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Navigating China domain registration and hosting.

By Saurav Bhattacharyya for China Brain



When it comes to appearing to a Chinese audience on the internet, there are multiple factors about your website you need to consider: your host servers location and domain suffix being two of the most important.



For businesses and websites wanting to reach a Chinese audience within Mainland China, the preferable option is to host within Mainland China. The reason for this relates not so much on geo-targeting, as it does in the majority of western countries, but more about control. When the servers are within China, through approved Chinese hosting providers, using approved Chinese ISPs (all government run) this makes monitoring of the sites content a lot more manageable. This is a main reason why Google is more or less a redundant search engine within China. However in order to run a website within China to a Chinese audience, you are required to submit an application to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology for an ICP license (Internet Content Provider). This application needs to be approved and the ICP number displayed on your website: most commonly you can find this number in the footer of a websites. This ICP can be obtained from



China Domain names

Similar to how location based search works in the western world, a country code top level domain (ccTLD) is a still a very beneficial element in ranking with in China. Ensuring you have a .cn domain will go a long way to ranking well organically in China.



Recently the registration of China .cn and domains opened up to both individuals and businesses outside of China. Registration is now possible by providing the following documentation:



Businesses outside of China must provide the following:

  • Business registration number
  • A scanned copy of the registrant’s business certificate
  • A scanned copy of the registrant's proof of identity
  • A scanned copy of a signed Letter of Commitment



Individuals only need to provide two of these items:

  • A scanned copy of their proof of identity
  • A scanned copy of a signed Letter of Commitment



The .com or .cn question

Generally non Chinese businesses should always register both the .com and .cn domains to specify that they are both international and well as operating in China. Additionally .com domains are often seen as more trustworthy in the eyes of Chinese consumers. Shorter domains are always better since they are easier to remember. If you use several English words in your domain: placing hyphens in between words will make it easier for Chinese Internet users to remember as well as providing good keyword definition for search engines.



Hosting in Hong Kong

If you are unable to get your site hosted on the mainland, Hong Kong is both a viable and effective option, which also has the added benefit of allowing your site be fast for International users. Having a website hosted on a Hong Kong server would not require and ICP number and is generally as fast as a Mainland server. Unfortunately this method would slightly reduce a sites organic search engine ranking on Chinese search engines such as Baidu (site performance is a major component in their ranking algorithm. So provided the site loads well and quickly for Chinese users, this is not a major issue).



Finally there are a few points to take up with your web developer whilst designing a site for the China market:


  • Do not utilise western platform functionality i.e: Google Maps, Google API, YouTube video, Facebook or Disqus plugins


  • Limit or completely eliminate the use of externally pointing social functionality i.e: Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter


  • Limit your external linking to other non-Chinese sites, especially to sites with potentially banned content


  • Avoid shared hosting: if someone with the same IP address as your site is blocked, then your website will also be blocked. Use a dedicated server or VPS with a unique IP.



Saurav Bhattacharyya is the Managing Director of China Web Designers, a Beijing based web design and development company.




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