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Recruiting Intelligence

How Do Chinese Students Use Search?

Do you know where on the internet Chinese students look for information on study abroad opportunities? If you answered Baidu, the most commonly used search engine in China, you are more in tune than most Americans.

Here's a tougher question: Do you know how to evaluate and analyze Chinese search engines and Chinese web traffic? Yeah, we thought so.

In the U.S., we have several paid and free services, such as Nielsen Ratings, ComScore, as well as Google Trends and Alexa, all of which give us insight into web traffic, demographics and many other details about any given website. And we can use Google Analytics and other similar tools to understand our own sites and the search strings that lead visitors to our sites.

We have been looking for similar information in China and recently found and tested Baidu Index. (Now you know). Baidu dominantes as THE search engine in China similar to Google's dominant market position in the U.S. and many other countries. But let's stick with China, where Google is essentially blocked and unavailable to Chinese consumers.

Here are a few observations on the relative importance of the main websites Chinese students use to find information about study opportunities outside China. Think of these sites as similar to Hobsons' CollegeConfidential in the U.S., which is a source of observations, feedback and information for U.S. students during their college search.

We selected the three biggest student abroad forums in China, Taisha, Chasedream and Gter for our research. Here is a short explanation of each site and Graph 1 (below) shows the relative importance in terms of keyword searches on Baidu.

  • Taisha is one of the oldest web sites to exchange information on standardized testing such as TOEFL, GRE, SAT and university application processes. It's a forum to learn from other students. Our understanding is that Taisha will also help students directly with their applications.
  • Chasedream is also a large forum, more heavily focused on business students and graduate GMAT level advice. Chasedream also appears to have a counseling business.
  • Gter focuses on GRE testing and provides some information on TOEFL. To our knowledge, Gter is a web-only company without any counseling business.

The graphs below are based on Baidu Index. Baidu offers a service that allows us to assess the relative number of searches for individual websites and keywords. We can find out that website A was 50 on the index, vs. website B at 150. These figures and comparisons can be useful evaluations of overall performance and relative size of user activity. The index tells you whether company A or B has more searches. But, it does not tell you that company A has one million searches or one million unique visitors. As mentioned in Western markets, we have companies such as Nielsen or Comscore providing very detailed visitor and other user metrics, which are unfortunately not available in China from these providers.
Graph 1 (below) shows the dramatic increase in searches from 2006-2012 for international student information. Taisha (yellow line) is the largest content source, based on the number of searches, followed closely by Chasedream (green line). The chart's scale is based on the relative number of searches. This is valuable for comparison, as we described, on a relative basis - not in terms of an absolute numbers of searchs. Taisha reaches a peak of 1,200 on the right hand scale which offers a maximum of 1,500 units. Baidu does not disclose how many searches are taking place.

Graph 1

Source: Baidu Index, April 2013 Yellow line = Taisha, Green line = Chasedream, Blue line = Gter

Graph 2

Source: Baidu Index, April 2013 Yellow line = Taisha, Green line = Chasedream, Blue line = Zinch

Graph 2 (above) includes the website Zinch in China, which has an active China office and is one of the most visible marketers from China to universities in the U.S. The Zinch website and its services are not completely comparable to the active content forum offered by Taisha and Chasedream. Zinch is more of a university catalog with free and paid profiles of Western universities. While considerably smaller, you can see that Zinch generates respectable search levels on the Baidu Index as well.

Graph 3


Graph 4

Topics: Insights