In this module, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of SEO on China’s primary search engine Baidu. It’ll help your brand’s official Chinese website gain traction. As for SEM, you’ll get detailed guidelines for Baidu’s paid search options as well as knowledge about 3 other major search engines in China.
1. AN OVERVIEW OF SEO IN CHINA
We’ll focus on Baidu SEO, as it’s the leading search engine in China. In 2019, Baidu had a 70.3% market share, followed by Shenma (15.62%), Sogou (4.74%), 360 (4.45%), Google (2.57%) and Bing (2.01%).
How Baidu crawls and indexes website pages is quite different from the SEO algorithms you may be familiar with in the west. Let’s take the search engine results page (SERP) as an example.
The top ten organic sites may not appear on the first page of Baidu’s results as organic search results are interspersed with paid ads and websites hosted by Baidu, such as Baidu Baike and Baidu Images. For instance, a search for “钻石” (diamond) on Baidu produces a first page that shows 4 organic search results, 2 paid advertisements and 5 Baidu product results.
2. AN INTRODUCTION TO THE 4 MAJOR SEARCH ENGINES IN CHINA
There are 4 major search engines in China: Baidu, Shenma, Sogou and 360. Baidu has advantages in terms of popularity and efficiency. No matter how popular the keywords are, your site can get the top three ads on the first page, but it won’t be cheap. 360 is less popular than Baidu, making it much more affordable and less competitive. This is also why 360 has a much higher conversion rate than Baidu.
Sogou’s strengths are its wide coverage and coveted audience. Sogou ads appear on Sogou Search, Sohu Search, Sohu (one of China’s principal news platforms), Sogou Email and other channels that belong to the company. Sogou users have higher commercial value as they’re more concerned about business news.
Shenma is a much younger search engine that was launched in 2014. It stands out for its mobile-first approach and its precise targeting. Shenma can achieve precise audience targeting by region, time of day or device.
3. SEARCH ENGINE COMPARISON : BAIDU VS. GOOGLE
Meta-tags are important on Google and Baidu and websites with relevant meta descriptions rank much higher on Baidu. Most websites do such a good job of tailoring these for Baidu that you need to make sure your meta descriptions are top notch.
For images, as on Google, Baidu results are better when all the pictures on your websites contain highly relevant ALT text. For those who base their Chinese website on an existing website in another language, it’s very common that the ALT attributes are ignored. Make sure you’ve modified and checked all your ALT text to see how it’s working on Baidu.
Meanwhile, Baidu gives less importance to social signals than Google. That is, no matter how many retweets you have on Weibo, it won’t influence your website’s rank on Baidu.
4. OPENING A BAIDU ACCOUNT IN 5 STEPS
- Check your Chinese website and get it ready
- Check your location and contact your regional Baidu reseller
- Prepare and submit the required documents
- Sign a contract with Baidu and make the payment
- Get login information and activate your Baidu PPC account
5. SOME TIPS TO BOOST YOUR OPTIMIZATION FOR BAIDU
Use Simplified Chinese
Baidu has a preference for simplified Chinese and pays less attention to websites in other languages and scripts. Foreign websites are not the main demand of Chinese netizens. They load slowly if their servers aren’t based in mainland China and some are blocked. It can crawl through simplified Chinese content most easily. Although it can also deal with web pages in traditional Chinese and foreign languages such as English and Spanish, Baidu’s spider is slower with this content than Google or Bing.
Leverage Baidu Products
Create attractive, high-quality content on websites that are hosted by Baidu including, but not limited to Baidu Baike (Chinese Wikipedia), Zhidao (a Q&A platform) and Tieba (a forum). Baidu tends to place its own products before other search results if the content engages users and drives traffic, which can compound a brands’ ability to get exposure.
For example, when searching for “科罗娜” (beer brand Corona) on Baidu, the first result is from Corona’s Baidu Baike page, followed by related news from Baidu hosted websites, 3 e-commerce platforms, a positive review from Baidu Tieba’s beer forum and others.
It’s equally important to regularly monitor content on Baidu hosted websites, especially negative reviews and malicious comments. As an example of how this can play out, a local cosmetics retailer found that the traffic for his website had suddenly dropped dramatically. After doing some checking, he found that some negative comments from Baidu Zhidao were just beneath the results for his carefully optimized website on the first SERP.
Google places great importance on the performance of websites on mobile devices. Baidu values this factor even more. The same highly weighted website can have significantly different results on Baidu on a PC and on a mobile device. Moreover, if the website is too clunky for easy mobile access, Baidu will automatically compile the code and store it in their servers, making it hard for you to change the way it displays on mobile devices.
There are guides to the standards Baidu is looking for and plenty of articles with exhaustive technology checklists available online if your web developer needs to learn more about this.
The following tips and cautions will help you to better localize your websites in China.
- Domains: Baidu prefers the top-level domain “.cn” over “.com” and “.net”. Websites with “.cn” domains rank higher on the SERPs.
- Servers: Baidu prefers servers in mainland China or Hong Kong.
- Company address: Baidu prefers companies that have entities or contact addresses in China, so you should put local contact information on your website.
Want to learn more practical tips, step by step guidelines and best practices for SEO and SEM in China? Come and join our training sessions online or in person. Click here to find out more.
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