How to Create (SEO-friendly) Chinese URL

Key Takeaways:
⭐️ Using non-English words (including Chinese character) in URLs is fine as long as the URLs are valid and unique
⭐️ You can also use either the Pinyin or Cantonese transcription or English translation instead of Chinese characters to avoid confusion.
⭐️ English URL slug (translation) is recommended as it is easier to maintain, tends to be shorter and less prone to error.

Creating SEO-friendly URLs may feel intimidating – especially if you’re using characters from non-latin languages, such as Chinese. Fortunately, with some careful planning and knowledge of what works best in terms of online visibility, it’s not as challenging as it seems. 

In this blog post, I will share my experience in how to create effective SEO-friendly Chinese URLs so you can get optimal results in organic search traffic while still improving user experience.

Read on if you’re ready!

The Impact of Chinese Unicode on URLs

Unicode is a universal character encoding standard that assigns unique codes to all characters used in digital communication. In other words, Unicode ensures that any character, including Chinese characters, can be successfully represented in any electronic system. Chinese Unicode is a subset of Unicode that specifically encodes traditional and simplified Chinese characters – the system assigns a unique codepoint to every Chinese character in existence.

HTTP URLs typically contain a master domain and a path with several parameters. To represent a Chinese character in a URL, an encoding system such as UTF-8 is used to convert the character into a codepoint that can be understood by web browsers and servers.

On screen港聞
When you copy and paste

In the above example, 港聞 is encoded as %E6%B8%AF%E8%81%9E – from 2 Chinese characters into 18 Latin characters.

🔖 Read more: The Unicode® Standard Version 15.0 – Core Specification, Chapter 18 East Asia

Will using Chinese characters in URL harm SEO?

In short, using Chinese characters won’t harm your SEO effort.

When setting up your website for a non-English-speaking market, it may be unclear if their language can be used for URLs – especially Chinese characters are non-Latin characters.

In a video by John Mueller, he explained the implication of using non-Latin characters in URLs:

  • If URLs remain valid and unique, there should be no problem. 
  • Google uses URLs to address content and crawl pages. Both escape and Unicode versions work for Google and are equivalent. Non-Latin characters in domain names are represented through Unicode encoding. 
  • URLs can use UTF-8 encoding for non-Latin characters.
  • Dashes are usually easier to recognize than underscores when separating words in URLs. 
  • Use language-appropriate URLs for multilingual sites. 

Should I use English or Chinese characters in my URLs?

From my experience, using Chinese characters or English don’t impact much on your ranking. I’ve seen sites with Chinese or English URL ranking well , so it is totally up to your preference.

Personally I would go for an English URL though because:

  • It’s easier to understand what the page is about at the first glance
  • It’s easier to maintain and track performance if you have a multilingual site
  • It would provide a better experience for users when they copy and paste your URL
  • The URL tends to be shorter if you only use English
  • It could avoid mistakes when doing internal linking (you might simply left out 1 or 2 characters and created a 404 error page when you use encoded URL)
  • It is hard to decide when to use hyphen to separate different word when using Pinyin or Jyutping
  • There’s isn’t a standardised Cantonese romanisation system

Tips on Optimising Your URLs for Chinese websites

Optimising your website with Chinese URLs can help improve your visibility and reach in the Chinese market. Here are some tips to optimise your website with Chinese URLs:

1. Understand the market

Before you begin optimising your website, it’s important to have a good understanding of the Chinese market, including its culture, language, and user preferences.

Conduct market research and identify your target audience to tailor your optimization efforts accordingly. For example, if you are targeting the Hong Kong market, you shouldn’t use Pinyin transliteration as Cantonese is the most widely spoken language in the area.

Also, check the competitors in your niche and see what the common practices are and decide what might be the best to go for.

2. Follow URL-naming best practices

It doesn’t matter much whether you use Chinese characters, pinyin or English in your URL, as long as it conforms to semantics and the URL is not particularly long. However, choose the one you’d prefer and make sure it is consistent across the whole site. 

Use UTF-8 encoding as necessary and don’t use non-ASCII characters in the URL.

And most importantly, don’t forget to follow the URL-naming best practices:

  • Keep it simple and concise
  • Use lowercase letters
  • Avoid special characters
  • Focus on site hierarchy
  • Avoid changing URLs after publishing a page
  • Double-check your CMS suggestions
  • Remove dynamic parameters

🔖 Read more about Google’s documentation on URL structure

3. Use keywords

Conduct keyword research specifically for the Chinese market. If you are targeting Chinese-speaking audience across multiple regions, consider using a keyword research tool that shows global volume for a Chinese keyword. Identify relevant keywords and incorporate them into your website’s URL structure. This will help improve your website’s visibility in search engines. 

4. Add location information

If your business operates in a specific location, consider adding your location information to your URL. This can help you rank higher in local search results, making it easier for potential customers in your area to find you online.

5. Use a .cn domain

If you are targeting China instead of the overseas Chinese-speaking market, consider using a .cn domain extension when creating a URL for your Chinese business. This domain extension is specific to China and is recognized by Chinese search engines. It can also help you build trust with your Chinese audience, as it confirms that your business is registered in China.

6. Implement HREFLANG tags

HREFLANG tags help search engines understand which language and region your web pages are targeting. Implement HREFLANG tags on your website to indicate that specific pages are targeting Chinese users. This will improve the relevancy and visibility of your website in Chinese search results.

Create SEO-friendly URL for your Chinese-speaking audience

Using Chinese characters in your URLs does not necessarily harm your SEO. There are various routes you can take when determining what words or phrases to use for your webpages’ URLs. Writing them in either English or Chinese is a delicate process that should be done with thought and intention. 

If you are targeting a primarily Chinese-speaking audience, then using Chinese characters in your URLs may be beneficial as it allows them to better understand the content structure of your website.

However, if SEO is your main concern or you are primarily targeting a multilingual audience, then sticking with English characters in your URLs may be the best choice. 

No matter which route you take, making sure each URL is structured properly can help scenarios for optimisation – both for native users as well as search engine robots – while also boosting user experience and bringing more organic traffic to your site.

If you are ever uncertain on how to best optimise your website’s URLs for Chinese websites, consider asking a professional to help guide you through the process.

FAQs on Chinese URL

Can Chinese characters be in URL?

Yes, you can use Chinese characters in URL and it will be encoded using UTF-8 usually. However, it is not recommended as you will drastically lengthen your URL and it’s more prone to errors.

Does UTF-8 include Chinese?

Yes, UTF-8 includes Chinese characters.

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey is an SEO Consultant with 5+ years of B2B and B2C marketing experience.