Do you know NIU? Well you should! It is a Chinese start-up that is trying to make electric scooters as high-profile as Tesla made the electric car. It made a successful IPO in New York some months ago (October 19, 2018). Produced in the southeastern Chinese province of Jiangsu, NIU scooters stand out from other brands in China for their sleek, sporty design, relatively higher quality, customer service, and technology that guards against theft. Consider NIU as the “Apple of scooters”. Now obviously I am eager to learn how its global website is performing. So here are my first thoughts.
Global ambitions and a global website
NIU delivers the best electric vehicle in the two-wheel class powered by a Bosch Electric Motor and Panasonic Lithium Battery. This startup wants to make China’s electric scooters as desirable as iPhones. NIU was co-founded in 2014 by Baidu's former chief technology officer, Li Yinan, and Token Yilin Hu, formerly of Microsoft China. In the first three years, NIU has produced and sold over 500,00 electric scooters that have driven over 1 billion kilometers. All sales were made in China. Since late 2018 NIU has set its sights globally, hoping to capitalize on the growing electric scooter trend around the world. To support their global ambitions, NIU launched various country-specific websites.
NIU makes great use of the Hreflang annotation. Google introduced the new x-default hreflang annotation. Thanks to this markup, webmasters can specify international landing pages. Google will use this information to display the most relevant page in the search results.
A lot of international businesses use a landing page on their websites which redirects visitors to local pages. This can either be done via a redirect to a language-specific page or by changing the language of the content. By directing their customers to local pages, they can change their content to better suit the needs of these target groups.
There are plenty of examples of websites that have an international landing page: Apple, Tiffany & Co, Samsung, the list goes on. Most global brands have this sort of page. So does NIU:
Let’s say that a global online retailer is also active in the United States and the United Kingdom. When customers visit the website (retailer.com), they can choose a country. Customers from the US are redirected to retailer.com/en-us and visitors from the UK are redirected to retailer.com/en-gb.
http://retailer.com - International landing page with a country selector.
http://retailer.com/en-us - For customers from the United States.
http://retailer.com/en-gb - For customers from the United Kingdom.
In a previous article we already learned that the rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” annotation can be used to identify alternative versions of the same content in a different language. So we’ll find the following code on the US page:
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-GB" href="http://retailer.com/en-gb" />
This is very useful for pages which target a certain region, but it can’t be used for international landing pages because they don't target a specific language. That’s where the new x-default hreflang attribute comes in handy. Now, for the landing page we can use the following code:
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="x-default" href="http://retailer.com/" />
This piece of code signals that the landing page doesn't target any specific language and is the default page when no other page is better suited.
How does Google use this information? If someone from the US or UK searches for the site, Google will show the corresponding page (http://retailer.com/en-us and http://retailer.com/en-gb respectively). But if someone from Germany or Canada searches for the site, Google will display the international landing page. These annotations ensure that visitors can reach the most relevant page.
NIU has been releasing various international press releases in 2018. They also participated in lots of interviews. This all paid off very well, resulting in an enormous growth in inbound links.
Where most Chinese brands lack a good strategy for Instagram and other social media channels, NIU is fully leveraging on it.
NIU knows what they are doing. NIU has global sales ambitions and is supporting that with a truly global website strategy. Their international websites are well built and make use of all commong global SEO tactics.
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