Reaching more than 1.1 billion devices, Baidu is the king of Chinese search engines. Like Google, its name is a verb, meaning “the persistent search for the ideal”. But there are significant SEO differences between the two. And if you want to be found online, you’ll need to adapt.
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Baidu SEO - Enter Into China Market
China. The most populous country in the world. A place where over 640 million internet users buzz away amid an ever-changing sphere of innovation and evolution presenting boundless opportunity for businesses and consumers alike. What’s not to get excited about?
For businesses both domestic and international, or anyone with an involvement in the digital world; China should not be ignored. Yet, when we think of China we think of complexity, cultural differences, internet censorship, language difficulties and more. With the Builtvisible guide to Chinese SEO and Baidu, we’ll show you what you need in order to navigate through the maze of the Chinese internet and obtain the visibility you deserve China-side; be it through correct Baidu SEO optimisation or localised content marketing campaigns.
This guide aims to inform anyone considering embarking on a digital strategy in China with a series of useful insights on the structure and make-up of Baidu, how to rank on Baidu, insights into content research and marketing in China as well as ongoing cultural considerations to take into account. Given Baidu’s dominance in the Chinese world of search we’re going to be focusing on it rather a lot, and for anyone unfamiliar with China’s Google here a few introductory bullet points:
Launched in 2000 in Beijing by Robin Li, with the name “Baidu” (百度) comes from a Song Dynasty poem in which the term is used to describe “a persistent search for the ideal”.
Around 80% total share of China’s search engine market, asserting dominance following Google’s exit of the market in 2010
Handles reportedly over 3.3 billion queries each day
36.5% of revenue came from mobile in 2014
How to get a Baidu account
Before we delve into Baidu SEO, Chinese content marketing and everything in between, we’re going to show you how to get a Baidu account. This will enable you to action a fair amount of what we’re going through in this guide, and will put you and your site in a handy position moving forward with Baidu SEO.
First, head to this page and fill out the parameters accordingly. Baidu allows you to sign up with verification via a Chinese phone number or, for those of us based elsewhere, by email (thankfully). Here’s a screenshot explanation:
You’ll then get a confirmation email from Baidu to activate your account.
And you’re done! Each time you navigate to a Baidu page or Baidu product page you’ll see your email address in the top right-hand corner, meaning you’re signed in as a Baidu user. If you ever got logged out, click on the login (登录) button in the top right hand corner as shown below.
A Basic Breakdown of the Baidu SERP
Let’s begin with a snapshot of a Baidu SERP to kick things off. Here’s what Baidu shows us when the term “SEO” in Chinese (搜索引擎优化) is searched for:
As you can see, Baidu, much like Google, employs a familiar two column structure. In this example, the SERP displays a variety of related (and sometimes paid) results on the right and what is a mixture of other types of paid results as well as some organic results on the left. What we want to focus on here is the incorporation of Baidu’s own products into the SERP – something of which this picture illustrates the significance when it comes to embarking on SEO for China.
Now, we all know that Google owns its fair share of products– YouTube, Maps, Flights, Docs, News and beyond. Of course, these do pop up in the overall SERP from time to time, however Google has strived to ensure these products a certain degree of their own space and independence outside of the overall SERP. Baidu entails a somewhat different approach however, allowing these sub-products a liberal amount of free-roaming in the SERP space, as illustrated above. In fact, it is estimated that around 30% of Baidu queries are redirected to one of Baidu’s own products, with the overall strength and trust of the domain resonating with Chinese users who often opt to rely on a trusted, dominant brand to find what they’re looking for. So what are these products, which ones deserve your attention, and crucially, how do we leverage them for optimisation? Let’s take a dive in.
As you’d guess, Baidu has its own maps service, video search (compiling videos from several major Chinese YouTube-esque platforms), news and documents tabs. There are of course countless others doing all manner of things (which can viewed here), but let’s take a look at three of the familiar characters that frequently stake their claim in the Baidu SERP: Baike, Tieba and Zhidao.
Key SEO and Algorithm Differences
While many of us are familiar with Google’s ranking factors and have a good understanding of the key on-page SEO measures to get your site ranking, there’s little out there in terms of resources with regards to what makes Baidu tick.
Thankfully, the mind-set remains largely the same, and in practice Baidu’s ranking algorithm isn’t too dissimilar to Google’s. However, there are of course some key differences to consider:
Site Architecture and Functionality
Keep it simple. At this stage, Baiduspider isn’t as developed as Google’s in terms of crawl power, and favours flat-structured sites in which content is accessible in as few clicks as possible (here’s a useful FAQ on Baiduspider in English).
Don’t use Frame and iFrame
Keep URL structure short and if possible, use Pinyin (Romanised version of Chinese characters).
Page Titles & Meta Data
Much like with Google, make sure title tags and meta data are unique, descriptive and is in keyword optimised Simplified Chinese.
Title tag character limit is 80.
Google may have renounced them from their ranking factor a while back, but meta descriptions and meta keywords do factor into ranking for Baidu.
Meta description character limit is 200, meta keywords is 100.
Alt tags and heading tags also have increased prominence in Baidu’s ranking algorithm – be sure to optimise in Chinese accordingly.
Link building is a key factor in Baidu ranking. While the general assumption is that it favours quantity over quality, this is becoming less prevalent with the introduction of recent spam-combating algorithm updates. We’ll look at those later (as well as a quick look at how to link build for Baidu), though here are some key considerations:
Target links from high-authority, industry-relevant Chinese-based sites.
Internal and external link anchor text remains of high importance.
In terms of internal linking, be sure that each URL you want to rank has at least one on-site link pointing at it.
Baidu does actually count non-hyperlinked URLs as links, allowing these to contribute to ranking.
As you would guess, it’s vital to ensure that your site content is written in unique, optimised Simplified Chinese.
Never rely on Google Translate for the creation of unique copy and ensure that what you’re writing is correctly localisedand is well-informed by keyword trends from Baidu’s keyword research tool.
In a similar vein to Google, Baidu also favours sites that frequently refresh their content, so ensure you’ve got an outlet such as a blog or news section to provide freshly optimised content every now and then.
Tags (hreflang, canonical etc)
Up until recently, Baidu didn’t support the canonical tag, however now it does.
Baidu also now supports the nofollow and noarchive tags
Much like Bing, Baidu doesn’t yet adhere to hreflang and so should instead incorporate the HTML lang attribute to define the language of the page e.g. html lang=”zh-cn”
For Baidu, it is best practice to procure a site that is hosted in China on a CN domain. However, this isn’t fully vital in achieving success in Baidu, and for businesses operating outside of China this can be tricky and a little frustrating as accessing Chinese-hosted sites from outside of China is a much slower affair. If possible, get your hands on a Hong Kong-hosted site; though a correctly Baidu-optmised CN sub-domain certainly won’t leave you out of the Baidu ranking race.
Baidu Keyword Research Tool
Google AdWords can be great for establishing some preliminary optimisation quick wins and informing future content strategies, and it does pull data through from China via Google Hong Kong. However, given that it has a minimal share in the Chinese search engine market, it’s never going to be wholly representative. With that in mind, we have to turn to Baidu’s very own keyword research tool which forms part of its PPC platform, Baidu Tuiguang/Phoenix Next (百度推广/凤巢).
Signing up for access is relatively straight-forward (and free), though the tricky part lies in possessing an 11-digit Chinese phone number in order to enter the security code sent to you by text once you’ve registered. Before we explore the keyword tool interface itself, here’s a step by step guide on how to get in.
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