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The Great Firewall of China

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by Liliya Akhtemova – Intern at MooMu Media

 

Can you imagine your life without Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or many other “unhealthy” websites? Probably not. However, China lives without these well-known services. Most people, especially young netizens might ask: how on earth do Chinese internet users manage to survive without Facebook or YouTube? Everything is not as bad as it seems.

 

Internet censorship in China is one of the most stringent in the world. The apparatus of online repression is considered more extensive and more advanced than in any other country. The government not only blocks “unhealthy” websites, but also monitors the Internet access of individuals.

 

“If you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in” – one of the favorite sayings of the Chinese political reformist Deng Xiaoping. This phrase is considered an ideological basis for internet censorship in China. The Chinese government wants to protect the country and prevent it from objectionable “flies”.

 

In spite of forbidden access to some international services, China has a strong social media network. The world has Google, China has Baidu, the world has Twitter, China has Weibo (the most popular are Xinlang weibo, Tencent weibo), the world has Facebook, China has Renren wang or Kaixin wang. Chinese people don’t feel left out, simultaneously the government of China is able to control the online social networking through the Internet police, which is rumoured at more than 30,000.

 

 

Statistics, facts and figures about social media in China:

 

–          The number of social media users in China is 536 million;

 

–          China’s netizens spend  41% of their online time on social media;

 

–          77% of Chinese web users believe a social media presence makes a brand more attractive;

 

–          Over 80% of social media users in China have more than one social media account;

 

–          Qzone[1] is the largest Chinese social network with over 500 million active users;

 

–          QQ – China’s largest instant messenger platform, has more than 700 million registered users;

 

–          More people use weibos (microblogs) in China than live in the whole of the United States;

 

–          Twitter is usually blocked in China, but 910,000 people in this country still visit twitter.com every month;

 

–          In spite of Facebook in mainland China being forbidden, there are 493,460 Chinese Facebook users;

 

–          Daily visitors to Youku.com, China’s equivalent of Youtube: 26.4 million, that’s more than population of Australia.

 

The statistical data is based on the information, providing by The China Internet Network Information Center, the agency We are social and SlideShare. For more information about social media in China you can check the following links:

 

http://www.slideshare.net/digitaljungle/chinese-social-media-fast-facts

http://www.ministryoftofu.com/2011/12/infographics-how-big-is-chinas-social-media-and-digital-market/



[1] Qzone – is a social networking website, which was created by Tencent in 2005. It permits users to write blogs, keep diaries, upload photos, and listen to music. Users can set their Qzone background and select accessories based on their preferences, every Qzone is customized to the individual member’s taste.

 

 

Multilingual SEO Tips – Part 2 – Hreflang

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By Tracy Mu Sung

 

In our previous blog post, Multilingual SEO Tips – Part 1 – Geo-Targeting – we mentioned the hreflang tag but didn’t go into details on how to use it.  Instead, the post talked about lot of things about geo-targeting and how to improve your rankings for particular languages (or in particular countries). It didn’t, however, get into the issue of this ‘relatively’ new markup tool from Google, the hreflang Rel Alternate.

 

The hreflang link element provides a connection between the various language versions of individual pages on your site and allows Google to swap the URLs currently shown in the search results with ones that are more relevant to the user. It does not affect the ranking of your site.

 

For example, if Google shows www.mysite.com/en/page1.html at rank 10, putting a href lang tag on that page for German doesn’t mean this page will necessarily rank higher in Germany, or for German language users. It just means that Google won’t show the German users the /en/ page. Instead, Google will deliver www.mysite.com/de/page1.html.

 

You might wonder why you can’t just use rel=canonical on your language pages? Google doesn’t recommend this, particularly now that it has dedicated markup for language. Using rel=canonical within a particular language version of your site is fine, but not instead of hreflang.

 

How to Use Rel Alternate Hreflang

 

The hreflang tag is used at a page level, not site level. For every page that has multiple language versions, you need to assign appropriate code. This can be on each individual page, or you can do it in your XML sitemap.

 

Hreflang on your pages

If your site is in German and English, then each page will have 2 extra lines of code in the <head> section of your pages:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en” href=”http://www.example.com/en” >
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de” href=”http://www.example.com/de” >

 

This code must go on both http://www.example.com/en and http://www.example.com/de

There is no limit to the number of alternative pages you have. You can even do it for versions of the same language in different countries. For example, if you want to have dedicated content for English speakers in US versus English Speakers in Australia. You can find a list of language/location codes here.

 

Hreflang in Sitemaps

 

If you would rather, you can instead change your XML sitemap, to be set out like this:

 

<url>
<loc>http://www.example.com/en</loc>
<xhtml:link
rel=”alternate”
hreflang=”de”
href=”http://www.example.com/de” />
<xhtml:link
rel=”alternate”
hreflang=”en”
href=”http://www.example.com/en” />
</url>
<url>
<loc>http://www.example.com/de</loc>
<xhtml:link
rel=”alternate”
hreflang=”de”
href=”http://www.example.com/de” />
<xhtml:link
rel=”alternate”
hreflang=”en”
href=”http://www.example.com/en” />
</url>

 

 

If you use the XML sitemap version, you must update the opening of your XML sitemap to be;

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″
xmlns:xhtml=”http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml”>

 

Finally, if you publish non-HTML files (E.g. PDFs), you can use an HTTP header

Link: <http://es.example.com/>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es”

 

 

 

Chinese people “conquer” overseas online shopping

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by Liliya Akhtemova – Intern at MooMu Media

 

Do you run your own online business? Would you like to attract more consumers, especially from the fastest growing market in the world – China? In this case, you should probably know more about overseas online shopping habits of Chinese people.

 

Why do Chinese people prefer to shop online abroad, and what are they buying?

 

China’s e-commerce industry has been growing rapidly, but Chinese shoppers don’t limit themselves to just an internal online market.  More and more consumers in China prefer foreign websites when searching for bargain prices and high quality merchandise.

 

Overseas online shopping in China is becoming so common that this practice has its own name – “hai tao”, which could be translated as “ocean search” or “overseas search”.  According to the China E-commerce Research Center, most Chinese e-shoppers prefer to buy clothes, bags, baby products, health care products, cosmetics and digital electronic devices on (from) the foreign websites.  Alipay estimates that over 60% of overseas online Chinese consumers are young urban women.

 

The main two reasons for the increasing popularity of overseas online shopping are: relatively high prices for goods of foreign brands in China and RMB appreciation. Products purchased from overseas are at least one-third cheaper than the same merchandise bought retail in China. Alipay estimates, it is because online shoppers escape tariffs, taxes and other possible costs. Chinese mothers, in particular, shop overseas because of the problem with food safety in China.

 

Usually Chinese consumers buy online name-brand merchandise from well-known websites like Amazon.com, or directly from the manufacturer.  Thereby, e-shoppers are able to avoid the problem of the prevalence of counterfeit goods in the Chinese domestic market.

 

According to the China E-commerce Research Center, the total value of overseas Chinese consumers’ transactions through agents (third parties like Amazon) in 2011 reached RMB 26.5 billion  (approximately $ 4.2 billion), and this figure continues to grow.

 

 

China overseas online shopping

Translation of this graph:

Title: The value of overseas Chinese consumers’ transactions through agents (third parties) in 2009-2013

Y-axis: the value of transactions (billion, RMB)

X-axis: Year

The graph was designed by the China E-commerce Research Center

The source of the figures: www.100EC.cn

 

 

 

What difficulties do Chinese consumers face in buying from overseas?

 

In spite of the growing popularity of overseas online purchasing among Chinese consumers, there are some difficulties e-shoppers in China have to face.

  1. International credit cards. Relatively few Chinese possess international credit cards, however most of them have bank cards, which allow the UnionPay payment system.
  2. Language.  Most foreign websites are not available in Chinese, so consumers have to know at least basic English.
  3. Delivery speed. One of the main problems is the processing speed of China Customs.
  4. Inconvenience to return goods.
  5. Unsafe online payment. 

 

Multilingual SEO Tips – Part 1 – Geo-Targeting

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Chinese Newspaper

By Tracy Mu Sung – Director at MooMu Media

 

If you are managing a site for audiences who use different languages, and/or  who are in different countries, it is important to ensure your geo-targeting is as clear as possible to Google. Why? Because if Google knows who your target audience is, it is more likely to increase your rankings and visibility for that particular audience.

 

For example – if your site, or part of your site, is targeting French speakers in France, correct geo-targeting will give the relevant section of your site a boost in the search results of people in France.

 

So how do you signal to Google where and for whom your content is most relevant?  One obvious way is the language you are using in your content, but seeing as keyword selection and content optimisation is so important, we will have them as the subject of a whole other post.

 

This post will focus on some non-content ways to optimise your site for Google, more from a coding and administrative perspective. These are things you can do right now, or as soon as you start developing your language pages.

 

  1. The first is the most simple and obvious – make sure that Google can crawl all your language pages. Don’t use them in isolation, and don’t confuse Google with cookies or redirects (if possible)
  2. Make sure the language of a page is obvious. You should use only one language on a page (if possible) so as not to confuse search engines and/or users.
    • Sometimes menu structures or user generated content can be different to other content on a page. Try to minimise this.
    • If you have multiple languages in a rich media file like Flash (which are usually indexed as single pages), it would be helpful to separate the content into separate language files.
  3. Automatic translations can be bad for the user, and can also be considered automatically generated content by Google, which will label it as spam. If you do want to use automatic translation for your users, use Robots.txt to block Google from indexing it
  4. Cross link between your languages – e.g. have links or language drop downs sitewide and visible
  5. There is no preferred way to ‘name’ or structure your URLs, but for user friendliness and management, it is best to be consistent with your naming. E.g. all in a subdomain or subfolder.
  6. Internationalised domain names are ok, IF you use them correctly and remember to escape them when linking to them.
  7. If you are targeting a single country with your whole domain – consider a country code top level domain (e.g. .com.au, .cn, .ca). If you are targeting multiple countries with one domain, consider a generic top level domain. (e.g. com, .eu, .asia).
  8. Use the Geo-targeting tool in Webmaster Tools to indicate to Google that your site is targeted to a specific country (unnecessary if you are using a ccTLD)
    • Do not use WMT Geo-targeting if you are targeting multiple countries
  9. Note that Google may use addresses, phone numbers, currencies and Google Places pages to determine appropriate geo-targeting for a site.
  10. Note that Google does not use meta or html tags in determining the appropriate geo-targeting for a site – so using them is not an indicator, but they won’t do you any harm.

 

Notice that nowhere in this list did I mention rel hreflang markup, why is that? That’s because the hreflang element is used as a connection between URLs, allowing Google to ‘swap’ the page currently shown in the search results with ones which are more relevant to the user. It doesn’t affect ranking, but it is important, so we have covered it in our second article on SEO for Multilingual Websites Part 2.

 

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