One of the lesser globally known popular search engines in China is Shenma backed by Alibaba. Shenma comes with the popular mobile browser UC Browser, one of the world’s most popular internet browsers. Alibaba's Shenma search was co-founded as a mobile search engine by UCWeb and Alibaba in 2013; and, Alibaba acquired UCWeb in 2014.
This Chinese search engine is a joint venture between UC Web, the company behind the UC Browser, and Alibaba. As the 2nd letter in the popular acronym BAT, which stands for China’s tech giants (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent), Alibaba couldn’t be the only one without a product in the search engine category. With the help of UC Web’s UC browser and China’s preference toward mobile over desktop, Shenma has been gaining market share in recent years and is only expected to grow in 2021 and beyond.
The UC browser is one of the world’s most popular browsers. Although Chrome dominates the market with around 60% of market share, UC browser is placed 4th in terms of popularity worldwide. According to StatCounter, it’s only 1 percentage point behind popular browser Firefox in terms of popularity. When it comes to China UC Browser is the 2nd most popular mobile browser, which explains how Shenma got to its current market position.
New to Shenma search engine?
First of all, let us walk through Shenma’s search page interface while pointing out opportunities for brands.
Many search queries turn up ads for app downloads. Such as this search for “European hotels”. Searches that aren’t related to products or apps tend to turn up mostly organic search results. Some search queries reveal a list of app downloads. For example, here’s a search for “fun games”.
Shenma also features larger ad spots for brands. Here’s an example of one for vip.com. This is common in Chinese search engines. All the other major ones have special advertising options available for brands, to help them make a splash.
Why Do Chinese Consumers Use Shenma?
Firstly, UC Browser is one of the most popular mobile web browsers in China. Shenma portrays itself as a mobile search engine for shopping, apps, ebook novels. Secondly, Chinese Android apps are widely supported amongst many app stores in China. Shenma positions itself as something different – a hybrid of search engine & app store, which attracts lots of users.
Shenma Search Advertising
The top of Shenma search results pages is often dominated by mobile search ads. The ads come in various formats. Here’s one showing results for “women’s shoes”. All the images link to individual Taobao pages.
Searches that aren’t related to products or apps tend to turn up mostly organic search results.
Shenma also features larger ad spots for advertisers. Here’s an example of one for vip.com. This is common in Chinese search engines. All the other major ones have special advertising options available for brands, to help them make a splash.
Shenma Ads for App
Like other Chinese search engines, Shenma also has ads for various products and companies. They gear most ads on the platform towards products & apps rather than things like B2B services. Considering how it is only available on mobile, this makes sense.
It’s interesting to see how Shenma continues to develop as a marketing tool in 2021, as it seems to develop and add extra features faster than its competitors. With its market share consistently growing, it is going to be a major force in the Chinese search engine market.
Should I Use Shenma Search for Chinese Marketing?
Shenma advertising is suitable for the following situations:
- Major brands that want to be present on all search engines. The search volumes might be lower than Baidu, but it’s worth the effort to utilise this search engine.
- Having a physical product to sell online and smooth mobile user experience smooth.
- Brands that own a Taoba or Tmall store. Shenma is more like to send traffic to Taoba and Tmall (Alibaba owned networks).
- You are seeking to drive mobile app downloads, such as game apps.