Baidu is China’s number one search engine, but it is not quite ‘the Google of China’ hence, Google SEO strategies would not work the same. China has become a huge online market in the recent years since by the end of 2018, about 828.5 million people had access to the internet in China. The internet is an important medium to target the Chinese market. Thus, Baidu SEO or other China SEO strategies become important as more people use the internet. However, due to several barriers like language, bureaucracy and censorship, China is one of most complicated online markets.
For a foreign business to deliver a message on China’s internet, it is better to take advantage of the local Chinese search engine Baidu rather than Google. Baidu is the most popular search engine in China as the market share of Baidu in China is around 80% in 2018, way outscoring its competitors.
Baidu has always been the clear leader even if in 2013, Qihoo entered the market and took 10% of the market share. Thus, the best way of optimizing your China SEO is to optimize your website for Baidu SEO. If you do not adjust your strategy for China SEO you will lose approximately 700 million users.
How does Baidu compare to Google?
While Baidu has similar function as Google does, Baidu SEO strategy is different from Google SEO strategy. Baidu uses different algorithms compared than Google and is specifically designed for Chinese internet users. Also in a China SEO strategy, it is important not to overlook the cultural differences between the west and China, including different language, censored internet atmosphere and different user patterns. While there is a lot of internet coverage about Google SEO, less people have a clear understanding about Baidu SEO.
Get an ICP license to improve website performance in China
China’s internet is tightly controlled by the government. Thus, getting an ICP (Internet Content Publishing License) in China could improve Baidu SEO performance. Getting an ICP license is the only way for a legitimate Chinese hosting company to host your website on their servers. Because of the Great Firewall in China and an increasing number of blocked foreign websites, the best way to stay in the competition and stand out is to have a Website in China or at least using a test to see if your website is blocked. This will allow you to avoid some severe penalties given to foreign-hosted website because the Chinese government prefers to be able to reach any website visible in China and so does Baidu. As a consequence, if your website is not hosted in China you are penalized on the SERP and your loading time will be slow. In other words, obtaining an ICP license means much faster loading time for internet users compared to websites without an ICP license.
As a result, Internet users in China are more likely to not only find, but also return to websites with an ICP license. Having an ICP license positively affects Baidu SEO performance. However, the ICP license is only available for Chinese registered companies. While not having an ICP License is not absolutely necessary for Baidu SEO, since Baidu will not block websites for lacking an ICP license.
Using Chinese language is important
It seems to be obvious, but some people overlook it. The only official language, which is the language used and recognized by Baidu, is simplified Chinese. In addition, it is preferable to use a native speaker instead of using Google translation to create and review the content on your website for better China SEO performance. Simply translating all the content is not enough, it has to be written by a native speaker, and the content has to be accurate and grammatically correct in order to optimize Baidu SEO.
The key role of keywords
Like other search engines, Baidu SEO cares about keywords. Contrary to Google, meta descriptions are important with title tags as well. In order to avoid penalties from Baidu, it will be important that you check that the keywords on-page matches the keywords off-page. Also, you might want to take advantage of the keywords tags even if this is not very important for rankings. Compared to Google, Baidu prefers precise and specific keywords. You need to have specific and detailed keywords for your website to be ranked higher.
Another factor concerning the algorithm of Baidu is the click-through rate (CTR). Due to that, in your strategy you have to optimize the content to encourage more clicks from the internet users. Also, your main tool concerning keywords will be the Baidu’s keyword research tool. It will allow you to have accurate data about the search trends in Baidu from the internet users.
Focus on domains and hosting
There is often a debate in SEO about local domains and local hosting but as Baidu is a Chinese company it favors elements in Chinese for better China SEO. The .cn domain could be important for good Baidu SEO, and the page load time matters for ranking as well.
However, obtaining a .cn domain could be a real challenge in terms of the administrative process. A lot of documents are required in order to apply for one .cn domain. Generally, you will have to find a partner or a local agency to take care of this task.
Google has a tool named Google’s knowledge graph while Baidu also has had a tool called “box computing” since 2009. It displays the relevant information and data on the search engine result page (SERP) above the main results.
This data will not be generated from the system automatically. Instead, it has to be submitted specifically to the platform, which is Baidu’s Aladdin platform. Aladdin is a platform that accepts data in XML form for display above Baidu’s normal search results. It’s also available for mobile which represents a huge potential in China.
Be part of the Baidu galaxy
When Google has a lot of products around its search engine (maps, Gmail etc.), Baidu also have other major products in addition to its search engine. Specifically, the Chinese search engine also has its own encyclopedia (Baike), its Questions and answers website (Zhidao) and its forum platform (Tieba). The thing is that Baidu generally put its own applications on the top of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Thus, in order to improve Baidu SEO, it is important to leverage Baidu’s other products. For example, if your company’s China SEO performance is not satisfying, try to establish a Baidu Baike page for your company.
Case study: Baidu vs Google
On Google and Baidu, the search results of the same question “Where to get vaccination in Shanghai” are different from platform to platform. Two differences here correspond to two points we mentioned above.
How do search results differ between Google and Baidu
For the question “where to get vaccination in Shanghai”, Google displays more general and systematic content about vaccination information in Shanghai related to clinics and hospitals. Baidu shows answers that repeat the exact wording of the question but do not necessarily answer the question. In terms of key words searching, Baidu is far behind in “Natural Language Processing”. Thus, the keywords for Baidu SEO need to be precise.
In Baidu’s search page, you can notice the content from Baidu’s other service platform has been prioritized in display. Specifically, Baidu prefers links from Baidu Zhidao, Baidu Jingyan etc. even though the content is over five years old. This shows utilizing Baidu services is important in improving China SEO performance.
Social Media Optimization
Social media plays an important role in the digital marketing nowadays. Thus, managing social media will also be an important part in improving your China SEO strategy. Famous SNS like Facebook or Twitter are censored in China, but Baidu partnered with Sina Weibo one of the most successful social networks in China. It will allow indexing Weibo posts in Baidu’s results pages. Besides that, WeChat is also a popular social media platform in China.
Thus, if you want to optimize Baidu SEO performance, playing around with different social media platforms.
Other tips to success in China SEO
SEO for Baidu: Use Baidu’s Webmaster tools and submit a site map. Make up-to-dated contents with good quality and good quantity.
Follow Baidu’s SEO rules to rank high
Previous market studies from daxue consulting reveal that there are not a lot of differences between Google and Baidu SEO. The key is to adapt your tactics and follow the specific rules for Baidu. Improving your Baidu SEO strategy could improve your business’s digital marketing campaign in this fast growing country.