The Real Estate & Investment Director at GMA with experience managing a host of successful Real Estate Lead Generation projects in China. A number of clients have requested a more in-depth analysis of marketing strategy, I hope the following article fulfills this request.  

In China you have to think big, it’s a very different market-place that rewards vision and initial investment. From my experience acting fast and capitalizing on limited competition due to barriers for entry pays dividends. If you have a serious project let’s talk.


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In terms of international Real Estate investment, the capital investment into residential & commercial projects from Mainland China is at an all-time high with total Chinese global offshore assess tripling from $6.4 trillion in 2015 to an expected $20 tn by 2020.

The real estate market in China has not been affected by the covid pandemic, on the contrary, it has remained generally stable, recording a slight monthly growth in house prices in the main cities. This was revealed by official data released by the Chinese National Statistical Institute. China’s real estate investments in the first nine months of 2020 increased by 5.6% on an annual basis, with an increase in investments in residential properties of 6.1%.

While much of the total comes in the form of foreign exchange reserves and portfolio investment, a growing share will come from direct Chinese investment in developed western countries… Enter the Overseas Residential Real Estate Boom.

The US has emerged on top in terms of Chinese re-location and investment for the third year running. In 2018, Chinese buyers accounted for roughly 25% of total foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate. Chinese residential real-estate investment is highly concentrated on the Pacific Coast. Nearly 40% of Chinese buyers have purchased in California.

New investments destinations

Chinese property investors are shifting their focus on Portugal and Singapore as alternative investment locations from the US, Australia, and Britain amid concerns about tense trade relations.

OFDI (Outbound Foreign Direct Investment) has skyrocketed, in barely a decade Chinese OFDI went from virtually nothing to over $100 bn per year which has fuelled this dramatic growth.


Investment into overseas residential/commercial real estate has hit a record $33 bn, rising by more than half last year. Most notably this accounts for a third of the total OFDI, the highest percentage to date. The discerning Chinese realize investment into bricks and mortar is the safest way for the preservation of assets, particularly in the lucrative Real Estate markets of North America & urban centers in Europe as well as Australia.

When it comes to residential developments this is not surprising, with rising standards of living, priorities around education and lifestyle shifting to the forefront of investors’ minds, as well as a depreciating Yuan.

There is no doubt that China will be major movers of capital into Real Estate for many years to come but how do you attract investment to score a slice of this pie?


China now boasts a 65% internet penetration rate with over 900 million Chinese users connected online. There are approximately 350 million ‘middle-upper class’ individuals active online in China daily. To generate qualified investment prospects from the top wealth bracket (for example the upper 25 million) you need to develop a comprehensive digital strategy. Why? Because the Chinese Market is unique & developed under its own set of conditions. The development of global, digital technology coincided with the accumulation of levels of wealth in China. Online research became more deeply entrenched in the investors’ mind, regardless of the traditional commission focused, the sales network of agents.


In China the answer for lead generation is digital (in 2020), this is one of the most online-centric environments in the globe & Investment is no exception, there is a strong culture of online research with the average user spending 1.5 hours per day browsing for information.

The traditional commissioned focus sales network of agents is not redundant in China. Indeed an online strategy supports their sales efforts BUT relying solely on third-party sales certainly has its issues.


Firstly sales agents do not do digital marketing, they build offline networks which severely limits exposure without an online presence. It is difficult for an agent to sell a project in such an online-focused society without online exposure, even after a personal recommendation Chinese investors will typically research online via Baidu.


Secondly, I have heard countless complaints first-hand of a ‘race to the bottom’, that is poorer quality service, price-cutting, and ruthless sales tactics at any cost. Outsourcing to third parties in this way does not allow serious Real Estate professionals control over customer service, their brand image, or management over further prospective buyer references.


In China, the best approach is to use sales agents to compliment & support direct online lead generation. The figures speak for themselves, a comprehensive campaign can drive 100 leads per month, a sales agent typically provides between 1-3. You also then have control of customer service and the sales conversion process, many firms such as DAMAC, RS Properties, and Douglas & Elliman all built Chinese customer service teams to handle conversion directly. Higher lead figures & direct, in-house sales increases the likelihood of conversion.


The discerning investor buys into the reputation of your brand. You need to be reputable and visible on the right platforms, direct lead generation via your own website and accounts allows you to control that first impression (you are not just a page in a portfolio), rather you have a strong identity in your own right.


Over-reliance on sales networks can be dangerous for any serious Real Estate firm seeking to seriously penetrate this market. Building a Chinese customer service team in-house allows you to control communications, importantly you can also benefit from investor referrals and re-direct interested parties for your own listed projects.

A third party, the sales agent has no loyalty to provide referrals to you, rather they remain a gatekeeper with the power to push sales in one direction or another, most typically just based on commission. To take the most referrals you must increase commission rates.

With direct lead generation, what you save on commission you invest in marketing strategy to dramatically increase lead numbers (hot in 2020)


You need a quality site that is built as a ‘vehicle for visibility’ on Baidu (China’s Google).

How is this achieved? The site needs to be optimized & audited on the ‘back end’ (meta tags/descriptions/titles etc) for the most effective Mandarin Chinese searches.

All Lead Gen in China starts with Chinese character searches.  

The website needs to be optimized for speed of load;

An Ideal Site Built for Baidu;

  • 8-10 Pages
  • Keyword repetition in-line with selected keywords
  • A static site, i.e avoid video’s and complex graphics
  • Internal links to other relevant pages
  • Content Rich.. I prefer a Wiki style content presentation.

See below for two examples of sites developed.

A more simple presentation is far better for search engine visibility in China.

Ronald Serry Australian Property feature a Baidu ‘Live Chat’ tool for engaging in live web communications, an effective lead generation tool.

 A sample landing page developed for Damac, note the simple, static layout, search bar for property enquires & pop up live chat tool.


The two main ways to make contact via the site should be a traditional ‘lead generation form’, in China it is also advisable to embed QR code links to drive traffic directly to your WeChat account as an additional method of contact.

You can also note the benefit of the ‘Baidu Live Chat’ Tool. This allows you to make contact while investors browse your content, portfolio etc. Rich in content equals longer time spent browsing and the greater the likelihood of contact via liva chat tools.


hy such an emphasis on Baidu? Because it’s a powerful portal to investors. Consider that 75% of all property and investment research is carried out via Baidu. This is China’s largest search engine and you must be highly visible and reputable here.

Baidu visibility falls into two categories;

In Real Estate PPC (Pay Per Click) is actually very effective from my experience. In drives highly qualified, knowledgeable and specific enquiries.

Think middle to bottom of the lead funnel.

PPC will place you at the top of search feeds based on a pre-determined selection of Chinese keywords.

With PPC the most important aspects to consider are;

  • Keyword Bidding Prices
  • Link Monitoring
  • Ad Copywriting
  • Quality Feedback, Reporting + Analysis

There have been fears in China of ‘click fraud’ (i.e. competitors falsely clicking on web pages to drive up numbers). A quality agency needs to monitor click through rates to ensure they do not suddenly ‘spike’ or dramatically alter.

PPC ad link appears at the top of the search results based on targeted keywords


Search Engines are the heart of Chinese Real Estate Researching. Baidu rankings are as important as your google ranking. Search on Google and you will find only the most reputable players in the industry in the natural results, in China it is no different.

How do you rank higher in the natural results on Baidu?

  • Content is king, quality Chinese content is rewarded with higher positioning
  • Backlinks are vital, other reputable sites with ranking need to link to your site
  • Meta Tags/Descriptions/Title Keywords need to be in-line

Natural results are where the most serious prospects are generated. Discerning investors will research via Baidu extensively before coming to any decision.

Ronald Serry Property Ranking Third on the First Page in the natural results based on the keyword ‘Australian Real Estate’


Search Engines are the heart of Chinese Real Estate Researching. Baidu rankings are as important as your Google ranking. Search on Google and you will find only the most reputable players in the industry in the natural results, in China it is no different.

How do you rank higher in the natural results on Baidu?

  • Content is king, quality Chinese content is rewarded with higher positioning
  • Backlinks are vital, other reputable sites with ranking need to link to your site
  • Meta Tags/Descriptions/Title Keywords need to be in-line

Natural results are where the most serious prospects are generated. Discerning investors will research via Baidu extensively before coming to any decision.

A sample News App Add (center article). The Advertorial is inserted into the news feed of targeted readers. Appearing as news legitimizes your project and brand name.


WeChat certainly enjoys a powerful international reputation, it is primarily a branding & sales tool when it comes to Real Estate. For the sales process, it is indispensable but for a lead generation far less effective.

Why is this? WeChat is a closed network, this means users can only see content posted if they are already connected with you. The search function on WeChat is very basic so currently one cannot appear from keyword searches (remember this is the primary strategy in China for Real Estate).

It’s great once you have attracted the lead to begin conversations via WeChat, firms may use WeChat in the following ways;

  • Send portfolios/investment opportunities
  • Send property floor plans
  • Send short videos for viewings
  • Voice/video/text message prospects

For communications set up some WeChat customer service accounts (if budget more limited), if the budget stretches it is worth setting up an official account that can be used to push content to followers, this is a long-term process as you have to increase your following over time but it does allow for users to re-share content on their feeds which can lead to referrals.

Some agents swear by WeChat for referrals but they have a large network already, you have to invest in social media to build this before WeChat can be a successful lead generation tool.

When it comes to seeking investment opportunities there are many forums popular with the Chinese. These forums often take the form of a Q&A format with users posting questions for others to answer.

In forums such as Baidu Tieba, Baidu Zhidao, Zhihu & Tianya you can create a positive reputation through user to user discussions.

Baidu Zhidao(Q&A): Is real estate investment profitable nowadays? Any advice on locations?

Zhihu (Q&A): How do I find the most valuable property?

Why are Forums effective?

  • There are many specific threads for buying a property in specific price ranges and regions with many targeted buyers both browsing and interacting here.
  • Positive comments about your business come from Chinese users themselves, this helps instil trust & reputation.
  • Forums rank highly on the Baidu search feed so comments and topics are highly visible.

Forum reputation is one of the most cost-effective ways for Real Estate projects to improve their standing & reputation online.


Research shows that Douyin search is rising, so it is extremely important to open a Douyin’s official account to let people find you when they look for your brand name on Douyin.

Douyin is the Chinese version of TikTok, and it’s an application to create and share short videos (about 15 seconds) with music in the background. Douyin as well as Toutiao suggest highly targeted content to its users. The more someone uses the app, the more the content suggested will be targeted, making it even more addictive, but also a great tool to display ads.

Toutiao is the largest news aggregation app in China. Toutiao offers three positions for Ads: Streaming feed Ad, News banner Ad, and App open-up Ad. It supports both pictures and videos display.

Besides the most common CPM and CPC, Toutiao provides 4 innovative ways for advertisers to bid the ad, i.e. oCPM, oCPC, CPA, and CPV.

  • oCPC(Optimized Cost per Click) is the same as CPC with paying per click, yet it additionally introduces an estimated conversion ratio based on audience behavior into its bidding model.
  • oCPM(Optimized Cost per Millennium) runs on the same mechanism.
  • CPA(Cost Per Acquisition) means advertisers pay only when the conversion(set by advertiser) is completed.
  • CPV (Cost Per View) only supports video ads. A view is counted when the video ad has played for 10 seconds.

Toutiao ads are cost-effective and they have a better exposure because they are presented to users as news.


The most important element of a good PR campaign is to localize your project with trending news in China, this increases the relevancy of your message in relation to the reader & dramatically increases the share rate and levels of readership.

For example, news can be tied in with:

  • Trending Topics & Keywords
  • Breaking Chinese News Stories
  • National Days of Holiday in China
  • Well known Chinese figures in your field
  • Local celebrity endorsements

PR is an essential element of a campaign but you need quality bi-lingual copywriters to ensure your message is communicated most effectively.


This market is undeniably lucrative for savvy firms but also fiercely competitive. Simply relying on sales agents is not enough for long term growth, particularly when it comes to brand reputation. Serious players need to invest in their own online growth in such a digitally orientated market place.

We are a specialist Real Estate team with 5 years of experience in the Chinese market, we understand this target demographic and how to reach them. Please contact me and the team for an in-depth discussion on how to further your interests in China.

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