A domain name for China provides an advantage for companies doing business in the Middle Kingdom. Since you don’t need a Chinese business registration, having a .cn domain for your Chinese website can certainly give it an extra push on Baidu and other Chinese platforms.
Top Level Domains in China
While .cn is the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for the People’s Republic of China, further options include .中国, and .com.cn.
Generic second-level domains include .com.cn (industrial, commercial, financial enterprises, individuals), .edu.cn (educational institutions like universities), and .org.cn (non-profit organizations).
How to Register a CN Domain
While anyone regardless of their nationality and location across all industries – from IT to retail and manufacturing – can register a .cn domain for website and email use, a name verification of the person registering the domain must be done at the CNNIC after the purchase, before you can actually start using the domain (changing the DNS settings). This verification process helps to underline the trustworthiness of your business. In comparison, this verification process is not required for the standard ccTLD registrations around the world.
The Chinese domain name administration is managed through the Ministry of Industry and Information. And the registry is maintained by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).
While the process has been simplified over the last years, there are still a few technicalities you need to be aware of as registering a .cn name is different than for example registering a .us domain. Since 2012, international companies without a business license in China can also buy a .cn domain.
- To register, go directly to www.cnnic.com.cn or use one of 60+ registrars that are accredited by the CNNIC like GoDaddy or Alibaba Cloud. Beware of unaccredited “registrars” as there are a number of scams around registering Chinese domains. Other than that, purchasing your desired .cn domain is similar to buying any other domain.
- Fill out the registration form. If your domain name is still available, you can complete the purchase of your desired Chinese domain. However, before you can start using it, you have to verify it.
- For the verification, simply submit the registration form with your personal name and ID (passport, driving license, etc.) to the CNNIC. It is not necessary to submit the name or details of your business. Keep in mind that the approval process can take up to two weeks.
Next look at a few things to keep in mind when registering a Chinese domain.
Tips for Your Domain Name for China Registration
- Trademark registration in China is independent of domain name registration. To protect your brand, registering your brand in China before entering the market is highly recommended. Non-Chinese individuals must submit the trademark registration for their brand to the Trademark Office of China (CTMO) via an accredited agent. A China expert like China Gravy can help you with this step.
- Registration for .cn domains is based on a first come first serve basis. Therefore, large international corporations like Samsung or Motorola typically register a number of .cn domain names with different variations and combinations of their brand name and keywords to avoid them being registered by others.
- If you suspect that your trademark/legal right has been breached as a result of a particular domain name being registered by another party, you can consult a lawyer. However, this is a lengthy and costly process.
- Keep in mind that owning a .cn domain means that the local laws apply to your business.
Unfortunately, there are a number of scams related to registering a Chinese domain. We’ll walk you through the most common fraud attempts, so you are prepared.
Beware of Scams!
Chinese companies and individuals who claim to be authorized registrars or other officials may approach foreign companies, claiming that a third party has applied for a Chinese domain name with their company name or main keywords. If you don’t have any registered Chinese domain names, simply ignore these requests, and, if you can, report them to the CNNIC.
Another version of this scam is claiming that the company’s Chinese domain name will expire soon and that renewal fees must be paid. However, the only entitled renewal payment collector is the same registrar with whom the registration was originally made. If you are unsure, confirm the registrar, expiration date, and payment due with the CNNIC.
While it is not a “scam” per se, cybersquatting or domain squatting is a common malpractice in China. Individuals purchase and “block” potentially sought-after domains and/or trademarks with the hope of selling it for far more than the actual price that they are worth. Large international and renowned companies may pay the thousandfold of the original domain purchase price in order to do business in the Middle Kingdom.
Registering a 中国 Domain
Since 2010, .中国 (Simplified Chinese) and .中國 (Traditional Chinese) are also available as top-level domains in Chinese characters. So, how do you register such a domain name for China? The process for registering a .中国 or .中國 is the same as described above for the .cn domain. However, these Chinese domain names are not very common and don’t improve the ranking on Baidu and other search engines.
A website with a .cn domain can help you to grow your business in China. Whether you have been active in China for a while or just getting started, a .cn domain will get you ahead of the game on Baidu and other Chinese search engines, including built-in search functions on China’s popular social media apps like WeChat and Weibo.
If you are serious about targeting the Chinese market, registering a .cn domain is highly recommended. It tells your audience that you are committed to the Chinese community and that your business is legitimate (through the ID verification process). Likewise, trust is built as having a .cn domain subjects a business to the local laws, putting Chinese consumers at ease.
Besides, a .cn domain enables you to host your website in mainland China, but you need an ICP license. Having your online business running on a local host server is basically required when targeting the Chinese market extensively. This ensures that your site loads fast, is easily accessible, and not blocked by the Great Firewall of China. However, hosting your site outside of mainland China is the preferred method, as you don’t need an ICP license, which includes the lengthy and costly process of registering a Chinese company.
With a Chinese website on a .cn domain you can better reach your audience on Chinese social media and on Baidu, the most popular search engine in China. That’s because Baidu and other search engines like Sogou give preferred rankings to websites with Chinese domain names (besides other aspects of search engine optimization). Therefore, Baidu SEM (SEO, PCC) is a great way to boost your brand in China.
When designing your Chinese website, make sure that it loads fast, is responsive (mobile-first) and localized, and uses a fast Cloud server together with a CDN provider (optional if the target audience is also outside of mainland China and if there are no harmful domains on the CDN IP).
The advantages of .cn domains are a local ranking boost, as it is for all ccTLDs around the world in the respective country. However, you can still use .com to do business in China. For example, Baidu, Sogou, Weibo, and so on all only use .com domains.
Domain Name for China – The Takeaway
Having a Chinese domain like .cn or com.cn helps your brand to maximize the business opportunities in the Middle Kingdom. The advantage to .com domain names is a small ranking boost on Chinese search engines and social media because of higher trust and a larger focus on China.
That’s because China’s most popular search engine Baidu and its competitors slightly favor sites with a Chinese domain name. Likewise, the most popular Chinese social media apps like WeChat and streaming platforms like TikTok/Douyin favor businesses in their built-in search functions and promotion spaces that have a closer relation to China than foreign-only only businesses.