On the website of Hotsales, an online marketing agency, it reads that the search marketing service on Qihoo’s 360 Search will be officially open on January 1st, 2013. Reservations for account opening is available now. The back end system will be Dian Jing, e.360.cn, the self-serve search marketing system that was released in August, shortly after 360 Search’s launch.

Hotsales is one of the core partners to 3721, a search-like service Qihoo’s current CEO created years ago. It is expected that those old partners of 3721’s, if alive today, would also get on board. Qihoo is also open to other third-party agencies but requirements are strict, according to businesses who called in to Qihoo.

360 Search marketing is available on Hotsales. (img:hsliujun.com)

3721 was a browser tool bar plugin for searching for Chinese websites. Typing in certain Chinese characters relevant to a company, a user could reach the company’s website directly. 3721 charged companies who’d like to offer users easy accesses to their websites for key words — back then a majority of Chinese users had no idea of domain names and it was much easier for them to remember some Chinese characters. It turned out to be a competition to Baidu, who also charged companies for showing their websites with certain key words. The history-making competition between the two companies ended up with 3721 team’s breaking up with Yahoo! China who acquired them.

In 3721 times, Zhou Hongyi, its creator and current CEO of Qihoo, visited many second- or third-tier cities to teach those agencies how to sell key words to businesses. So agencies like Hotsales, who also sold key words for Google, Baidu and other search services later on, could be perfect matches for Qihoo search marketing business.

No AdSense-style Ads

So far it cannot tell how different the Dian Jing would be from the Baidu’s bidding system. Zhou made it clear that 360 Search would not do contextual advertising like Google’s AdSense or Baidu Union, saying “360 will try out a disruptive model“. What must be disrupting to Baidu is Qihoo’s declaration that 360 Search wouldn’t carry ads on medical care. Baidu has been accused of indulging frauds of medical care ads which contributes estimated at most 30% of its total revenues. Zhou also touted the security feature is where 360 Search can be different in user experience from Baidu.

That it claimed approaching 10% of market share in two months, which triggered a fierce response from Baidu that even blocked Qihoo from indexing content of its wikipedia-like service. Last week, Zhou met with media to “explain the business model of 360 Search”, saying he was reflecting on the marketing strategy. He was kind of regretted that they were too rushed, and the strong reaction from Baidu may hurt its own growth. “We stopped many promotional measures” — It’s unknown what ways Qihoo took apart from making its own search as the default choice on its browsers and other services, but Baidu must be careful guarding its realm.

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com

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