The essential guide to do SEO in Hong Kong

how to launch a seo campaign in hong kong?

Google’s algorithm updates tend to be released at the global scale. The optimisations an agency can do to improve the rankings of a website are therefore quite similar for each market. Improving the Title tags, writing unique and engaging content, getting more backlinks are common tasks that work in Hong Kong or for any other version of Google, worldwide.

However, there are some differences in terms of the approach an agency can propose to get more visibility in Google.com.hk, such as there are some common misconceptions when it comes to enhance the pages, which might impact the visibility of the pages in search results.

Let’s explore those differences and identify some key facts that brands should have in mind to improve they SEO in Hong Kong.

The search engine landscape

What is Google market share in Hong Kong?

The first thing that you might read about doing SEO in Hong Kong is the fact that Hongkongers still use Bing and Yahoo. That’s true and statistics from StatCounter Global Stats show that Google represents 86.77% of the market shares in Hong Kong in 2019. 13.23% of the searchers are using other search engines and 11.15% are either using Bing or Yahoo.

 

Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Search Engine Market Share in Hong Kong (2019)

Doing SEO in other markets can be “more straightforward”, since Google dominates in more obvious ways. For instance, it represents 92.46% of the shares in the UK, 91.97% in Taiwan or 97.04% in the Philippines. Other countries like Mainland China with Baidu, Russie with Yandex or even America with Bing, have different market share distribution but most of the world is addicted to Google.

Do I need to optimize my SEO for Yahoo and Bing?

The first question should actually be, who is using Yahoo and Bing in Hong Kong.

While there are no surveys about that, our guess is that Hongkongers who can search in Traditional Chinese will mostly be the ones using Yahoo, while English searchers, will most likely use Google. There might be several explanations like the fact that many Hongkongers still use Yahoo Mail or that there are more news in Yahoo Hong Kong homepage, which can be of interest for the users. However, we doubt that Yahoo processes (as “understand”) Chinese better than Google but the fact is that.

To have better explanations based on on data, let’s have a look at Google Analytics. We have check few accounts we oversee, and it seems that websites that are only in English will have more than 95% of their monthly organic traffic coming from Google, while those with Simplified or/and Traditional Chinese versions, will be more between 85% and 90%.

Organic traffic sources between an EN platform (left) and an EN & TC one (right)

Website with an English version (only)
Website with an English and Traditional Chinese version

Source: Google Analytics (Organic Traffic – 2019)

In short, if you have a website in Traditional Chinese, having Bing and Yahoo in mind would be a good idea, but Google shall be your priority. At the end, that’s where your traffic and sales are.

About the criteria that Bing and Yahoo are using to rank pages, let’s say that they are similar to Google. We tend to say that if you improve your pages for Google, you should also enhance your rankings for Bing and Yahoo. However, you might want to follow the indexing of your pages in other search engines, especially if you target an audience that might use them. While you can use Google Search Console to do so in Google, note that Bing, Yandex or Baidu also have their own tools.

bing webmaster tools

Source: Bing Webmaster Tools

Hong Kong is multilingual

Google.com.hk offers three different versions

People in Hong Kong can speak Cantonese and English but many can also talk Mandarin, either because they learnt it or because they are Mainland Chinese living in the city. However, when it comes to online searches, Hongkongers can use three different writing languages :

  • English, from locals and foreigners.
  • Traditional Chinese, from locals, but it can also be used in Taiwan, Macau and some Chinese provinces.
  • Simplified Chinese, from mainlanders, mainly.

If you have spent some time in Hong Kong, even a few days, you’ve probably noticed this multicultural environment and it impacts the way people are searching on the web. If you look at Google.com.hk, you might have noticed that there are three versions of the search engine.

Google.com.hk homepage, English Version

Homepage of Google.com.hk

It impacts search results since Google will push results based on the language used by the searcher, in order to provide a better user-experience.

  • If you search for “SEO Services” and for its translation in Traditional Chinese (SEO服務) or Simplified Chinese (SEO服务), you might have different search results.
  • Same if you search “SEO” in English, in the different versions of Google Hong Kong.

Question is, how does it impact your SEO strategy? If you want to target the different types of searchers in Hong Kong, it’s better to have a website available in each language and to have a proper Multilingual SEO strategy.

The best-practices for a multilingual website

The key here is to have a translated website in English, Traditional and Simplified Chinese. For about using Google Translate for such matter, Chinese is way too complex and it is advised to use a native copywriter.

On top of that, there are various best-practices you should follow.

Run a keyword research in each language

Keywords in English and Chinese have different search volumes and you will also find differences between Traditional and Simplified Chinese and it is advised to run a keyword research for each languages, to know how people search and how to structure your websites and pages.

The primary language of Hongkongers is Cantonese (oral) and Traditional Chinese (written) and not having a translated version will prevent you to reach the largest part of the population.

Use a single language per page

Many brands in Hong Kong mix English and Chinese in one single page (URL), which is not advised because Googlebot might be confused about your targets and when it should display your page.

Mixing two languages in a page is not good for SEO

Will Google display the page for English or Traditional Chinese keywords?

The URL in Chinese and the multilingual SEO setup

If you have a translated website in English, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, make sure that you have three different URLs. One for each language. Googlebot can be quite picky and it’s recommended to have a proper structure, either using sub-folders, sub-domains, or different domain names.

However, avoid using URL parameters.

multilingual seo best practices

Google guidelines about Multilingual SEO

About the URL, a common question is, shall we use Chinese characters in the URLs?

  • Using Chinese words in the URL might create encoding, redirect or coding issues as scripts are still not well managed by various systems and browsers, so we do not recommend it.
  • Many Chinese websites will actually use numbers but you can also use English or the official romanization of the Chinese language named Pinyin for Simplified Chinese or the Yale romanization (slightly from the Jyutping system) for Traditional Chinese.

Lasly, note that it is also a good practice to link your translated pages together, which can most likely achieved with a country or language selector that you can display in the menu.

By doing so, readers can browse the pages available in different languages and Googlebot will be able to better understand the structure of your website and the targeted languages, thanks to the internal links that will be created between your pages.

Use proper hreflang tag values

Hreflang are tags that give information to Googlebot about the target language of your page.

Chinese languages have specific values and it’s quite common for brands to use “tc”, “sc” or “cn” while “zh-Hant” and “zh-Hans” are the official recommended values by Google, respectively for Traditional and Simplified Chinese.

Hreflang for Simplified and Traditional Chinese

 

Hreflang tag values for Chinese languages

China is only few minutes away

Connections between Mainland China and Hong Kong are deep. The most populated country in the world is only few minutes away from Hong Kong and many people in Hong Kong talk Mandarin, use Simplified Chinese to search and many companies do business with China, and vice-versa.
In terms of SEO, there are two major things to take into consideration:
  1. Baidu is leading the search engine market in Mainland China but, there are also other search engines with interesting market shares, and various brands are trying to leverage them, whether we are talking about SEO or SEM.
  2. Chinese SEO is a different compared to Google SEO and it is important to have local SEO specialists who know how to optimise a website in Simplified Chinese. Chinese is not an easy language, using Google Translate is not an option and doing SEO in China requires working on new topics (ie. ICP license, hosting, censorship, UX…) and tools.
 

Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Search Engine Market Share in China (2019)

If you want to get more exposure in China, then you will have to optimise your website by taking into consideration the search engines above, but not only.

China is a unique market with different consumptions habits and if we forget SEO for a minute, there are other topics that brands need to think about if they want to enter China. Wechat, Weibo, Alipay, Alibaba, Taobao, KOLs and influencers, live-streaming, new retails experiences, and Alarice, a digital marketing agency specialized in Chinese marketing will be your best bet.

FAQ about SEO in Hong Kong

There are other types of questions we receive on regular basis and here are the main ones.

Is it easier to do SEO in Hong Kong?

No. If you compare Hong Kong to larger markets, you might think that there is less competition but since it’s a condensed place, a hub in Asia and the entry point to China, it is competitive market too. Therefore, setting-up an effective SEO strategy in Hong Kong require efforts, time and budget.

How much does SEO cost in Hong Kong?

If we are talking about a yearly SEO project with with consulting, audit, keyword research, content optimisation, content creation, link building and reports, count at least HK $7500 (US $1000) per months.

As any marketing campaign, the higher budget is, the more outcomes the campaign will get. Most of the time, the budget also depends about the maturity of the brand in terms of SEO. If the website is new, with no history, the budget shall be higher.

Each project is unique and feel free to contact us to discuss your project.

How is the link building industry?

Since Hong Kong is a smaller market, there are less websites that can be used for link building. The fact that websites are either in Chinese or English, it reduces the possibilities, if you do not have a translated platform. Therefore, prices go up.

“Article Directories” and “Forum Marketing” are common. Cheaper, some brands use such tricks but that’s not the best strategy on the long-run. It can be easily spotted and penalized by Google.

What about the copywriting?

English is more affordable than Traditional Chinese copywriting.

While you can find copywriters who will charge around HK $0.40 (US $0.05) per word in English, count between HK $1 (US $0.13) and HK $1.5 per word (US $0.19) in Traditional Chinese. As a consequence, content marketing is more expensive in Chinese.

How to choose a good SEO agency in Hong Kong?

You can ask for case studies, look after the online reviews but the best way is to ask for details about the strategy that will be set-up. However, such as any markets, there are some misleading positioning and note that there are no “Google Partner” programs for SEO, no SEO awards in Hong Kong, “Free SEO audit” offers are not really free (or not real audit), while there are also various firms that propose outdated services. If you see something like “submit your website to search engines”, “social bookmarking”, “package for 20 keywords”, run.


Working in search engine optimisation in Hong Kong is quite challenging because of the difference in terms of market, competition, languages, search engines and the fact that Mainland China is a key focus for most brands here. Having the right approach stright from the beginning is key and having a global SEO approach (technical, content, backlinks) is the solution.

If you’re interested about digital marketing in Hong Kong, have a look at the article we’ve posted on Hong Kong Business, it might gives you more details about this particular topic.

ANY QUESTIONS? DROP US AN EMAIL.

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Get Clicks is a Hong Kong based agency specialised in SEO, Link Building and Content Marketing. We will make you love SEO and help you improving your rankings in Google. Any questions? Feel free to contact us, as you can see, we love to share about SEO.

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