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Baidu is far and away the most popular search engine in China, but how does it differ from Google?

Here are eight simple tips to get you started with Baidu SEO...

In the near future, there’ll be more native Chinese speakers than there are native English speakers online (check out the numbers here). Internet access in China is soaring (for instance, last year 233m Chinese accessed the web using their mobiles alone), the Chinese middle class is growing all the time, and so is their disposable income.

No longer are emerging markets just the places businesses look towards for outsourcing and manufacturing, now these countries are the places where you want to be selling, and as we all know, making the move into foreign markets online is by far the least risky and expensive way to go about it.

Many businesses are currently looking at how they can attract customers in China, and let’s also take it as read that any business looking to step into the Chinese market will appreciate the necessity of having their website completely localised for the Chinese market. That means professionally translated content in Simplified Chinese, a website design that takes into account the aesthetic preferences of Chinese internet users, and a sales strategy aimed at Chinese buyers.

The next step, then, is to make sure you rank in the Chinese internet and potential customers can find you. Google’s battles with the Chinese government have been well publicised, but whether or not you think the search superpower has a solid chance of gaining supremacy in China, there’s no doubting that Baidu is the most popular search engine for that market, with 63% of the market share and gaining.

The reasons put forward for Baidu’s supremacy are many and varied; it may be due to the engine being optimised for Chinese characters, or perhaps it’s due to Chinese patriotism, or it could just be as simple as the fact that Baidu links directly to illegal MP3 downloads (and more than half of all Baidu searches are for MP3s).

So how does Baidu differ from Google? We know the essentials to winning with the Google algorithm; getting the right mix of long and short tail keywords, refining them regularly, link-building, local relevancy, regularly updated, useful content, etc but how does Baidu operate?

Well, here’s eight simple tips to get you started...

  • Baidu doesn’t seem to have the same PageRank inbound linking algorithm as Google does, so spending your time by building inbound links with relevant websites in the Chinese internet would largely seem to be a waste of your time, for SEO at least (never hurts to spread the word a bit). 
  • You’d be better off investing that time and money into your pay-per-click ad campaigns, as higher rankings are achieved solely by higher spend – the relevancy of the content to the search phrase isn’t counted in the way it is with Google.
  • Baidu actively censors its content in line with Chinese government regulations, so be very careful with what you put on your site – it would be well worth your time to look into China’s censorship regime to figure out what you can and can’t say before launching.
  • With Google, you can host your site anywhere and then set each subdomain’s location using the Geotargeting tool to specify which region it’s relevant to. Baidu doesn’t appear to offer the same service, so your best bet is to buy a Chinese top level domain and host it on a server in China. Luckily domains and hosting services are relatively inexpensive in-country.
  • Baidu still loves metadata. While Google has largely discounted the relevance of metatags, etc, Baidu still factors these into consideration...and remember that your metadata should be in Simplified Chinese, not English.
  • Keyword research. There are a few different ways to check what keywords are ranking on Baidu, for instance trends on the Baidu Index or the live keyword ranking feed, while Firefox has an extension that displays Baidu stats (a native Chinese speaker may come in handy for all these tasks).
  • Get ranked for your news posts and get more visitors by submitting your content updates to the Baidu News Protocol. 
  • Submit your site to Baidu. This might seem obvious, but if you don’t submit it for the spiders, you’ll never rank!
Christian Arno

Published 2 September, 2010 by Christian Arno

Christian Arno is Founder and Managing Director of Lingo24 and a contributor to Econsultancy. He can also be found on Twitter

23 more posts from this author

Comments (10)

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Connor Bringas

Wow I had no idea. I never really thought about other search engines or how popular they are in other languages. This was very interesting to read and broadened my view of seo. Thanks for the great info

almost 6 years ago

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Brian Hatano

Great content- I have recently considered looking into Baidu, so this was right on!  Just need to get a good Chinese partner now : )

Brian

almost 6 years ago

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Christian Arno

Connor - thanks for the kind words! Brian - feel free to contact us at Lingo24. We'll be able to help you with your Chinese language projects. If we don't have the right fit in-house, we'll put you in touch with people we've worked with.

almost 6 years ago

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chinese seo guy

Hi, point 1 and 2 are wrong. 1 - baidu counts inbound links, but he doesnt give them a different weight depending on who is linking. so for example a new blog or the new york times... would be the same. 2- baidu started the phoenix step and stopped it. so, now it s a mixture. but you ca definitly do organic seo with baidu. the rest is cool. xie xie

almost 6 years ago

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hosea

Point 1, 2 and 3b are inaccurate! Baidu gives priority to chinese websites!

almost 6 years ago

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Russian translation

I really enjoyed reading this article! As many others I didn't know nothing about Baidu, but now i've broadened my knowledges.

over 5 years ago

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My Knickers

I thought that the english results for Baidu were powered by Bing?

over 4 years ago

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Counter for site

Well its true that Baidu doesn't have the same PageRank inbound linking algorithm as Google does" but Baidu counts inbound links the only difference is Baidu counts quantity of inbound links whereas Google counts quality of inbound links.

over 4 years ago

Arabic Translation Services

Arabic Translation Services, Professional Language Translation Services at Kwintessential Arabia

Optimising your site for Chinese is relatively straightforward if you've got the budget to hire professionals in chinese language translations - the majority will need the English Chinese language pair http://www.kwintessential.ae/languages/chinese/chinese-translation-services.html

about 3 years ago

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zakria azeem, Online Marketer at CCJK Technologies

This is a great post as we should not forget China's emerging market. We should also make Chinese versions of our websites if we want to deal with the Chinese market. http://www.ccjk.com is china's best translation company that provide Chinese translation services.

over 1 year ago

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