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Business

Baidu Japan will diagnose whether your website is China-friendly

Service tells clients to drop Facebook for WeChat to avoid 'Great Firewall'

The Japanese unit of Chinese internet search company Baidu has launched a service to help companies and local governments reach potential customers in China more easily.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Imagine you are in charge of e-commerce at a Japanese company. You know that Chinese shoppers are visiting Japan in droves and you are eager to grab a piece of their wallets.

So you create a slick Chinese-language website to promote your product or service, embed it with the usual Google Maps and YouTube links, wait for the cash to start rolling in and -- very little happens.

Blame the "Great Firewall" of China, which blocks access to some big U.S. internet companies. This is a headache for companies looking to sell to Chinese customers. Enter the Japanese unit of Chinese internet search company Baidu, which has launched a service in Japan that helps clients see whether their websites can be accessed easily from China.

The service is aimed at companies and local governments looking to take advantage of the sharp increase in Chinese visitors to Japan amid Beijing's tightening internet censorship. The crackdown can cause problems, such as failure to show website content or slower page downloads.

Baidu Japan offers the service in cooperation with LXR, a Tokyo-based creator of Chinese-language websites. LXR evaluates the accessibility of the client's website in China and publishes a report with suggestions on how to improve it.

Troubleshooting

It starts by recreating the internet environment in China in order to spot problems. Among them failure to display content properly and page downloads that take more than 90 seconds.

These problems can drive frustrated customers away and site operators are often none the wiser, according to industry insiders. LXR also resolves problems unique to China, such as fonts that do not display properly and difficulties displaying messages from social media sites.

To get around the Great Firewall, LXR might suggest embedding a site aimed at Chinese customers with links to Chinese services, say, Youku instead of YouTube, WeChat rather than Twitter and of course, Baidu over Google.

Baidu can help customers create effective Chinese-language websites, thanks to its huge trove of search data. If someone types in the phrase "Japanese cosmetics," the search engine suggests other frequently used search terms. The company also provides data such as the number of searches via smartphone, personal computer and other means, and region-by-region numbers, to help clients refine their sales pitches.

The service charges 350,000 yen ($3,090) for an analysis of how a client's website is performing in China. The client receives a report in a week or so.

Since launching the service on Dec. 6, Baidu has received orders from household goods manufacturers and hotels.

The number of overseas tourists visiting Japan rose by about 20% on the year in 2016 to more than 24 million, with visitors from Chinese-speaking areas accounting for more than half of the total. Web retailing aimed at Chinese buyers is also expanding.

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