Implementing an SEO strategy in a particular country is different to implementing in another and this is certainly is the case in Hong Kong.
Having been doing SEO in Hong Kong for the last year or so below are some useful things you may want to think about when implementing and SEO and Content Marketing strategy in Hong Kong.
Key Differences / Things to think About
There are a number of things to consider which can be split up across the SEO spectrum, pyramid (call what you will), which are:
The search landscape
1. Query search terms are highlighted in red within the Meta Description in Google
Tip: So to capitalize on this trait make sure you include key search terms within your standard Meta Description code within your page code, as this is likely to help increase the CTR of your page further for key search volume terms you rank well for.
2. Also as shown above, there are a number of forums that rank for key high volume search terms in Hong Kong (and for long tail terms as well obviously). For example when searching in English there are a number of expat forums that perform very well in the search listings. This can actually become quite frustrating as a number of the posts are quite old and very outdated relevant to the type of information, product or service you are trying to find out about, meaning you often have to refine your search to result within one year.
Note: the above image is a representation of this issue and some other main product and service sites are included as well with URLs such as www.moneyhero.com.hk/en/medical-insurance listed in the example above.
– Pay attention to the page title structures of the forums and emulate them
– Why not create a better, newer, more relevant post on the forum itself and link back to the website you are looking to champion for the particular product / service in question, (using URL or brand anchor text).
– Create better content on your blog relevant to similar Q&A terms the forums rank for and in time people will see these as better resources, link to them and these pages could supersede the forum listings
3. In Hong Kong Yahoo is not to be ignored
The latest stats from gs.statcounter suggest that Yahoo has a 19% share of total search engine usage in Hong Kong as of August 2015.
Tip: Make sure you set up a Bing Webmaster Tools account so you can analyse the keyword referral traffic you currently get from Yahoo and review the ranking performance data of your pages where possible. Then see if you can integrate some content optimisation into your pages where you can make the easiest gains in Yahoo e.g. are there key terms included in your content where you currently rank on page 2 in Yahoo?
Managing Chinese Characters
Hong Kong is predominantly Cantonese speaking and therefore managing data in Chinese characters can be a challenge. Manipulating data in what is normally regarded as some simple ways in western characters in Excel and other programs can become more long winded to obtain the right data with the right Chinese characters in your keyword lists and URLs.
Exporting Data Through Google’s Search Console
Search analytics is great for reviewing Chinese search terms to see what a website is ranking for. However if you want to export the page version of the data, then you are presented with a number of % symbols instead of Chinese characters.
Trying to export Chinese character query data from the Search Console is also a challenge.
Tips: Using Google Analytics page data is the closest you will get to analyzing page performance for organic traffic in Chinese characters but you will not be able to see impressions, average rank or CTR data even if GWT is linked with GA.
You can export search query data in Google Analytics without the characters changing but you will not be able to filter queries by specific pages using a landing page filter even trying to set up a custom report,
To get search query data from Search Analytics you have to export the download as a .txt file, open the .txt file in Excel and then use the Text to column feature to format your data.
This should display the queries in Chinese format whilst using all the filter functions and metrics Search Analytics provides.
Technical Strategy Considerations
International SEO always presents a number of SEO related configurations you need to get right.
A key element for Hong Kong is that most sites are both in English and in Cantonese
Tips: Make sure you are using hreflang coding for Chinese and English pages either in the pages themselves or in separate hreflang configured xml site maps. Also remember not use canonical tags and hreflang coding together and remove the canonical tags as required as referenced in the Google Webmaster Help forums
Also make sure you have the correct language settings for you web pages as well
Content Strategy Considerations
Content strategy in Hong Kong is a whole new ball game and you need to have a local content team in place to stand any chance of creating good quality content on your site.
Language Resource Split
Tip: If you have dual language site make sure you dedicate 70 to 80% of your resource to the local Cantonese version of the site. The keyword examples below shows how local Chinese search outweighs English search in the region.
Depending what industry a website is in you may also want to gear English content towards a more expat outlook.
One benefit the local Cantonese language has it that is symbol based. This can often mean that less overall characters are used when writing sentences and lines of text.
Tip: Ensure you get the most out of the ability to include more words in your page titles and Meta descriptions due to Cantonese symbols taking up less of a character limit and ultimately total pixel allocation.
Whilst I’m not going to go into specific outreach tactics that could be used (as that is probably a separate blog post in itself), there is one key thing to remember, which is…. Things are heavily centered around Facebook when it comes to doing outreach to find people to share and amplify your content and that is also the case when gaining social shares.
Twitter is very useful for outreach in the West but you may find it a ghost town here in many parts of Asia (compared to what you are used to).
Tips: Consider creating a separate Facebook account to outreach from.
Look at using tools like the Facebook People Directory
Analyse popular content shared locally via Facebook and analyse the people who have liked and shared the content.
Monitoring the competition
Tools such as Similarweb and Searchmetrics provide fantastic insight that allow you to analyse the performance of pretty much any URL however they do not provide a great level of insight for Asian search markets.
Tip: One of the best tools to analyse the search competition in Asia at the moment is SEM Rush as it allows you to analyse search performance of your competitors in an ad hoc way in more Asian search markets than any other tool on the market at the moment.
What can be mirrored from Western SEO Strategies?
Below are a few things that are worth focusing on that you would probably implement when looking at more familiar SEO campaigns in more competitive and developed SERPs (in terms of SEO competitiveness).
The areas of SEO focus listed below are likely to be less competitive in regions such as Hong Kong due to SEO and content strategies in specific industries sometimes being less advanced to western SEO campaigns in similar industries.
Aim for the Knowledge Graph quick answer listings
Creating content to focus on gaining listing in the related quick answers listings is likely yo be less competitive in Hong Kong compared to other countries at the moment.
Create specific content for Q&A based search
Mobile traffic traffic share is approximately 28% of all Hong Kong web traffic (according to statcounter) therefore there is a large opportunity to target mobile search and also conversational search via the likes of “okay Google” and Siri is likely to be use creating longer tail searches. It’s a standard trait for the average commuter in Hong Kong to be heads down in a smartphone weaving from side to side on the pavement unable to walk in a straight line and infuriating a non-local behind them, (me being that non-local!)
Tip: A number of content idea generation and long tail search analysis tools online tend to only work well for western based search markets and languages. One of the best long tail keyword analysis tools for HK is Keywordtool.io which covers a broad range of search engine regions and many languages including a number of Asian languages as well.
Optimize for local opportunities
Local 3 pack listings appear for commercial based search terms and the example below shows that Google isn’t exactly providing the most relevant results at the moment suggesting that there aren’t enough websites optimizing their Google map listings and local presence.
Tip: Get your local listing registered and verified in Google MyBusiness and add the most relevant categories to you listing along with optimizing the listing with all other content opportunities listed in the new MyBusiness console.
There are many technical SEO best practices that are born from more Western SEO strategies and the tools developed to help monitor technical performance by Western countries are a must for any SEO strategy across any country or continent.
So I hope that provides a decent insight for anyone wanting to know more about SEO in Hong Kong, it’s place where online commerce is growing and a high demand for information via search engines is present but at the same time is in a unique niche with a different Chinese dialect to the mainland, which is also reflected in the culture and therefore the content marketing strategies required to appeal to the online audience.
I know when I used to search for information on Asian SEO strategies I found insight hard to come by so hopefully this helps contribute to this particular SEO niche.
The plan is to look at doing a bit of a mini-series on this as I’ll be learning more and more about Asia and the specific SEO and content strategy related idiosyncrasies I’ll no doubt come across over time.
Update: Another area I’ve just started to look at is that sometimes you may want to research the demand of your products from the Chinese Mainland this requires 2 key steps:You need to do your keyword research and find out what the search demand is from the Chinese mainland. This means that you need to find out the volumes being searched on Baidu as this is around
1. You need to do your keyword research and find out what the search demand is from the Chinese mainland. This means that you need to find out the volumes being searched on Baidu as this is around 75% of the market share in China currently.
It can be quite difficult setting up a Baidu account to access the keyword research tools and then you have to pay for keyword on an individuals basis to get the data you need. You also need to have a PPC account if you wish to see volume numbers.
The best solutions I would recommend is to open a Dragon Metrics account which can be trialled for 30 days for free without having to register your credit card. It’s a great piece of software that provides campaign keyword performance tracking, technical anlaysis and analytics integration . As well as Baidu keyword volume data of course.
2. If you find there is demand for your product in Hong Kong you may need to think about whether you need to incorporate an SEO strategy approach that is more condicive to gaining more organic visbility in Baidu, such as using a separate .cn domain website to name just one element.
Baidu Optimisation Reading Resources:
Below are some useful Baidu Optimisation tips I’ve come across so far:
2013 Baidu Search Engine Ranking Factors – Slightly older but a good overview nonetheless
Baidu SEO tips in 2015 – A simple list from a native view