Zhihu Marketing Guide for Western Company’s SEO and Branding in China

Questions and answers are people’s daily regular things, and Chinese often go to one platform called Zhihu for finding answers. For brands, whatever business you are doing, customer review, brand review, word of mouth is always the thing that matters for your organic growth and branding. Zhihu is one of few platforms still open to the western world, at least foreigners can sign up using their mobile phone number. This article might be your cup of tea if you like to leverage Zhihu marketing when your legal entity and ICP is not ready in China

zhihu marketing

In China, it makes sense rolling out the western type of digital strategy mindset to increase attribution from organic and enhance branding for diluting price sensitivity. However, execution is totally the other story and it’s not doable just copying from west to China. Take Baidu SEO for example, regardless of the importance of Baidu, your website presence in SERP needs ICP, business registration docs, instead of just a search console integration like in Google.

So in this article, I’ll share a guide on how to leverage Zhihu marketing to build a presence in SERP, increase organic exposure, engage with your target audience and build your branding. Particularly if your business legal entity is not fully in place and ready.

What is Zhihu?

Zhihu is a comprehensive community that integrates with Q&A, social, eCommerce and video elements. In 2011. It started quite like those USA Q&A platforms such as Quora, Reddit. The main purpose of the platform is to allow users to ask questions and get answers from the community using the website. Zhihu is extremely popular among Chinese netizens. In 2020, Zhihu registered users total more than 420 million.

As riding on this niche feature and developing, nowadays Zhihu is not only a Q&A platform, but also it features paid consultancy, and provides video content, social community elements. In China, Zhihu is popular of course, and also the platform allows foreign users to sign up as well.

It generates more trust between its users. The reason is It is very intimate and it creates a dialogue between different groups of people around a certain topic or subject.

Why Zhihu is vital for SEO and Branding in China

As the opening mentioned regarding Baidu, running SEO and building brands have more or less challengings in China. It’s particularly if your company is a western brand and might not have the legal entity. Compared to Google, the business logic-wise looks very similar. However, you can’t just roll out the set of mindset and strategies to China. In this case, Zhihu must be one of the most vital platforms you have to cover for SEO and branding. There are three reasons:

1. High SEO Authority

Zhihu is a highly effective platform to improve your Brand’s China Search Engine Optimization. It has a high domain authority on Baidu, 360, SoSo search engine. No joke that it is even faster than your web page indexed by search engines when both places release the content at the same time.

zhihu marketing

Take Lingble cross border eCommerce solution for the example. Many western companies like Lingble might not have legal entities in China at the beginning. So without legal entities, basically it’s impossible to show in SERP.

Even if they have, they might come across ICP application issues before. So basically their website can’t be indexed and appear in SERP. However, as you can see from the above picture, the SERP shows the topics and content about Lingble in Zhihu even though there wasn’t any result showing on their website.

Apart from brand keywords, generic keywords embedded in Zhihu content can also perform efficiently and reflect on the SERP.

zhihu marketing

Therefore, that means that even though your brand might not be able to show the website in SERP due to admin reasons. It still has alternative ways to increase presences, build credibility and branding. As long as the search keyword is relevant to your topics, the Zhihu page would display in the SERP and the performance is very stable as well.

2. Social Advertorial and Seeding

The perception and purpose of users who are going to Zhihu basically is for both general, professional answers and view comparison. Zhihu has a very strong social environment and supportive features to meet these needs and engage with target audiences. Different with a website’s tone and feel, it’s more natural and advertorial for users to easily accept the points of view from different groups of people and trust the content, even though it is related to a brand or a promotion.

What’s more, Zhihu is keyword-driven as well instead of being only passively receiving the content. Users can search the topics, product review etc on the platform. Thus, it’s playing a key role in helping brands communicate with the target audiences in a more advertorial and soft way to resolve concerns, answers questions.

3. KOLs & KOCs Marketing

Speaking out a point of view or sharing a topic can be from the brand itself. But also brands can work with KOCs and KOLs as well. In a way, Zhihu is a more suitable place to share professional views, reviews, and comments from a third party than the brand itself. In Zhihu, there are many active users, they are monetising the traffic by earning tips, paid consultancy fees, and brand collaboration. Users can message each other freely on the platform.

Here is the article regarding Zhihu bot used to scrape thousands of great content and good profiles for free.

Python Tutorial 31: Zhihu Bot & Scraper for grabbing Q&A, Column Data

Apart from the showable content in SEPR, Zhihu also has a friendly eco-system and features to support brands to build branding and release content. For example, users can choose multi types of media, such as photos, videos to embed in the post and article. Also, Zhihu allows users to embed hyperlinks, files etc as well.

And most importantly, the post and article content censorship comparably are less strict than other Chinese Q&A platforms. So, it creates a very friend and environment to run content marketing as long as the quality is good.

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Zhihu Marketing – How to sign up for a free Zhihu account as a foreigner?

In fact, there isn’t only one Q&A platform in China. For example, you might notice Baidu Zhidao, Baidu Tieba, Tianya Tieba only accept sign-ups using the Chinese mobile phone. However, Zhihu is different because it provides multi-country phone number options. Basically, the platform is for global users as well, so there is no concern about the account ownership.

I’ll release another article regarding the steps to sign up using a non-China phone number. Being said, Zhihu still requires the users to verify their personal identity if the users like to release articles, or comment on the article. Without verification, the users can’t release articles and comment. Instead, they can only browse, like, share the content and follow the other users and message with other users.

Zhihu Marketing – Specific Feature Intro of Zhihu for SEO and Branding

There are lots of features in Zhihu, such as Zhihu Q&A, column, bookstore (eCommerce), video live, round table, etc. In terms of SEO and branding, I’d like to specifically talk about these 2 features of intro, tips and tricks, if you have limit legal entities in China.

1. Zhihu Q&A

Basically it’s a place to raise, describe a question and submit to the air. Users submit it to find answers for their problems. Q&A section is the best option if you like to build presences fast in Baidu, 360, Sogou SERP when users search branded keywords and relevant generic keywords.

Basically there are two parts to do to create a SEO friendly post by using Zhihu platform features.

  • Input the title, description and relevant elements to tell your question clearly

In this section, it’s quite similar with your website meta title and description input. This information would show in Baidu, 360, Sogou SERP. The tips are that I will recommend you to add the core keyword at the front of a sentence instead of being at the middle or late of a sentence. It’s because it can help search engine robots to reduce crawlability budgets and increase the ranking in the relevant keyword.

Additionally, Zhihu provides you with some tools to decorate your description, such as font size, font color, video, hyperlink etc. And if you want to increase the right exposure of your post to the right audience, please add the tags and topics related to your post. It’s more for the Zhihu in-site search.

  • Answer the question

The answers can also show in the SERP. Generally, it will replace the description randomly and display in SERP.

For the answer draft interface, it looks like a blog. There is no limit to character, and you can decorate, enrich your content by using different tools. The most important thing as the tips and tricks for bettering the SEO performance is the directory feature. So you can convert your paragraph headline into h1 or h2. Then there is a directory on the left hand side of the post where users can select the paragraph they are interested in more.

2. Zhihu Column

Column is like a specific content segmentation, such as blog, news, press release section. The user can create a topic and then you can release articles under the same topic.

zhihu marketing

The most powerful feature of this section is it’s not only crawlable by search engine, but also the Zhihu column has a higher authority in the Zhihu SERP than Q&A. If you like to boost more exposure and engagement with your brand, product, event advertorial related topics. The best practice is to seed the topics in Q&A and release one official article from a brand point of view.

Zhihu Marketing – Wrap up

China’s digital marketing landscape is hugely different from the western world, although the business-wise logic is similar. One of two most important weapons for any business are organic performance and branding. In China, Zhihu would be the must-entry platform for this, particularly if your business legal entity is not fully in place and ready.

I hope you enjoy reading Zhihu Marketing Guide for Western Company’s SEO and Branding in China. If you did, please support us by doing one of the things listed below, because it always helps out our channel.

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