Alibaba IPO is approaching – Tracking their path to success

Alibaba Group is tantalizingly close to filing its U.S. IPO which experts predict will be one of the biggest ever. Despite all this attention, they’re still concentrating on the day job as shown by their recent $1.1 billion dollar purchase of the Chinese cable TV company Wasu Media Holding Co. Intrigued by their rise to the top, I decided to examine their success using SimilarWeb PRO to analyze their traffic stats


Based in Hangzhou, China, Alibaba Group was founded in 1999 by Jack Ma with a business to business portal (Alibaba) which allowed Chinese manufacturers to liaise with foreign buyers. This was soon followed by the formation of Taobao who operate in a similar fashion to eBay and Amazon. Further services have since been launched such as the escrow website Alipay and luxury Western products outlet


Alibaba Stats

Visits to between Oct ’13 – Mar ’14 by SimilarWeb PRO

Alibaba was the first step in the group’s meteoric rise, so I’ll concentrate on their statistics to see what light this can shed on their marketing strategies. SimilarWeb PRO shows that Alibaba averages around a massive 4.3 million views per day and have high rankings globally, by country and in their category. These figures indicate that Alibaba have been using very successful strategies which have managed to engage consumers and manufacturers.

Traffic sources


Traffic sources for between Oct ’13 – Mar ’14 by SimilarWeb PRO


Breakdown of organic vs paid non-branded traffic for Alibaba between Oct ’13 – Mar ’14 by SimilarWeb PRO

Such high amounts of traffic got me thinking about the channels this was reaching Alibaba through. Using SimilarWeb PRO, I ran a quick check on the traffic channels and found that over half the traffic reaching Alibaba was via search engines. I investigated this further and discovered that over 98% of search traffic was organic, so this illustrated that Alibaba have managed to build a brand where people are actively searching for it rather than relying on paid ads to direct them there.


Top 10 non-branded keywords for between Oct ’13 – Mar ’14 by SimilarWeb PRO

What keywords were bringing people to Alibaba though? I decided to search for all their non-branded keywords and found that the top 10 keywords were either variations on Alibaba such as ‘alibab’ or were translations of Alibaba in Arabic, Chinese and Russian. This highlights how successful Alibaba have been in connecting with foreign customers who make up major markets.

Engaging with foreign markets

Alibaba Country

Breakdown of top five visiting countries to between Oct ’13 – Mar ’14 by SimilarWeb PRO

Jack Ma had the foresight to see how e-commerce could open China’s manufacturing sector to the rest of the world and this has proved to be a highly successful online marketing strategy. The easy access in which foreign buyers can now access this sector is shown in the breakdown of countries visiting Alibaba. The top 5 visiting countries include some of the world’s biggest economies:  USA, Russia, Brazil and India. The influx of these buyers into the market have helped Alibaba grow and spread their brand around the world.



Top 5 referring sites to between Oct ’13 – Mar ’14 by SimilarWeb PRO

The second most successful traffic channel for Alibaba is via referrals which are responsible for over a quarter of visits to Alibaba. Interestingly, another successful online strategy has been employed here. Four of the top five referring sites are members of the Alibaba Group (Aliexpress, Alibaba-inc, Taobao and 1688) and shows how Alibaba ensures all their subsidiaries link back to the parent site when possible e.g. Aliexpress is primarily used for small transactions, so any large requirements detected will refer users to Alibaba.

Direct traffic

The final notable traffic channel is the direct visits channel. It only makes up just under 16% of the traffic for Alibaba, but when you consider that they receive around 4.3 million desktop visits a day, it becomes clear that they have a large and dedicated number of customers who have bookmarked Alibaba. This tells us that a successful offline strategy of customer service and a good brand building, have been implemented by Alibaba to ensure the brand recognition and good customers relation.

Future growth

Alibaba have tasted success very quickly and very successfully. The buzz around the company and their astronomical sales figures mean that their imminent IPO is due to be even bigger than the one initiated by Facebook in 2012. This success can be attributed to successful online marketing strategies over the last 15 years which have marked out Alibaba as the go to site for dealing with the burgeoning Chinese manufacturer sector. There is still plenty of room for growth though e.g. the high ranking of Arabic searches for Alibaba is not reflected in the top 5 visiting countries, so further markets require exploring.

About the Author -

A newcomer to the world of internet marketing, but gaining fresh insight at a rapid pace. A fan of changing technologies, writing to entertain and, most importantly, retro trainers. Based in the UK.

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