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What is Going on with Google and China?

July 12, 2010

I don’t know about you, but keeping up with the whole Google-China situation has, at times, been as difficult as predicting the World Cup this year. People keep asking me what’s going on; I keep on asking what this means for China search marketing efforts.

I’m a picture person, so I drew up a timeline and summary of main events to date, to try and make sense of it all (sorry about the small text. You can click on the image to read it in full).


Summary of Events

  • Since setting up in 2006, Google China search results have been censored to comply with government regulations (China is a bit strict that way. Many social networking sites in China, including Facebook and Twitter, are blocked).
  • In the meantime, Google received criticism for “selling out” to censorship, since it doesn’t play well with their “Don’t be evil” mantra.
  • In January this year, Google announced it had become victim of cyber attacks from China. Allegedly it was from shady government sources who were trying to uncover information about human rights activists.
  • Google decided that it would no longer succumb to the government rules, so they put on their poker face and threatened to pack up their bags and move out of China altogether.
  • The “will they, won’t they” speculation kicked off and Baidu started rubbing their hands together (muwhaha!).
  • Talks between Google and the Chinese Government shortly commenced.
  • In March, Google found a loophole in the system and started automatically redirecting users of Google China to Google Hong Kong, where results aren’t censored.
  • Needless to say, the Chinese Government were pissed with this move.
  • But the advantage would soon turn again in the government’s favor when Google’s web license (the one that allows them to operate in China) came up for renewal at the end of June.
  • The license would only be renewed if Google stopped redirecting users to Google Hong Kong.
  • So Google stopped the redirects for fear of going dark and reverted back to a censored Google China. The Google Suggest feature was also blocked.

So what does all this mean?

When the Google Hong Kong redirects happened back in March, I wrote about what the Google-China situation meant for search marketers.

With the benefit of a few months hindsight, nothing crashed and burned when the Google redirect happened. I did see Baidu Cost Per Clicks (CPCs) increase slightly (4-5 cents at most), but then again what’s a 5 cent increase when Baidu’s CPCs are still running at half the cost of Google?

Now that things are back to where they were, will it be business as usual? Well, if the past is anything to go by, the shaky relationship between both sides is likely to continue. Whether this uncertainty results in more advertisers shifting significant PPC investment towards Baidu is likely, but yet to be seen. What’s important, is to keep a close eye on spend and performance in these engines, and let the numbers guide your decisions.

What happens next is anyone’s guess; just don’t ask me. Afterall, I predicted Italy to win the World Cup 😉

From → Search Marketing

  1. Doing business in China you play by their rules. Google doesn’t dictate rules to another country. It’s called the cost of doing business there. Suck it up and play nice or get out. It’s that simple. You don’t pretend to do so, then when someone walks away quickly do something else. Sounds like a spoiled 5 year old child. Or politicians…whatever, they’re pretty much the same thing.

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  1. My 3 Key Takeaways from 2010 « SEM Booty Blog

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