“What does the Great Firewall of China have to do with me?”
That’s the question on the lips of many real estate agents and property developers. Our team hears it regularly from new customers.
You might be surprised by the answer. In this post, we’ll explain what the Great Firewall is, how it affects your property listings and how you can use it to your advantage.
What is the Great Firewall of China?
China has more than twice as many internet users as any other country. And its population of 1.3 billion means its number of internet users could more than double in the years to come.
Wealthy Chinese in particular turn to the internet as their number one source of information. 65% call it their “preferred” source of information and 83% use it every single day.
That’s why it’s so important to market your real estate online – it’s the best way to reach a very large and growing audience of potential buyers.
And this is where the Great Firewall comes in. Rather than leave it to international institutions, China has preferred to manage its own internet. It’s hard to argue with their success.
Besides ensuring wide access, they have enabled a system that creates huge amounts of online content. Today there are nearly as many pages online in Chinese as in any other language.
In just a couple of years, Chinese will edge into the top spot online, becoming the top language on the internet.
The “Great Firewall of China” is a cute name for a massive amount of ugly cables, switches, servers and who-knows-what-other hardware. Its one and only job is to scan and sometimes block webpages from outside of China, before web users can see them inside of China.
The government is looking for objectionable content. The presence of just a single black-listed keyword can cause your site to be blocked in China. The thing is, no list of keywords to avoid is publicly available. Furthermore, the list of keywords changes constantly depending on what is happening in China.
How does the Great Firewall of China affect my listings?
The Great Firewall of China affects your website and the portals you advertise on in one of two ways:
- Possibility 1: If your site is blocked, no one will ever see it in China, no matter how many times they hit the reload button.
- Possibility 2: Even if your site isn’t blocked, the scanning process can cause it to take much longer to load than a China-hosted website – up to 90 seconds in our tests – thus users often give up and click away. (When’s the last time you were willing to wait 90 seconds for a webpage?)
These slow load times and blocked pages are a serious problem for international property marketers. Google has researched the problem of site speed. The search giant found that users spend less time and do fewer property searches on slow websites.
Even a delay of just one fifth of a second has been shown to cut user page views and searches.
The delay that Chinese users experience when trying to access international sites is much longer than that. Because it’s our business, we have tested agent websites and real estate portals in 53 countries.
All too often, we find that it takes 30 seconds, a minute or even 1.5 minutes for the sites to load up and appear on our screen in China. Then, when you do a property search or click on a listing, it takes just as long to load the second page, and so on.
What’s worse is that results can be unpredictable – one day your website may load quickly, the next day not at all.
Don’t feel bad. Your website isn’t the only one that Chinese internet users can’t see. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, The Wall Street Journal…there are many sites that just don’t work in China.
In fact, these sites can cause even more problems for your website. If you happen to have installed anyplugins or widgets from Facebook or another blocked website, that in itself can be a reason for your website to be blocked.
This, in summary then, is the Great Firewall of China and how it affects your listings:
It’s a system that blocks or slows down the load times of websites hosted/located outside of China – that means your listings, on your own site and on your local portal, are very likely not visible to Chinese property hunters.
How can I use the Great Firewall to my advantage?
Slow websites. Blocked websites. Lost page views. Lost leads. Lost sales…it sounds like a disaster doesn’t it? Could there be anything good about this from the perspective of you, the property marketer?
Actually, yes. The Great Firewall could be good for you. In fact, it could be very good indeed.
Here’s how to use the Chinese Firewall to your advantage: You simply have to ensure that it applies only to other people. You know, like your competitors.
In battle, generals usually try to position their troops on top of a hill. That way, the steep slope only creates problems for their enemies, who have to climb up the hill to attack. Well, silly as it might sound, the Great Firewall of China is like that hill.
You have two choices. You can be the general who gets on top of the hill first OR you can be the general whose troops have to slog up the hill in full battle gear – while being shot at from above.
To be the general on top of the hill, the one who turns China’s Great Firewall into an advantage, all you have to do is list your properties on a website hosted inside China. A website like Juwai.com, for example.
Here’s how it works:
- You upload your listings to Juwai.com.
- From now on your pages load in China with remarkable speed and reliability on the computers and mobile devices of Chinese property hunters.
- When you meet with vendors, you explain your advantage with Chinese buyers. As a result, you win more listings.
- Your competitors continue on in ignorance, ultimately fail and come to work for you.*