The “Great Chinese Firewall” is infamous and, unfortunately, very misunderstood in the West. For that reason, many businesses don’t even try to tap into the 1.4 billion people strong potential customer base that is Mainland China.
What if I told you, that your website can be performant and competitive in Mainland China? This article explains in laymen terms how the “Firewall” works, what you can do to improve your website and how Mainland China can become a successful market for you.
Note: If you need help with your website in this regard, please reach out using the contact information on the top of the page.
How to make your Website load fast in Mainland China?
What is the Great Chinese Firewall?
You can think of the “Great Chinese Firewall” as rules what can come in on what not, similar to rules at customs when you get off the plane and enter a new country. Some countries have stricter rules, some are more loose.
When you load a website, data packages are coming from a server (or several servers) to your browser on your computer. The quicker those packages arrive at your computer, the quicker the website loads.
In Mainland China, some data packages from some servers get stuck in customs, load very slowly or not at all. The goal therefore is to have all data packages come from servers that are allowed to clear customs without delay – hence not get stuck in the Firewall.
This is the basic premise – now how can that be done?
Step one is your own server. Make sure your website is not on certain services like WordPress.org that are blocked in China.
Furthermore, make sure your website has its own IP address to avoid that your website gets blocked in the wake of another website that should get blocked and uses the same IP address as yours. This is a good thing to do for SEO globally anyway, so also pays off with Google.
Finally, try to have all files – or at least as many as possible – come from your server. This is a bit more technical. What it means is, try to avoid CDNs, try avoid loading things like Google Fonts from Google directly, etc.
Remember, the more servers that are involved, the more likely it is that data packages get lost or stuck in customs.
Less important compared to the above, but if you can choose, pick a server in Hong Kong, Japan or Singapore. Those typically load the fastest.
If that’s not possible, the US West Coast is usually also loading fairly quickly as it is connected by underwater cables directly to Asia.
Having said that, this only impacts the loading by a few milli-seconds, the other things discussed above and below are more important.
If you have a company within China, you can also think about getting a server there directly. However, this is a more difficult project and only worth taking on once you already have a sizable audience in Mainland China.
Google, Youtube and Social Media
It’s no secret, China doesn’t really like Google and Western Social Media. As a result, try to not load anything from a Google server. Try to only link to Youtube, don’t embed the video directly. Link to social media, but don’t use things like Facebook Pixel or Like counters, those always load code from a server e.g. at Facebook.
Now I understand, this is hard to do, but should be an achivable goal especially for business websites (harder for e-commerce). Furthermore, these measures usually do also speed up your website in general – again, helping you with your Google SEO rankings.
General Website Speed
This is something that, again, not only helps in terms of Mainland China, but with SEO in general. Having quick loading times is extremely important for SEO and user retention, so this should be tackled anyway.
To check how well your website is doing in this regard, go to Google PageSpeed and test your website. Improvements made here might help your overall business performance all around the world.
Sometimes, things simply don’t work. It might be that the IP address you’re using is somehow flagged or your domain not liked. In those cases, there are ways around this by experimenting a bit – usually, with some efforts, things eventually start working fine.
Targeting the Mainland Market
Once your website is loading with decent speed in Mainland China, it’s time to implement other things that make it usable or discoverable for Chinese consumers.
This depends on your target audience. If younger, then having English only should be fine. In fact, it might actually even be an advantage for some niches where foreign products are seen as superior.
If you want to have a Chinese website, you can either add it to your existing website or create a copy of your website that’s Chinese only. This way it might be easier to implement many of the measures mentioned above in the speed optimization section.
Be sure to use Simplified characters for your Chinese translations!
Baidu is the Chinese Google and important if you want to get found through SEO. There are agencies that can help with adding your website to Baidu, I’m unfortunately not an expert in that myself.
Chinese Social Media
Again, something you might want to outsource to an agency or someone who grew up in Mainland China (maybe a student in your area, etc.). Similar to the West (even more so, actually), the social media landscape in China is changing at a rapid pace.
So depending on your target audience, you might have to target different social media platforms. Just what you’re used to from the West with Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc.
AliPay & WeChat Pay
Extremely important – if your website doesn’t have a way to pay with either AliPay (Alibaba’s payment service) or WeChat Pay (Tencent’s payment service) you won’t make any sales – it’s that simple. Credit cards won’t do it in Mainland China.
This is only a short overview over what can be done to make your website succeed in Mainland China. If you have any questions or want to work with me, reach out on Wohok Solutions or create a project directly on Codeable via my partner link.