Get your website working in China

JANUARY 2020

nĭ hăo.
At the very least, if you’re thinking of taking your website into China, learn to say hello in the local lingo. Mandarin is the world’s most spoken language. (In fact, there are 3 main languages in China – Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien, which is a dialect mostly spoken in the Fujian Province of China). Depending on who you believe, the numbers of native Mandarin-speakers ranges from about 950 million to more than 1 billion people.

The digital world is by default a global world. A website hosted in Australia can be accessed anywhere a visitor has an Internet connection. The possible exception is China, where strict controls over accessible digital content exist. The Digital Koalas team had numerous discussions about whether we should include China as part of our digital strategy – and, if so, what was the best way to configure our website so it is accessible to the Chinese people. This curiosity motivated us to find out how it’s best done and what we found we’ll share with you today.

Website translation into Mandarin

The first thing to consider in your plans for expansion into China is that your website must be available in Mandarin. We’re not talking the pinyin variety of Mandarin, we mean the full-blown hanzi variety with the Chinese characters that can only really be written by someone fluent in the language.

In this age of convenience, it’s tempting to turn to the simplest solution. If you’re running a WordPress website (like us), you can install a translation plugin and bingo, you have the world’s languages at your feet. Sadly, translation plugins are a little bit like polyester tee-shirts. They will never be as good as the real (100% cotton) deal.

By far the best (and most accurate) but more expensive way to cater for language translation on your website is to employ someone to translate it. Although we wholeheartedly believe that AI will be clever enough to understand language nuances one day – the truth is that the software is not quite there yet.

If you’re looking for a translator, we recommend Google. 😊

Host your website in China

When it comes to web hosting, the surest way to prevent accessibility issues was to create a Chinese version of your website and host it locally in China. Hosting in China, however, is not a straightforward process. As you would elsewhere, you purchase the rights to a domain name (www.example.cn) and Chinese web hosting. An additional requirement includes filing your website with the Chinese government along with your business license. To have a business license, you’ll need to set up a subsidiary business in China.

Hosting your website somewhere that’s not China

Of course, you don’t need to go through the process above to have a Chinese-language website. You do, however, run into the potential for accessibility issues if you don’t have a local business and a website filed with the Chinese government. From what we can tell, websites built on hosting platform, wordpress.com, are blocked to a Chinese audience. This is different to WordPress.org, where the same automatic ban doesn’t apply. 

Getting found on Chinese Search

Google is not in China. The Chinese people have their own version of Google, called Baidu and just like Google, you can purchase search advertising on the platform. The best way to really maximise Baidu is to use a local ad specialist that can help your with Baidu advertising. We also recommend you use someone local for copywriting, since not everyone can write ads. There are a number of Baidu freelancers we found on Upwork – or you could search for a local advertising agency that can work with you to create a Chinese presence.

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About us: Digital Koalas is an Australian-based team of digital strategists, auditors and campaign managers. We provide digital marketing consultancy, independent auditing and advice, plus digital media buying and campaign optimisation services.
Everything starts with a conversation. To get in touch with us, just say hello.

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