and gain clicks and page views.

Website Design for China

A big problem many western websites face in China? Slow page loading times. The average internet user in China is unlikely to wait more than 5 seconds for a website to load. Western companies sometimes find their site takes 30 seconds or more to load due to China’s “Great Firewall.”  Would you wait 30 seconds for a slow web page?

So what’s the best way to avoid slow loading times?

Get an ICP licence and host directly in China.  Also, get a Chinese top-level domain, meaning that your site address ends in .cn. Another huge issue is the Great Firewall is notorious for breaking website functionality and in extreme cases blocking them completely – this is subject to almost daily change due to the way the firewall is operated and run. The only way you can know how your site is performing inside China is to have someone inside China test your site regularly. Then you can be sure all your pages are popping up fast and your all links work properly.

What Is The Takeaway Here?

Just always remember that “China is different”.  If you take the time to accurately understand the challenges and follow established best practices for setting up your China-friendly digital presence, you can have a truly successful online presence in the PRC. If you have any questions about any of the sections mentioned in this article, then please let us know. We love talking details on China digital marketing and all things related.

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