What Brands Should Know About Paid Advertising in China 2022

Any brand looking to do business in China needs to leverage paid advertising for its products. It is crucial to Chinese e-commerce success and boosting brand awareness. 

When selling products online, understanding the paid advertising landscape in China is critical, especially paid advertising on Chinese social media. It is a great and effective way to reach potential customers, but it can be challenging to know where to start with it.

Paid advertising is crucial for Chinese social media as around 98% of online traffic in China comes from mobile devices, and most consumers are on their phones for a significant amount of time.

Thus, mobile advertising and optimising for smartphones and tablets are essential for some of the most successful advertising campaigns for any brand in China. 

Even if brands rely on traditional advertising, one way or another, the preference for more online interaction will push them to more modern methods of advertising. Traditional advertising is also becoming more expensive, with lower ROI than social paid advertising in China. Hence, paid digital advertising is the way for brands in China for 2022.

What makes paid advertising trickier in China is the amount of fake traffic. Channels and ads are costly, and if a brand is not careful with its strategy, fake traffic will threaten it. In addition, fake traffic is difficult to identify, especially if an influencer ties in some organic content from real people before letting the bots in. 

According to Miaozhen Systems, fake traffic can account for as much as 1/3 (31.9%) of the total online ad traffic in China, amounting to approximately 28 billion RMB. Aside from fake traffic, they also included misclicks, which are sometimes misidentified as genuine engagement. For example, Click Farms pester the luxury business in China by selling clicks, likes, or shares, which are especially rampant on WeChat. 

Additionally, on Baidu, the number of invalid clicks and fake traffic has discouraged nearly half of the companies that advertise on the platform. This is partly due to Baidu’s system (mixed paid listing and search results), which allows users to click on ads and think they are part of their search result query. Almost 46% of advertisers reported that the invalid click rate exceeded 50%.

There are numerous ways and channels to do paid advertising or media buying in China. Moreover, ads in China are expensive, and with the amount of fake traffic, it is crucial to develop a proper strategy and plan for your business. 

More importantly, a brand must know its platform, audience, and metrics for the best results. For a successful Chinese advertising campaign, brands must understand the differences and advantages of different ad platforms, especially social media. This article will teach you the different methods of platform advertising in China in 2022.

There are three general classifications of paid advertising in China: Search Engine Advertising, Social Media Advertising, and E-Commerce Channel Ads. Over 50% of the search queries in China are done on social media platforms, so any advertising campaign should also have a social media presence. 

Typically, 30-50% of a brand’s earnings in China are reinvested back into marketing. For many brands, there is typically a 50/50 split between marketing in the marketplace and outside of it.  

Marketplaces are platforms where brands showcase their products, such as Tmall or JD. 50-70% of the budget goes to boosting essential dates and major sales events such as Double 11, 618, Chinese New Year, and other Super Brand Days. The other 40-30% are used for ongoing traffic maintenance and are often archived through search. 

It is important to note that while this is a tried and tested format for spending on paid advertising, every brand is different. In addition, brands have different goals and metrics, and there is no one-size-fits-all formula for paid advertising. 

Nevertheless, brands with lower recognition than most will benefit from having a solid paid advertising strategy, and this investment will be vital in ensuring a brand’s success in China. Brands must prioritise according to their purpose and strategies accordingly.

Regardless of the platform, a successful campaign will always depend on the goal the brand is after. Therefore, brands must prioritise according to their purpose and create a strategy accordingly.

1. Search Engine Advertising


Baidu has become one of the world’s largest internet companies and one of China’s most well-known search engines. Currently, Baidu enjoys 55,215 average daily searches, a 13% increase from last year

There is roughly the same number of women and male consumers on the platform, with the male consumers edging out their counterparts a bit at 54%. The largest age group in Baidu is 18-24 year olds, accounting for 17.49% of all consumers, while 60+ account for only 3.11%. With its massive expanse of web pages and users (70% of Chinese total internet queries), Baidu is an excellent advertising platform for any brand. 

Source: index.baidu.com

There are four common ways of marketing with Baidu. First is Baidu Tuiguang, a PPC (pay per click) advertising platform that works like Google Adwords or Adsense. It enables brands to have ads on the search results pages and also has an English option, but it is primarily in Chinese. 

Second, there is also a P4P option (pay for placement) which is what it means. It allows brands to put their ads on relevant searches for their brand using keywords. 

Third, ProTheme allows Baidu Union members to display their promotional links on specific web pages. Lastly is Baidu TV, a collaboration with Ads it! Media Corporation provides access to their Baidu Union members. With this feature, brands may choose which sites their advertising will appear on. Given its wide reach, paid advertising on Baidu is recommended to boost brand awareness. Baidu paid advertising can help your brand get greater exposure.


Sogou is a smaller version of Baidu at 4% of the market share, but it still shouldn’t be discounted by brands regarding paid advertising. As a Tencent subsidiary, Sogou is already integrated with the larger Tencent platforms like WeChat, and in fact, Sogou is WeChat’s in-app search engine, and thus traffic is ever-expanding. 

Brands need to remember that Sogou has its own algorithm, so what SEO techniques working for Baidu may not work ideally with it. Sogou places a high value on original content and site authority, and it puts a priority on an entirely Chinese website with local domains. 

The search engine categorises results into music, pictures, video clips, news, maps, and topical information. In terms of advertising, Sogou is less expensive than other platforms; in fact, it is sometimes free. Brands only pay Sogou if someone clicks on their advertisements. With Sogou’s Tencent connections, brands can also “branch out” to other platforms with their products and services.

2. Paid Advertising on E-Commerce Channels 

E-commerce advertising accounts for 50-70% of advertisers’ digital budgets; thus, these are the ones that sell. As a result, brands would benefit from advertising on these platforms as well. Furthermore, since Chinese consumers use not just traditional search engines for search, e-commerce platforms also trigger a consumer’s product buying process. 

Taobao and Tmall 

The primary goal of paid advertising on Tmall and Taobao is to generate sales. They account for about 65% of all transactions in the e-commerce sector alone as a leading B2C and C2C platform. Establishing a presence on Tmall and Taobao might take more than 90 days, so brands must prepare well beforehand.

Tmall uses keyword ads to target users with a specific keyword. They are then managed by Tmall’s Zhitongche tool, which is synonymous with Google Adwords. Based on your brand’s preferences, Zhitongche will show a product image and a direct link to your store to the relevant users. 

They also do Juhuasan ads (flash sales), banner ads (the most expensive), and super recommendation ads. Tmall is excellent for brands looking to directly integrate their e-commerce store with consumers already on an e-commerce platform. More so, Tmall pushes relevant products to their users based on in-app behaviour. 

Paid advertising

Source: jingyan.baidu.com


JD.com is a massive B2C e-commerce platform serving as direct sales and marketplace. JD has a global supply chain and excellent logistics, which is why Chinese merchants and consumers flock to this platform. 

The JD marketplace is already well-established, and advertising on the platform is a surefire way to connect with consumers. Brands have used JD.com to penetrate the Chinese market and accelerate their businesses. JD uses banner ads and PPC to drive traffic to a brand’s official JD store. Brands often have their official flagship store on JD.com, and traffic is exceptionally high during Shopping Festivals like Double 11. 

It is an excellent platform for new brands, mainly as they use a PPC method for their advertising. However, if a brand has money to spare, banner ads can also grab more attention on the app’s homepage.

Source: finance.sina.com


Brands looking to use Alibaba are generally B2B companies as this platform is not open to consumers but to businesses. Hence, selling and advertising on Alibaba differs slightly from the other platforms. 

Those selling on Alibaba are brands whose primary targets are other brands or companies or those that deal in bulk. Alibaba is a keyword-oriented platform that caters to the brand’s ads depending on the algorithm of a user’s preference. That being said, brands with ads also appear higher on search listings, and the platform is also PPC with a budget control option.

3. Social Media Advertising


WeChat is a market leader and China’s reigning king of social media. In 2018, it surpassed the billion monthly active users (MAU) mark; by 2020, it had 1.2 billion. 

Starting as a messaging app, WeChat has since ballooned into a daily necessity for Chinese netizens: it allows users to pay, order goods, book a service, play games, interact, and much more. It is unsurprising that most brands advertising in China have a WeChat presence. 

There are four main types of paid ads in WeChat: Banner ads, Moments Ads, Mini-program ads, and Subscription ads. Banner ads have call-to-action at the bottom of posts published by an official WeChat account. Moments ads appear in the personal feed of a user and are considered the most popular type of advertising in WeChat. The only drawback is that it is more expensive than others. 

Mini-program ads are those that appear in the famous WeChat mini-programs within the app. Lastly, the subscription ads are those available for brands with an official WeChat account. Using this, brands can directly target audiences that visit their official accounts or send e-vouchers to them. 

As one of the biggest platforms and most used apps in China, having a paid advertisement on WeChat is like having a billboard in front of millions of Chinese consumers. As a result, WeChat helps companies attract new followers and drive offline traffic and sales.

Source: zhuanlan.zhihu.com


Weibo, a microblogging site, is one of China’s largest social media platforms, and in 2021, its third-quarter revenue was US$607 million, a year-on-year increase of 30%. At the same time, Weibo had 573 million monthly active users and 248 million daily active users in the third quarter. 

With such a large user base, Weibo is an ideal starting point for any brand looking to make a splash in the Chinese marketplace. Advertising on Weibo is also relatively cheap and friendly for testing campaigns before ramping them up to full-scale ones. 

The main forms of paid advertising on Weibo are fan headlines, fan tunnel, Weibo search engine ads, and display ads. Fan headlines and fan tunnels appear on top of the timelines of a brand’s followers and their connections for a day, but fan tunnels are not limited to followers only as they also target all of Weibo. 

Weibo search engine ads work like Baidu with specific targeted keywords. Finally, display ads are pretty much the same as banner-style ads but can appear in various other places in the “Explore” section of the app. 

Weibo is great for precisely targeting a brand’s targeted consumer market. Compared to a blunt approach, a targeted and precise approach will help save the brand money and time in advertising. Weibo can help with that; it is also an affordable advertising at this level.


This website is said to be China’s version of Quora. It translates into “do you know, ” which tells of its function as a question and answer type of website. It allows users to ask a question, and any other user can answer their question and provide insight. 

As of 2021, Zhihu sees an average of 101.2 MAU, so this website’s traffic is indeed dense. The main ways of advertising on this website are through pop-up ads with “click here” buttons, newsfeed advertisements that redirect to explore pages, and traditional banner advertisements. 

Zhihu is excellent for a niche market. For example, if a brand has a specific demographic or group in mind, advertising in Zhihu can help them quickly connect. The platform is also great for organic views that could be converted into sales for a brand.


Otherwise known as the “Little Red Book”, Xiaohongshu concentrates on trusted user-generated content and community building. The platform features a range that includes images, text, videos, live streaming, and others that are catered to the user’s preferences. 

It boasts over 100 MAUs, and most of its users are Millennials and Gen Z. It also has influencers and provides brands with good customer service and marketing support. Types of paid advertisement for this platform are pop-up ads and integrated ads in a user’s page feed. 

RED has a brand strategy launch plan for its brands. It includes an in-depth understanding of their competitor’s strategies, an understanding of the competitor’s input-output ratio, the “pain” point of the RED target audience, an appreciation of the comment section, and a memory of key brand words. 

Red is user-friendly and has a filtering algorithm that helps marketers tailor their ad to users’ likes or dislikes (one of RED’s biggest advantages). Especially for beauty, lifestyle, and fashion brands, leveraging the newsfeed for ads with authentic material  will benefit a brand greatly.


The Chinese version of TikTok has taken the country by storm. Douyin’s MAU averages around 600 million and is one of the highest user engagement platforms. Users spend an average of 120 minutes daily on the app for entertainment, which is a far cry from other apps like WeChat, RED, and Weibo. 

In Douyin, there are four ad formats: in-feed ads, native ads, search ads, and Top View or brand takeover ads, but brands also need to understand the layout of the app itself. To do this, there are also five key methods to running a successful Douyin advertising campaign. 

Creating a personal IP, leveraging comments for traffic, doing offline activities, using the DOU+ assistance, and using the key placement of infomercials for a brand’s target audience. Douyin users show higher receptivity compared to the rest of the platforms, so users are far easier to convince to buy a product. In addition, conversions are relatively easier, so ads in Douyin can be a critical factor in creating sales for your brand.

Multichannel and Omnichannel Advertising Campaign

Lastly, aside from paid advertising on platforms (social and search engines), brands can also do paid advertising via multi-channels or omnichannel advertising campaigns. 

Basically, multi-channel advertising is when your brand has several channels or accounts on social websites (eg. Baidu or RED) as part of your marketing plan. While belonging to the same brand, the channels and accounts act independently, so they can have different strategies to reach out to consumers. Each platform will be executing and optimising in its own little bubble.

On the other hand, omnichannel advertising combines multiple channels (eg. Douyin, Weibo, and WeChat accounts) in an interconnected effort to drive people into buying your product. An omnichannel effort builds off each other and enhances the advertising strategies of your different accounts. It also provides a more cohesive and singular experience for your consumers. 

If your brand needs to open several channels, then going for the top search engine and social media platform is necessary. Baidu is nonetheless the top search engine, while WeChat emerges as the top social media platform, with the others following closely. Multi-channel and omnichannel advertising is great for brands looking to penetrate and spread awareness of their brand as much as possible. While it can be costly, these advertising campaigns can bring in massive ROIs for your brand.

Landing Page Optimisation

Aside from platform advertising, optimising your brand’s landing page is also essential. Building a landing page for your Chinese consumers helps increase sales and maintain your consumers’ curiosity. One way to optimise it is to create a landing page in Chinese, which will appeal to Chinese consumers. Other steps a brand can take to optimise its landing page are as follows:

●       Using native Chinese translation

●       Removing links to blocked social media

●       Optimising the Chinese landing page loading time

●       Embedding videos from local Chinese platforms like YouKu

●       Integrating share buttons and links to Chinese social media

●       Localising the contact form

●       Mobile device optimisation


Understanding the paid advertising landscape in China is key to making your ad campaigns viable and effective for your target Chinese consumer market. 

The Chinese are very receptive to ads and social media, so paid advertising helps build brand awareness and increase the hype around your brand. Due to the importance of paid advertising, all relevant Chinese social media platforms and search engines offer different types of media buying. 

Still, brands must know what works for them and what doesn’t. Whether a brand’s paid advertising comes from search engines like Baidu and Sogou or if it creates traffic from social media giants like WeChat, Weibo, Douyin, Red, or Zhihu, maintaining and crafting an important digital marketing strategy always gives a good foundation for any ad campaign.

Media buying is a complicated process. There is much to consider when doing paid advertising in China, especially for social media platforms. If your brand wants effective and pain-free paid advertising, then Alarice can help you. We offer digital marketing consultancy, market analysis, and anything to help your brand communicate effectively with the Chinese market. Alarice can help your brand select strategies and paid advertising methods that work for you. Contact us here, or drop us a message.

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