If you are serious about targeting Chinese Internet users, securing a good web hosting provider in the region is essential; money spent on Chinese search engine optimization and website design can be wasted if your website hosting is not set up correctly.
The effects of Internet regulation in China – the so-called ‘Great Firewall’ – mean that unless your Chinese website is hosted in an appropriate location your website may be:
- Blocked altogether
- Blocked some of the time
- Extremely slow loading
The government managed firewall, officially termed the Golden Shield Project, is designed to monitor and control the content viewed by Chinese Internet users. If a website contains any content deemed inappropriate by the Chinese government it faces being blocked.
Worse still, if another site hosted on your server is banned, the whole server – your site included – is likely to be blocked. If you are hosted on a shared server outside the Chinese firewall, the very real potential for your site to be banned at any time might be beyond your control.
Choosing the Right Hosting
For most companies the ideal situation is to host your site with a provider based in mainland China, placing you inside of the “Great Firewall of China”.However, with current rules preventing foreign enterprises securing the necessary licensing, this isn’t always possible.
At Hostinginchina we will work with you to find the best hosting solution for your situation. This may be us helping you to set up a Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise (WFOE) or Joint Venture (JV) in China so that you can secure the licences required to legally host in the country under your own identity.
Alternatively, it might be more appropriate to host in one of China’s special administrative regions – Hong Kong or Shanghai, which aren’t subject to the same restrictions or censorship but are treated favourably by the Chinese firewall. Once we have assessed your situation we will advise on the most suitable option for your business.
Chinese Websites – Inside the Great Firewall
Ensuring your hosting is suitable for the Chinese market is vital to provide visitors in China with good access to your site. Sites hosted in unsuitable locations risk being inaccessible, or are likely to load so slowly that Chinese users will give up and go elsewhere; it is equivalent to a two-tier Internet, where Chinese sites are ultra-fast and many of those outside are rendered so slow loading as to make them useless. SEO in Chinese has little chance of benefiting your company if your Chinese website cannot be accessed properly – by the search engines and by visitors.
Chinese search engines, such as Baidu, also favour websites hosted in China and give higher rankings to these sites. At least part of the reason for Baidu’s success is that they give priority in their search results for fast loading, Chinese hosted sites, producing a better experience for their users. The implications for good Chinese SEO are obvious.
Chinese Website Hosting – Restrictions
In order to host a website in mainland China, you must first have an ICP licence, which is issued by China’s Ministry of Information Industry (MII).In turn, to get an ICP licence you need to have a legal presence in China.
Sharing an ICP Licence
Several companies have attempted to share ICP licences with Chinese partners, leading to problems with the regulators. In 2006, Google’s Chinese service got into trouble after MII took issue with their sharing of local firm, Ganji.com’s licence – the rules are strictly enforced regardless of whether you are an SME or a multi-billion dollar multinational.
Many local firms will offer to provide ICP licences and web hosting for foreign firms, but in reality they are not doing so, as without the client owning a Chinese business entity this is not currently possible. Instead, several businesses will piggyback on the provider’s own ICP licence, which can present several problems.
Sharing an ICP licence like this is against government rules, meaning the provider (and the websites hosted with them) could be shut down at any time, without any notice whatsoever. Also, if you share an ICP licence like this then your entire online presence in China – your website, its hosting and the domain name itself – is owned and controlled by another company who may go bust or simply choose to pull the plug at any time, leaving you with little or no legal recourse.
A Frontier Market
China is already a hugely valuable market and one which is still growing at an incredible pace. One of the admission prices Western companies must pay for access to this burgeoning market is being ready to adapt to regulatory conditions which can change from one day to the next, depending on the political situation.
Where Chinese .cn domains were once freely available for anyone to buy, they are now restricted to those with a legal presence in China. The rules on applying for ICP licences have similarly been tightened up. To get the best advice for the situation as it is now, and to ensure you are positioned well going forward, we recommend you speak to our team.
Our Chinese search marketing service can be tailored to meet your company’s requirements, including the creation of a fully functional Chinese language site with Chinese design and search terms optimised for the local market, hosting and licensing. Chinese and Western website design are very different; to find out more take a look at our basic guide to Chinese web design comparing it to Western web design.
Contact us to find out about any aspect of our Chinese Search Marketing and SEO services now.