8 Keyword Research Tools for Search Engine Marketing in China

When I am thinking of a keyword research project, I like to think of it like fishing. To prepare a full table of sashimi to treat your honorable guests, you have to catch the best fish – a rich variety that will suit many tastes.

Fisherman fishing at lake in Morning, Thailand.

It’s the same with keyword research – you have to cast a wide net to find the right “fish.” No matter if you are an expert with 10+ years’ experience or a beginner, an appropriate keyword research process with the right tools can build a foundation for success in SEO or PPC.

In a previous blog, we mentioned that there are many search engine options in China. Though Google is a global giant, it’s banned in China. Similarly, many keyword research tools that western marketers use do not function at all for search engines in China.

To ensure your company or brand names can be found quickly and easily in Chinese search engines, you have to use keyword research tools specific to China.

Let’s take a look at what I consider the 8 most valuable keyword research tools in China. I hope this list will facilitate your SEO and PPC programs in China and help you net the best fish!

The Dropdown Keyword Suggestions and Related Search

Dropdown Keyword Suggestions & Related Search

The goal of keyword research is to not only find suitable keyword phrases for a given business, but also to understand what – and how – questions are being asked by the target audience. To achieve this goal, the search engines themselves are the best resource to start with.

When you enter a phrase in the search box, the platform will show the relevant and popular terms searched with a dropdown list of keyword suggestions. This is a function provided the top three search engines in China: Baidu, Qihoo 360, and Sogou. B2B marketers should use them all to gather inspiration for a group of main keywords.

Search Box

Once on the search engine results page, there will be around 10 relevant search terms shown at the bottom of the page. These are the related terms that people search most often.

By clicking different terms and generating more relevant results, you can make your net of main keywords bigger. When you can apply them as the source keywords to other tools, you may fish more.

Baidu Keyword Planner

Baidu Keyword Planner

Baidu Keyword Planner is a free keyword research tool integrated with the Baidu paid advertising platform. With a vast number of search volumes, Baidu Keyword Planner is considered one of the most reliable keyword research tools. However, because it is designed for the advertisers to complement PPC keywords research, it requires a Baidu PPC account to use this tool.

By inputting a core keyword or URL, the tool can generate a list of keywords automatically. These keyword suggestion results can be filtered in multiple ways, including device, location, suggested reason, average daily search volume, average mobile daily search volume, estimated top page bid, and competition level.

By sorting and prioritizing theses filters, marketers can refine keyword phrases and choose the most relevant keywords that align with their goals. Also, marketers should look at the search volume of specific targeted locations to help them decide which areas to start launching marketing initiatives. This will help maximize the budget and earn better ROI.

Baidu Index

Baidu Index

Baidu Index is a free tool to identify the search trends behind a term, product, brand, or industry. Though the main function is for monitoring the trend, it is also incredibly useful for keyword research. Based on the behavioral data generated, Baidu Index provides insight on the relative volume of searches for specific keywords on Baidu.

By entering search terms in the query box, you can see multiple tabs, including historical & forecasting search trend, users interests & needs, public sentiment, regional interests, and audience & industry traits.

The following three tabs are most valuable for keyword research:

  • Historical & Forecasting Search Trend can help determine the trend of a specific keyword. You can decide to use a keyword or not based on the overall trend.
  • User Interests and Needs helps you identify a particular search term and better understand how people search for it. By only inputting one term, you will get a picture of relevant interests and its degree of relevancy with that core term, as well as two lists of keywords, the top 15 related search queries by search popularity and top 15 related queries by rising rate. All these keywords help marketers develop a fuller picture of a keyword roadmap.
  • The function of Public Sentiment gathers relevant news from news websites and Baidu Zhidao, a Q&A platform for consumers. The relevant news helps companies understand the hottest topics on that specific brand, product, or search term. This type of keyword can be valuable for generating content and catching timely updates.

Baidu Search Term Report Tool

If you have a Baidu paid ads account for your PPC program, you can access the Baidu ad platform and generate a search term report to get the most recent 30 days of data. It is a good resource to understand how people search your current terms and can help you define your most important keywords (based on established metrics), identify low-value keywords, and find opportunities to incorporate negative keywords. It is an easy way to expand your current PPC and SEO keyword list.

Baidu Analytics for Organic Keywords Data

Baidu Analytics

Don’t worry if you don’t have a Baidu PPC account; you can still get a search term report through Baidu Analytics. Baidu Analytics provides real-time and historical data about the performance of a company’s online presence, including PPC metrics, website data, SEO suggestions, audience insights, etc.

It is free and simple to use. By inserting the tracking code in your website, Baidu Analytics tracks the data on how people land on your website and what terms they used to search for your site. It is a good way to generate organic keyword data, especially long tail keywords.

Zhanzhang Competitor Analysis Tool

Zhanzhang Competitor Analysis Tool

Zhanzhang is the Chinese name of this website and it means “webmaster.” It provides valuable SEO articles and insights, as well as useful tools. Particularly, the comprehensive SEO analysis is incredibly helpful.

If you already know who your competitors are in the market, you can input their website URLs and gain insight on the keywords they’re using and ranking for in Baidu. It makes the keyword mining process easy and more convenient. By understanding your competitors, you may catch the keywords you may have missed, and filter out irrelevant keywords that are different from your business.

Aizhan Keyword Tool

Aizhan Keyword Tool

Aizhan is a similar website to Zhanzhang. It provides a keyword tool that helps marketers identify long-tail keywords. By typing in a core keyword, you can get a list of long-tail keywords. The results indicate daily search volume, index pages by Baidu, the top two websites ranking for the keyword, and the relative level of difficulty for optimization.



Ciku means word inventory in Chinese, and that is exactly what it is. It is purely used for keyword research.

There are six types of keyword inventories you can mine – the newest keywords, which help you identify the trend opportunity, the hottest keywords (in other words, the most searched keywords on the top search engines), the forecast insight for particular keywords, the keywords of a specific website, industry based keywords, and the long tail keywords.

Final Thoughts

For small and medium businesses looking to expand to the China market with a digital presence, keyword research is an inexpensive way to identify consumers’ online interests and provides a blueprint for content that attracts target audiences.

The above 8 tools provide a good start to get ready to catch the fish. You can either use one or a few of them to choose the keywords accurately and creatively.

A final – but very important – word on keyword research for the China market. After using the keywords research tools to generate your keywords, marketers should always take account in culture differences. Chinese characters and words have multiple meanings, so it’s useful to ask a native Chinese speaker to review your keyword list before finalizing your keyword roadmap.


“I worked with KoMarketing during my time at Pongo in a variety of roles. At first, they were doing the work for us, but in the end, they trained my growing team on Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Their education of the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) led to us launching a job search blog, over 30 learning center articles, and a social media campaign. I would not hesitate to recommend the KoMarketing team for any size project you may have.”

— Jodi Coverly, Marketing Manager, Pongo LLC

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