Baidu PPC: Exploring the new paid ad format ‘First Class’
Baidu will soon release ‘First Class’—a novel paid ad format designed to give brands even greater exposure.
Engineered to always occupy the first paid result atop Baidu’s SERPs, First Class ads will supercharge your brand visibility on Baidu, China’s #1 search engine with 222+ million active users.
Let’s explore how First Class ads work and how they can boost your brand in front of Baidu’s gargantuan userbase.
Baidu First Class Ads: How do they work?
First Class is the first paid ad format that features on both the left and right sides of Baidu’s desktop SERPs, covering the largest real estate of any Baidu pay-per-click (PPC) ad format on Baidu. This makes them highly attractive for brands targeting paid search and lead generation in the China market.
Moreover, First Class ads are supported on both desktop and mobile, triggered by keyword searches. Ranking for all keyword types is possible with Baidu’s First Class format ad format, allowing brands to rank highest across branded as well as generic (non-branded) searches.
Baidu First Class Ads: How do they appear on the SERP?
When users enter a search, Baidu First Class ads will appear as a large section of text, images, and other multi-media above the fold.
Whatever brand or products they feature is based on a combination of bidding and quality score.
A First Class ad (outlined in red) on Baidu’s desktop SERP
In the example above, a general Baidu search of “What 5G phone models are available?” generated a branded First Class ad to appear.
Atop the SERP, the ad features several 5G smartphones listed and sold by Tmall (previously Taobao Mall), a massive Chinese B2C online retailer. Just below the smartphone listings are related products also sold by Tmall.
On the right side is Tmall’s special promotion for the upcoming “Double 12,” China’s year-end shopping festival on Dec 12 of each year (this would likely link to Tmall’s “Double 12” promotional landing page).
Note that in the mobile SERP view, there is no right-side column for the Baidu First Class ad to populate.
A First Class ad (outlined in red) on Baidu’s mobile SERP
Baidu First Class Ads: How do they compare to Baidu Brand Zone?
Visually, First Class ads look strikingly similar to how Baidu’s Brand Zones (product windows) appear on the SERP. The major difference is that First Class ad ranking is based off keywords cost-per-click (CPC) while Brand Zone is determined by cost-per-time, with the minimum purchase being 1 month.
How Brand Zones appear on Baidu’s desktop SERP
How Brand Zones appear on Baidu’s mobile SERP
Baidu First Class Ads: What are the pros and cons?
The greatest asset of Baidu First Class ads is the added visibility. Having your ad shown as the first paid result lets you outrank competitors and attract more incoming users which, in theory, leads to a higher click-through-rate (CTR).
On the flipside, however, bidding is highly competitive for Baidu First Class ads. The CPC increases with competition and will require you to persistently increase your bidding ratio to maintain that first position. For some brands, this financial strain may be too much for their paid advertising budgets.
Ultimately, if your Baidu First Class ads don’t appear in the first position, then they won’t appear at all.
Baidu First Class ads can be an indispensable tool, particularly for enterprises that have higher advertising budgets and require a boost in their Baidu visibility.
As of now, the format itself is still undergoing internal testing, although its prototype has already been tested with several Baidu PPC account owners.
Thus, brands wanting to incorporate Baidu First Class ads in their PPC strategy should begin optimizing their product listings and multimedia in anticipation of its full release.