Marketing Knows No Borders

Digital Marketing Knows No Borders: Digital Marketing in China

In February of 2020, I found myself, along with many other China-based expats and Chinese tourists, returning to the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic. As I boarded a plane in Oslo, bound for Hong Kong – the last stop before my final destination of Shenzhen, I clocked the nervous giggles from Western tourists, and the worried looks in the eyes of the locals, headed home, and unsure what they would find. When China opens back up to travel, a move projected to be in early 2022 in time for the Olympics, business will return – just as it always has, and the key to the Chinese market? Digital marketing.

Just as the immediate reactions of the passengers on the plane were strikingly different, digital marketing in China is strikingly different than anything you’d find in the USA or any Western country. China, as a country, has very specific tastes, cobbled together in a mesh-work of complex, yet traditional influences and preferences. Yet, for a country so steeped in tradition, China often leads the way in innovation – with such a large population, it would be difficult to not produce some absolutely world-creating creators and businesses.

Join me on a journey of personal experience through the sometimes hilarious, often fascinating, and complex world of digital marketing trends in China – and this one ex-expats take on them.

Rise of Influencers

One influencer who has gained a great deal of traction in China, was a young man who sets a table for 4 on his stomach and chest, and then rips the table cloth out from between his body and his dishware, leaving himself naked with a strategically placed teacup covering his private area. This guy became a sticker. No joke. Many influencers in China are simply influential because they are rich. If you decide to work with a Chinese influencer, expect the unexpected. Also, expect to get what you pay for. A less expensive “influencer” might work for peanuts or donations, but big money attracts big money and that’s where you need to go!

3rd & 4th Tier Cities

Don’t dismiss “smaller” Chinese cities in your digital marketing strategy! We have all heard of Beijing and Shanghai, but how many times have you heard the name Shenzhen, a city of 17.5 million people, or Guangzhou, a city of 18.68 million? In a list of all Chinese cities and their population, the smallest city I’ve personally visited in China is Suzhou, with a population of around 1 million. As a banana for scale, the largest city in the USA is New York City, NY, with a population of around 8 million. With population like that, what is considered a tier 3 or 4 city (tiers based on business density, city-level flexibility, citizen vitality, diversity and future projections) like Hulin, Linhai and Zaoyang, likely has a market for your product, and customers or investors with real money.

Digital Aging Population

Over 30% of the Chinese population will be over 60 years old by 2050. Real talk – this market will be huge. The aging population of China have been using smart phones for longer than most of the world, and live in a culture so engrained with e-commerce, some have never set foot in a grocery store. In Shenzhen, the food delivery system was so fantastic, you could almost guarantee delivery of any dish in town within 30 minutes of placing the order. China during COVID saw the delivery industry booming, as motorcycle delivery became the only way to get food for those in quarantine, or with ultra-restrictive community rules. Many communities were responsible for securing themselves during the pandemic, a job they took seriously. These consumers will have locked and loaded credit cards and tons of purchasing power – so don’t underestimate how important understanding Chinese tradition and the aging process is, when marketing to this stacked, yet discerning group.



Short-Video Content

Short term video content has been all the rage in China for years. Unlike in the USA, China relies on a very specific messaging service called WeChat, for most of its business and personal communications. WeChat is even linked directly to bank accounts, for easy payments using your mobile phone. Even taxes and train fares are paid using WeChat, and thus, short-form video content is the advertising material of choice. Because a great deal of digital marketing is done via WeChat and QQ, the other large China-based messaging application, you will typically see many more emojis than you would see in other countries. Remember, videos forwarded on WeChat are tracked, and content deemed to be inappropriate can be removed at any time – so do your research on both what WeChat videos are trending, and how to stay well within the WeChat acceptability guidelines, to avoid having your account removed or blocked. Also, remember to use appropriate emojis in your advertising material. For example, a smiley face emoji is not necessarily a smiley face in China. Figure that one out for yourself.

Long Form & Mis-directional Content

A trend many are surprised to see is a more long-form, and some would say, mis-directional content. Chinese tradition is passed down through stories and ancestors. As a culture, they are very attached to story-telling and myth creation. It stands to reason they would use this form of storytelling in their advertising and marketing material. But why do we often find Chinese advertising mis-directional? This likely stems from a hybrid cultural and translation issue. When translated directly from Chinese to English, the wording is often devoid of solid verbiage like “will” and “wont,” in favour of more fluid words like “can” and “might.” In China preferrs subtlety and nuance in their communication. It tracks that what the West might see as “mis-directional content,” would actually be just a poor and lazy translation. Remember – if you are considering advertising in China, emphasize using both correct and clever Chinese language, something you will pay a premium for, but is well worth the money.

We can expect to see more of this e-commerce cooperation between our two countries as the pandemic moves further into our rear-view mirror. It’s also your opportunity to break into a large, profitable and wealthy market! Do your research, and achieve your dream of taking your business international with a bang.

Pictures Provided by World Traveler and Apogee Content Writer Greta Tasedan.

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Why is SEO a Long-term Strategy and Is it Worth the Investment?


 Why is SEO a Long-Term Strategy?



This piece will be divided into three main reasons why SEO is a long-term strategy: constantly changing market, new competitors, and google/search engine updates.  This piece concludes with client data showing why the investment in SEO is worth it. 

3 Reason’s SEO is Long term

A Constantly Changing Consumer Market

As discussed in this Forbes Article, the MP3 is a great example of this.   Few people remember the release of one of the first MP3s the Rio PMP 300 player from Diamond Multimedia.  Apple didn’t join the iPod market until 2001 but when it did, they were consistently impacting the evolving SEO market.

Apple started their 2001 debut with the headline “1,000 songs in your pocket” and continued to evolve from there as the MP3 Market became more competitive.  When it became not only storage that was important, Apple started to focus its marketing efforts on the wide variety of colors it offered (to beat out its competitors like Zen).   Then there was size, picture ability, videos etc..

No matter what market you’re in, the way consumers search for your products or services will change over time.

Different Competition

While consumer search behavior is ever changing, the competitive landscape that companies face is also everchanging.  As these competitors create more content online your company must produce content that will better answer searchers queries.  Every time a new content piece is released by a competitor, they may start to out rank you, draw in more traffic, ect.  This is why you’ll hear people say “content is king.” 

Search Engine Rules       

Google and other search engines are updating their algorithms constantly to ensure people are not gaming the system and to produce the best search results for consumers.  Google and other search engines goal is to help users find what they’re looking for in as few clicks as possible.  This means they need to find places for improvement and innovation.  Companies must keep up with current trends to ensure they get the best rankings possible. 

Moz gives SEO’s a running tally of all the updates Google puts into effect:

So YOY what are the results like when you invest in SEO?

Within the eCommerce Space:

Client above JBL results:

  • Cart abandonment Rate down 87%
  • Conversion rate up 200%

Client below PGA Tour Superstore, Results:


  • 19% increase in SEO traffic year over year
  • Transaction increased to 45,000 a 32.9% improvement.
  • Total SEO revenue was 7.7 million.

Within the B2C space:

Client Bug Master, Results:

  • Revenue from organic sources increased by over 22% year over year
  • Form Fills increased 80.31% year over year from October 2018 through June 2019
  • Phone Calls increased 19.81% year over year October 2018 through June 26th 2019

More Examples here: CASE STUDIES



8 Tips to Improve SEO:

1. Improve technical SEO

2. Improve Page Speed and Experience

3. Develop a Keyword Strategy

4. Develop Keyword Focused Content

5. Create Quality Content that Answers User Queries.

6.Employ Internal Linking for Target Keywords

7. Build External Backlinks

8. Always Test and Look for Improvements.

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6 Tips for SEO-Friendly Content

In latest years, Google has emphasized the importance high-quality content. Google has published a couple of guidelines to help guide developers to write better documentation. While that might be a good way to get some clues, let’s make things simple and dive into a short infographic to help you write better SEO-friendly content!

6 Tips to write better content (infographic)

6 Tips to write better content

AdWords Overdelivery? More Like AdWords Overreach

Is Google Riding OverDelivery All the Way to the Bank?The latest notice in a series of troubling announcements that form a trend of control over our AdWords accounts being wrested away in favor of automation popped up in our MCC today.

AdWords Overdelivery Notice

Before, AdWords could potentially spend up to 20% past your daily budget cap (traditionally set by that magic monthly budget divided by 30.4) based on the amount of available traffic on a given day. Now, depending on the criteria the system bases “high quality traffic” on, your daily budget is effectively moot (granted, you should theoretically never be charged more than the defined monthly limit – 30.4 x your average daily budget, otherwise you’ll be issued an overdelivery credit per AdWords’ documentation

In theory, this should be great  – capturing all of that valuable traffic out there while still staying within the constraints of a monthly budget is a no-brainer. In practice, this has a high potential of going poorly. Suppose you’re a small business, or otherwise don’t have a strictly defined monthly budget (perhaps you’re testing a specific initiative outside your ordinary ad spend, or you’re just starting to dip your toes into the AdWords ecosystem) , or you’re in a highly saturated, high competition vertical – hopefully, the overdelivery has a great ROI for you and therefore justifies the practice. Otherwise, even the overdelivery credit you get can become a potentially futile case of throwing good money after bad. If overdelivery is as functional as Smart Goals or Optimized Ad Rotation (the system heavily favors older ads, even with lower conversion rates & engagement), this spells trouble for account performance, not to mention effectively pacing budgets throughout the month. At very least, the new AdWords overdelivery policy merits heavy observation until we can get a collective sense of how well it functions. 

In order for automation to be effective, it must be introduced with clearly defined strategy & rules in place, along with a solid foundation. When automated strategies are effective, they are a boon to ROI – unfortunately, the relentless creep towards automation in the AdWords platform has yet to provide stable, dependable success. Even industry leading automation platforms like Marin and Kenshoo can quickly lead to mediocre (at best) results in a case of Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Rather than being worried about automation putting me out of a job, I’m optimistic – now, more than ever, successful pay per click efforts will need experienced human eyes on them in order to drive the best possible results.

To ensure you’re getting the best ROI from your paid media campaigns, schedule a comprehensive audit.  


iOS 11: Bing vs. Google

The Newest iOS Update – Why do marketers care?


Earlier this week, Apple released the iOS 11 update. Following their recent keynote and the corresponding hullabaloo around the new Apple watch, iPhone 8, and iPhone X releases – this software update largely went unnoticed by consumers and techies alike.

Per usual, the iOS 11 changes are largely security patches, slight design modifications, and user ‘feature improvements’.  One change with the iOS update that has interesting implications for Google search advertising and consumers alike is the switch from Bing to Google for Siri web and Spotlight searches. Historically both Siri and Mac Spotlight searches have been powered by Bing. This has hopefully encouraged marketers to emphasize ad spend for Bing correspondingly–especially in the realm of mobile ads, and encouraged users to yell and curse at Siri when queries return unhelpful jargon (mostly kidding).

Realistically, Bing has been grossly underutilized by digital marketers since the beginning – even with the knowledge that Siri and Spotlight searches relied heavily on the platform. Marketers seemingly rationalize this de-prioritization by citing the relatively low percentage of mobile/tablet searches conducted on the network:

Mobile and Tablet Search Data Statistics

It absolutely makes sense to focus primary efforts in a bucket accounting for anywhere from 80% to 97% of search traffic (depending on device). The recent iOS 11 update, should then shift even more focus to Google as the primary ad platform moving forward for digital advertisers.

Or should it?

At a time when other marketers are liable to further neglect the second largest platform globally, it makes sense to emphasize Bing efforts more than ever following this iOS update. The great debate for both users and marketers has historically been ‘Bing vs. Google’, instead of the more effective – ‘Bing AND Google’.

In August of 2017, Bing accounted for 7% of total market share for searches on all devices.

Top Search Engines 2017

Search Engine Market Share 2017

Though this is a meager piece of the pie compared to the 81% that Google occupies, the sheer volume of searches daily (currently estimated at ~6.6 billion) makes advertising on even the comparably humble platforms well worth the time and effort. That gives Bing almost 465 million daily searches across devices.

Beyond the volume itself, continuing to advertise on Bing has a host of advantages for digital advertisers:
  1.    Company Differentiator
    Since so few digital agencies utilize the platform (and fewer do so well), it is an EASY differentiator and way to ensure clients are outperforming their competitors.
  2.    Simple to Use
    Bing synchronicity with the Adwords platform makes it easy to replicate performing campaigns with very little extra effort.
  3.    Low competition
    Fewer competitors advertise on the platform which lowers costs per acquisition compared to Google– the same high intent traffic and conversions can be gained at lower costs overall.

At the end of the day, the recent iOS update may serve to shift slightly more of the market share of searches to Google’s backyard. As we continue to see changes in the landscape of mobile and voice search, it is important to remember that “the little guy” when it comes to search engines is still a behemoth in terms of visibility and scale.

TLDR; The iOS 11 update may encourage most marketers to further exclude Bing from Paid and Organic campaigns. If the update even creates a ripple large enough to shift more of the market share to Google (which it may not) Bing is still the number two search engine globally and is deserving of our focus and attention.

Think Google’s market share will increase? Have questions on how to optimize for Bing and Google? Let us know in the comments below!

Use ‘Em If You Got ‘Em – Registered Trademarks

One of the biggest challenges for clients who are in hyper-competitive spaces is standing out amongst their competition. Especially when these competitors are selling similar or in many cases, the same products. In ad copy testing, there are often conflicting metrics around what semantically works to drive traffic. Beyond just the psychology and linguistics, an ad’s success is truly a multivariate consideration. As digital marketers, we must continuously evolve to break through the white noise and ad over-saturation to find new strategies that work. One drastically underutilized strategy that we employ and see consistent success in is the utilization of trademark symbols in headlines of ads and descriptions. Regardless of verticals that our clients compete in, we have seen consistently solid results through use of trademarking in ad copy. Particularly, we began to notice this in one clients of ours that works in the hyper-competitive E-commerce clothing space.


Client: E-commerce Retailer

This client distributes their products through a large retail store and their off-price retail division that offers their clothing at discount prices.  With seemingly endless ad spend, the large retail store was clearly dominating the SERP, constantly running ads that highlighted selling this client’s products at dramatically lower prices. From a consumer perspective, clicking on the ad with discounted products was a no-brainer.  We needed a way to differentiate the client from their competition.  Since they owned their own registered trademark, we began utilizing the symbol in ad headlines and descriptions.



The ad on top in the screenshot above includes trademark symbols while the bottom one does not. In analyzing the ads over the past 90 days, the performance comparison is dramatically in favor of the version with trademark symbols.  Both ads served similarly in terms of impressions, but the trademark symbol version completely eclipsed the other in engagement, cpc, and most importantly, transactions.

All in all, trademark symbols are currently not being utilized to their fullest potential in search ads. They may be just what you need to pull ahead of the competition. At the very least, they deserve to be tested in ad variants. Stay tuned as we continue to explore and innovate our approaches to paid search, to boldly go where no agency has gone before.