The essential guide to do SEO 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
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.