Expanding your business in China through digital platforms is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of the country’s ever-growing economy. However, as the world’s largest Chinese search engine, Baidu SEO has different rules and guidelines that you need to follow to be visible on their platform.
Baidu is China’s largest search engine with over 72% of the market share. It is the highly preferred search engine for Chinese netizens and processes an average of 6 billion searches per day. Baidu has over 218 million active daily users, which makes it essential for companies that want to enter the Chinese market to optimize their website according to Baidu SEO standards.
This guide will show you how to do just that. But first, let’s take a look at Baidu’s humble beginnings.
In this guide:
History of Baidu
In January 2000, Baidu was founded by Robin Li and Eric Xu. It is the earliest and leading search engine in China. Baidu’s mission is to make it easy for people to find information.
Baidu was originally just a search engine for large websites such as Sina or Sohu, but in 2001, Robin Li decided to start his own search engine geared toward the general public.
Three years and 25 million dollars after, Baidu was finally on the profitability threshold. During this time, investors advised Li to sell the company to other major tech companies including Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. However, Li convinced them to make an IPO in the Nasdaq of New York instead.
On August 5, 2005, Baidu shares went from 27 dollars to 122 dollars. This raised the value of the company to more than 4 billion dollars.
Today, with a market cap of $46.30 Billion Dollars, Baidu continues to be one of the most powerful companies not only in China but also worldwide.
The China Search Market
To understand Baidu SEO, you need to have a clear understanding of the Chinese search market. The Chinese search engine market is different from the Western one in many ways.
In 2021, China makes up for more than one-fifth of the four billion internet users worldwide. This gives China the largest online community in the world. And this number continues to grow as more and more people gain access to the internet.
The top three (3) most used search engines in China are:
- Baidu: with a market share of 72.2%
- Sogou: with a market share of 32%
- 360 Search: with a market share of 2.52%
As you can see, Baidu holds the vast majority of the search engine market in China. This is why optimizing your website for Baidu should be your number one priority if you want to enter the Chinese digital market.
Difference Between Chinese Search Users and the West
The Chinese search engine market differs from the Western one not only because of its size but also on how consumers use search engines.
One of the main differences is that in China, people use search engines to find all kinds of information, including product reviews, images, videos, news, and much more. Whereas in the West, people use search engines mostly to find websites.
Another distinction is that Chinese people are far more trusting of what they find on search engines. This is due to the fact that, in China, global search engines such as Google or Bing are inaccessible. So, the Chinese have grown to trust the results they see on Baidu.
This trust has led to different user behavior when it comes to search engines. In China, people are more likely to click on the first result they see on Baidu than in the West. Whereas in the West, people tend to scroll through the first page of results and click on the one they find most relevant.
This difference in user behavior has a significant impact on how companies should optimize their website for Baidu.
Introduction to Baidu SEO
Now that we’ve learned about the history of Baidu and the Chinese search market, it’s time to dive into Baidu SEO.
Baidu SEO is the process of optimizing your website to rank higher on Baidu’s search engine results pages (SERPs).
This may sound similar to how you would optimize your website for Google, but there are notable differences between the two search engines that you should be aware of.
First, Baidu offers more search results per page as compared to Google. Whereas Google shows 10 results per page, Baidu shows up to 30. This may not seem like a big difference, but it’s actually crucial when it comes to optimization.
Second, as we mentioned before, Chinese users trust what they find on Baidu and are will tend to click on the first result they see. This means that being the first result on Baidu’s SERPs is even more important than being the first on Google’s.
Lastly, Baidu puts more emphasis on the content of your website than on backlinks. In other words, having high-quality content is essential if you want to rank well on Baidu.
What are the Differences Between Google and Baidu SERPs
- Chinese Only
The interface is in Simplified Chinese only. It does not support other languages.
- Click Behavior
If you click on a SERP, the website is opened in a new window and keeps the Baidu window open for users in case they need to search further.
The majority of organic results include thumbnail images. Almost every search on the right side has related image-based research.
- Ad Declaration
It’s especially difficult to tell the difference between organic and sponsored results, more than in Google.
- Rich Snippets Frequency
Many of the rich snippets come from Baidu’s own properties, with some available to any site that uses the Baidu Open platform and others being paid advertising only accessible to a select few partner sites. Baidu’s usage of rich snippets has been one of the major challenges for China SEOs.
- Structured Data Implementation
Baidu has its own structured data platform which is Baidu Open or Baidu Webmaster Tools. The majority of Baidu’s rich snippets are custom-made for the company’s own properties and submitted manually by website owners.
- Mobile Search
The mobile search service at Google uses the same URL as the desktop version. Baidu’s mobile search engine is accessible at m.baidu.com.
- Transcoding of non-mobile friendly websites
Baidu may transcode your website if it is not mobile-friendly. However, expect that your content will automatically be hosted on Baidu’s servers. This happens without any action or approval by site owners.
- Baidu Trust System
Baidu employs a domain trust system in its SERP snippet, which displays the degree of confidence it has in a domain. Website owners are required to apply specifically for the badge (that comes with a fee). This is only available for paid search customers.
However, the effect of this badge on your organic ranking is unclear. Some analysts say it Baidu does not treat it as a ranking factor. However, having a badge to display can definitely improve your website’s search appearance and click-through rate.
Differences in Baidu and Google’s Algorithm
Now that we understand the difference between Baidu and Google in SERPs, let’s take a look at how the two differ in terms of algorithm.
Baidu is primarily a Chinese search engine. Therefore, it is expected to have a massive explicit bias towards anything Chinese in its algorithm.
There are three primary areas where this manifests:
1. Language: as we’ve established, Baidu only supports searches in Simplified Chinese. This immediately cuts out a lot of international websites that don’t have versions in the language.
2. Geolocation: Baidu’s results are biased towards websites with a Chinese ccTLD (.cn) or those hosted in China. This is because Baidu assumption is that these websites are more relevant to users in the country than those with other domains or hosted elsewhere.
3. Chinese Content: Even if a website is hosted in China and has a .cn domain, if it doesn’t have Chinese content, it’s going to be at a disadvantage. This is because Baidu’s crawlers are set up to index Chinese language content more readily than anything else.
Since Baidu is just focusing on one language, it has gotten very sophisticated in parsing and understanding Chinese content. This is in contrast to Google, which has to deal with hundreds of languages.
Baidu employs a lot of Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to understand user queries better. For instance, it can handle synonyms and homonyms very well. If you search for “Apple” on Baidu, you will not only get results about the fruit but also about the tech company.
This level of language processing is something that Google is still working on for all languages, and it’s one of the reasons why Baidu has an advantage in China.
Identifying Duplicate Content
Baidu places a lot of emphasis on original content. As a result, it has gotten very good at identifying duplicate content and penalizing sites that host it.
This has been a problem for international companies trying to break into the Chinese market. If they simply translate their English content into Chinese, Baidu will likely flag it as duplicate and push it down in the SERPs.
To avoid this, it’s important to create Chinese content that is original and relevant to users in the country.
As a result, many websites started using these technologies to create dynamic and interactive pages that were not easily indexed by Google. This led to a competitive advantage for Baidu, as it was able to index this content more easily and accurately.
Baidu crawls websites more frequently than Google as there is more Chinese content on the web, and Baidu needs to index it more regularly to keep its results up-to-date.
As a result, Baidu is generally better at indexing new content quickly. If you have a website with fresh content, it’s more likely to be indexed by Baidu sooner than by Google.
Baidu puts more emphasis on backlinks from high-quality websites. This is likely because the Chinese web is more insular than the global web, and there are fewer high-quality international websites linking to Chinese websites.
As a result, it’s important to focus on getting backlinks from trusted and popular websites in China. This can be difficult for international companies, as they may not have many connections in the country.
Baidu’s image results are powered by a separate algorithm that is optimized for Chinese users. This means that it’s more likely to show images that are relevant to the user’s query and location.
The algorithm also takes into account the size, format, and resolution of the image, as well as the website that it’s hosted.
This is in contrast to Google’s image search, which is powered by the main search algorithm. This means that it’s more likely to show images that are popular on the web, regardless of their relevance to the user’s query.
Baidu has a reputation for penalizing websites with low-quality content. This is because there is a lot of low-quality content on the Chinese web, and Baidu is trying to surface the best results for users.
As a result, it’s important to make sure that your website’s content is high-quality and relevant to users. If not, you may be penalized by Baidu and pushed down in the SERPs.
Baidu puts a lot of emphasis on content freshness. This means that it’s important to regularly update your website’s content to ensure that it remains relevant and useful for users.
This is in contrast to Google, which gives more weight to the overall popularity of a piece of content. As a result, Baidu is generally better at surfacing new and relevant content.
Baidu gives more weight to websites with a long history. This is likely because these websites are more established and have more backlinks, which signals to Baidu that they are high-quality.
As a result, it’s essential to focus on building a website that will stand the test of time. This can be difficult for new websites, but it’s worth the effort if you want to rank well on Baidu.
Baidu uses meta tags to understand the content of a page. This is different from Google, which relies on the actual text of a page to understand its topic.
As a result, it’s important to include relevant and keyword-rich meta tags on your website’s pages. This will help Baidu understand what your pages are about and surface them in the SERPs.
Baidu is less tolerant of keyword stuffing than Google. This means that you should avoid cramming too many keywords into your website’s content.
Not only will this make your content difficult to read, but it will also trigger a penalty from Baidu.
Baidu Properties and How it Impacts Your Chinese SEO
Baidu has a number of properties that can impact your website’s SEO. These include:
- Baidu News
Baidu News is a news aggregator that shows the latest news stories from around the web. If your website’s content is featured on Baidu News, it will get a boost in the SERPs.
- Baidu Maps
Baidu Maps is a mapping service that is similar to Google Maps. If your website is listed on Baidu Maps, it will get a boost in the SERPs.
- Baidu Baike
Baidu Baike is a wiki-style website that allows users to create and edit entries on various topics. If your website is featured on Baidu Baike, it will get a boost in the SERPs.
- Baidu Zhidao
Baidu Zhidao is a question-and-answer website that allows users to ask and answer questions on various topics. If your website is featured on Baidu Zhidao, it will get a boost in the SERPs.
- Baidu Images
Baidu Images is a image search engine that is similar to Google Images. If your website’s images are featured on Baidu Images, they will get a boost in the SERPs.
- Baidu Tieba
Baidu Tieba is a social networking website that allows users to create and join forums on various topics. If your website is featured on Baidu Tieba, it will get a boost in the SERPs.
- Baidu Wenku
Baidu Wenku is a document sharing website that allows users to upload and share documents on various topics. If your website’s documents are featured on Baidu Wenku, they will get a boost in the SERPs.
- Baidu Open
The Baidu Open Platform is a set of APIs that allows developers to access various Baidu products and services. If your website uses the Baidu Open Platform, it will get a boost in the SERPs.
How to Rank in Baidu?
Ranking in Baidu is not as simple as it is in Google. This is because Baidu has a number of unique ranking factors that you need to take into account.
Here are some tips for ranking in Baidu:
- Make sure your website is well-designed and user-friendly.
- Publish high-quality, relevant and original content.
- Make sure your content is updated regularly so that it remains fresh and relevant.
- Focus on building a website that will stand the test of time.
- Include relevant and keyword-rich meta tags on your website’s pages.
- Avoid keyword stuffing and other black-hat SEO techniques.
- Make sure your website is listed on Baidu Maps, Baidu News, Baidu Zhidao, and other Baidu properties.
- Use the Baidu Open Platform to access various Baidu products and services.
By following these quick SEO tips, you can increase your chances of ranking in Baidu. However, it’s important to note that Baidu’s algorithm is constantly changing, so you need to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and updates.
This is where Cross Border Digital can help you. For years, we’ve been helping various companies outside of China in expanding their business to the Chinese market through effective Baidu SEO services. Our SEO team in Shenzen, Shanghai, and Beijing can help you optimize your website for Baidu and other Chinese search engines.
Baidu SEO can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. By following the tips in this article, you can give your website a boost in the SERPs.
If you’re interest to learn more about SEO in China or other digital marketing services, contact Cross Border Digital today. We’re a full-service digital agency that can help you with all aspects of your online marketing, from website design, Chinese paid search advertising to social media marketing and more.