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SEM Opportunities Untapped In China

In the United States we have a tendency to think we are the most technologically, politically, and socially advanced. But, as far as internet use goes, Americans aren’t logging on as often as Chinese users. With 253 million internet users, China recently surpassed the United States with the world’s largest web population. The Chinese also have another edge on American web users – they have more fun online.

A recent survey of 2,500 web users from 16 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, China, Korea, and Australia found that China’s users were more likely than others to describe web-based activities like blogging, posting on message boards, reading forums, and watching online videos as “fun.” Chinese web users are also more active in their internet use than users from other countries. “Web 2.0 is far more advanced in Asia, and in China, than in the U.S. and Europe,” said Bernice Klaasen, head of interactive research at TNS Media Intelligence Singapore. “In Western countries, about 1% of users create content online, about 10% participate through methods like comments or discussions, and the rest are lurkers.”

This information may come as shocking news to many Americans, who believe their blogging, social networking, and professional networking is unrivaled. Americans can cite one reason for their lackluster networking: the extra time they have isn’t always spent online. According to the TNS study results, 44% of Chinese respondents said they spent their spare time online, compared to 30% of Americans.

In China the proportion of active users is close to 50%, with a greater number of users blogging regularly, participating in online forums, and sharing videos and music. In a recent Pew study focused on uncovering the habits of American and Chinese web users researchers found: among Americans, 91% of users checked email and used search engines, 79% searched health information, 78% checked the weather, 73% got travel information, and 67% read the news. Of the Chinese users; 56% checked email, 54% read the news, and 52% used search engines, and 41% got information about products, health services, the government, etc.

Though Chinese web users don’t use search engines as often as Americans, they use them enough to make researchers believe they consider themselves successful searchers. Because of this search engines are bound to become more popular. Information gleaned from a 2007 Data Center of the China Internet survey showed that search engines may face a dilemma in China. They have more users than web portals, but portals have more advertising revenue, so there’s a big opportunity for search engines to profit from online advertising spending, if they learn how to connect better with their users. In the late 1990s and early 2000s American web users began to migrate away from portals and started using search engines more often. DCCI researchers believe Chinese users will soon mimic this migration.

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