Google Adds Chinese AdWords Service

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Google advertisers now can sign up and manage keyword-advertising campaigns in Chinese, the search giant said yesterday as it eyes the potentially huge Chinese-language search market.


The Mountain View, CA, search company said advertisers could create AdWords campaigns using traditional or simplified Chinese text. Payment is now accepted in both Hong Kong and Singapore dollars, though Google does not accept payments in China's currency, the yuan.


Google already had Chinese-language advertisers, but they were forced to sign up in non-Chinese languages, usually English. The search company said Chinese-language support, done mostly through its California office, should make the ad program easier for native Chinese speakers.


"It was really difficult," Google spokeswoman Debbie Frost said. "You had to rely on somebody being multilingual."


Google's ad system now operates in 16 languages, displaying ads on sites in 180 countries.


The Chinese-language interface helps advertisers throughout Asia, including Chinese speakers in Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Chinese-speaking communities worldwide. The big prize, however, remains mainland China.


China has 79.5 million Internet users, according to figures released in January by the China Internet Network Information Center. With a population of 1.3 billion and a reported 34.5 percent Internet penetration growth rate last year, it has the potential to surpass the United States as the world's largest Internet market.


Like most markets in China, search advertising is seen as having great potential. Google rival Yahoo in November bought 3721 Network Software Co., a Hong Kong-based "real name" search engine that matches Chinese-language searches with advertisers' Web sites that otherwise could be accessed only through Roman characters. Yahoo's paid search arm, Overture Services, does not yet operate in China.


Google faces plenty of local competition. The China Search Alliance, a collection of 200 Chinese Internet portals, was formed in September 2002 to battle Google. The government-sponsored group rolled out a search-ranking service in June 2003 and has a distribution agreement with SINA, one of China's most popular Internet portals.


The Chinese government exerts some control over search engines its citizens can access. In September 2002, the government blocked access to Google and AltaVista to keep Chinese Internet users from accessing information it deemed harmful. Google no longer is blocked.


Brian Morrissey covers search marketing for DM News.com. To keep up with the latest search marketing news subscribe to our free e-mail weekly newsletter Search Engine Marketing by visiting www.dmnews.com/cgi-bin/newslettersub.cgi .


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