It’s important you plan your digital marketing strategy for Asia for the medium and long term with some of the considerations we outlined in chapter 1 of this guide. As part of this mantra, implementing the right website structure that is aligned with your strategy plan is vital.
In this chapter we will provide insights on how you should set up and structure your website from a technical and content language perspective to give you the best foundation in order get the most out of one of your core business assets online, that is your website.
Technical Website Considerations
Domain Structure Selection
Selecting a domain structure that will allow you to implement best practices that align with your medium and long term strategy is very important and only implementing a structure that is focused on your short term focus can result in more changes in the future that may require more resources and incur more cost.
If your long term goal is to have multiple languages or a business model targeting multiple regions in one language then ensuring your website is on a .com domain should be a priority consideration. For startups and small businesses, this is a setup that can be much more time and cost efficient due to having to manage only one website for your business.
With a .com website you have the flexibility to have subfolders that can be segmented by region (e.g. .com/hk), by language (e.g. .com/zh), or by language + region (e.g. .com/zh-hant-hk). This enables your website to be set up to target different customers in different languages and different regions much more easily.
For the websites we create for customers who require this type of setup, we typically develop the website on WordPress and integrate the WPML add-on that allows us to configure multiple languages and country sections through different subfolders in a very efficient way.
The next best way to structure your website assets to effectively target different countries and languages is to have different country code domains e.g. .com.hk, .co.id, .com.sg etc. One of the main benefits if using this structure is that you can host each country specific domain in that country. However this is not a critical requirement for performance metrics such as high page load speeds or SEO benefits in most instances (except in China). Using this structure usually requires more technical resources to maintain multiple website infrastructures. This process can also be made more efficient by managing multiple websites on one Content Management System area (such as WP Multisite).
The key setup for hosting your website to target most countries in Asia is to host your website somewhere in Asia (rather than the USA or Europe for example). In terms of Asian countries to host in, this depends on how many countries you plan to market to. For example if you plan to target the Indonesian market for the short and medium term then hosting in Indonesia may make more sense.
If you plan to target multiple countries in Asia then we would recommend hosting in Singapore as it is very stable and has many reliable web hosting companies that have data centres in Singapore. For many of our own projects we recommend Fastcomet who host in Singapore for their main Asia location and have very good support and customer service, as well as having reliable uptime.
Website Platform and Content Management System
The number 1 recommendation we suggest when setting up your website is to make sure you set it up on an agile content management system that allows you to edit your website quickly and easily so that you can do things such as add new pages and edit content easily.
We would also recommend avoiding certain website platforms that make it “too easy” to set up your website and charge you a monthly fee to run your website on their platform. These are platforms such as Wix and Squarespace that do not provide all the features you may need to produce a best practice multi-regional focused website. For example Wix does not allow you to create different subfolders for different countries and you can only host the website on their web servers.
If you are using a specific website platform that fulfils your eCommerce requirements then you should make sure you research the capabilities of any platform you decide to choose. We often see that many startups look to go with a platform like Shopify, however, this eCommerce platform can be restrictive when it comes to multi-regional targeting and SEO best practice configuration.
WooCommerce can be more adaptable for multi-region targeting due to it operating on the WordPress platform. If you have a higher budget and want to implement a more enterprise level platform then considering something like Magento may also be another option to look at.
Setting up a website to target China
We recommend having separate websites targeting Mainland China versus other regions in Asia, including Hong Kong (SAR). This is because of the following reasons:
- Hosting in certain locations can make a website load very slowly for users in China, therefore hosting in China or Hong Kong is recommended
- Hosting in certain locations can mean that Baidu cannot index your website correctly
- Baidu requires a different SEO strategy to a Google SEO strategy, so having a separate website means you can optimise it specifically for Baidu and other Chinese search engines
- Having a specific .com.cn or .cn website can provide a more localised appearance for user in China that may help develop more trust and affinity with your products and services
Understanding the hosting and local Chinese domain ownership requirements is important when setting up a specific website asset to target the Chinese market. Hosting your Chinese targeted website in China can provide benefits such as faster page load speeds to Chinese web users but if you do not have a Chinese business entity you will not be able to obtain the ICP license that is required to host your website within China. If you are unable to do this then we recommend hosting in Hong Kong with Alibaba Cloud who offer an effective cross border hosting solution
Most international businesses can own a .com.cn or .cn domain and purchase from popular international domain registrars such as GoDaddy. In order to acquire this type of domain you will need to submit your business registration license as part of the purchase, which will typical take around 48 hours to complete.
Another key point to note is that setting up your website to target China versus Hong Kong are two very different things. As Hong Kong has a very different ecosystem when it comes to search and social media platforms used by people in the Special Administrative Region. It is also outside the Mainland Chinese firewall, which means less specific technical configuration is required.
Content and Language Considerations
As part of launching your new website or expanding your website to new territories and languages, you need to put a content strategy in place to ensure your website is localised for the countries you are looking to drive business from.
If you are positioning your website to target multiple countries in one language then you may be able to have content writers in your team from one country but they need to understand the cultural nuances and key trends for each country content is being provided for otherwise the content may not be relevant enough to your website users in certain countries.
If your website requires content in multiple languages then it’s imperative that you have writers who are native language speakers and ideally native to the country being targeted, otherwise the writing style, tone and grammar may not be exactly on point and this could alienate users from certain target countries.
If you have a website in different languages and also targeting different countries you will also need to think about how you position your regular content marketing focused content. For example, you may need to write any guides, articles and blogs you create in different languages and possibly write different content themes for different countries. You may also only provide certain products and services in certain target regions and so this will also require a more varied content strategy on your website.
Other key website content elements that will need to be optimised are things such as forms and pop-ups. As well as configuring these elements in different languages you may also need to adapt the information, style and tone for each target region as well.