Search in China Goes Beyond Baidu as Qihoo 360 Launches in Hong Kong

Chinese Internet security business Qihoo 360 has partnered with a Hong Kong agent to strengthen its search services to foreign brands as they seek new marketing channels in China.

The new Hong Kong advertising unit will provide sales, marketing, consulting services and technical support for global clients wanting to advertise to young, well-to-do users on Qihoo 360’s search engine platform, Haosou.

“China’s economy is booming and industry players are all trying to build their international markets, so we have a lot of international customers and it’s all about how we can serve them better,” says David Ip, global business advisor, Qihoo 360.

While Baidu remains the dominant search engine player in China, in just two years Haosou has taken a 30 percent share of the Chinese search market and boasts a largely young, affluent and tech-savvy user base concentrated in China’s eastern tier-one cities.

The launch in Hong Kong serves as a reminder of China’s search options beyond Baidu. “The market always needs alternatives,” says China search specialist Eddie Choi. “A good practice of search marketing requires constantly refreshing keyword choices, developing new copy, so why not add a new search engine in the mix,” he says.

Choi says Baidu’s cost-per-click (CPC) inflation has become a serious concern for marketers in China and believes its domination in the search sector will wane in the same way Google has lost market share to Bing and Yahoo in the West. Haosou has a lot of unexploited potential in the search and mobile space, he adds.

“As an advertiser you definitely want different platforms to advertise your product and introduce [your product], and to be able to get more mass demographic for your product,” says Ashley Chun, director of marketing, Asia Pacific for online foreign exchange trading platform FXCM.

“From a customer point of view [Qihoo] 360 offers something different from what the market currently has and adds a value in having choice for customers,” says Chun.

Mobile and security are the business’s key strengths – with its compensation scheme offering reimbursement if users are defrauded by a website while using Qihoo 360’s anti virus products, browser products or its Haosou search engine.

It also invites users to rate website links on relevant content and usefulness.

“As an online trading firm, fraud and things that are negative for consumers – this is a priority concern for us. We deal with a lot of fake websites – so the value added by [Qihoo] 360 for our brand is something which is really great for us,” says Chun.

The China Internet search engine market was worth around RMB60 billion (US$9.7 billion) in total market revenue in 2014, representing an increase of 52 percent year-over-year, and is expected to reach RMB168 billion (US$27 billion) in 2018. 

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