China’s online population has reached more than 731,000,000 and companies from all over the world have flocked to meet them, trying to cement their position in the planet’s second largest economy. Creating an online presence, as it is in the west, is crucial in achieving this, but many are surprised to learn that China’s online ecosystem is almost entirely different to that of the rest of world. In terms of search engines, Baidu dominates the digital landscape, not Google. Baidu SEO
For those of you unfamiliar with Baidu, they are one of the big three tech companies in China, along with Alibaba and Tencent (commonly referred to as B.A.T). As the country’s most popular search engine, Baidu sit in fourth among the world’s most visited website. They control over 79 percent
of the search engine market and a whopping 90 percent of all mobile searches are completed through their platforms. As a testament to their domestic dominance, Baidu, like Google, has become a verb for internet searches. Much like their American counterpart, it is also a powerful tool with a large range of functions to connect with Chinese consumers, build brand awareness and gain valuable leads.
To take advantage of all Baidu has to offer, companies must take Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) into account if they are to succeed. This process is, unfortunately, complex and full of pitfalls for even the most tech-savvy. In the west, most search engines operate very similarly to one another. It is not uncommon to create one strategy, albeit a somewhat imperfect one, that would work on Google, Bing and Yahoo simultaneously. However, search engines tailored to a specific country or region tend to be optimised towards the local culture, language and preferences are often vary so far from the global norm that they require a completely different approach. Baidu is exactly such a case. To help you get the most from it, here are seven essential tips.
Host your website in China
Chinese cyberspace is tightly controlled by the government, which is often referred to as “The Great Firewall of China”. This means that every website hosted abroad must go through a filtering system before it can be accessed from within mainland China. This often results in prolonged loading times, especially for websites that host high resolution photos and videos. Chinese ‘netizens’ are just as impatient as their western counterparts, so having a slow website will result in a very high bounce rate. The only way to ensure fast loading speeds is to host your website from within mainland China. For companies unable to do this, we recommend removing any high resolution content and any Google templates or banners to minimise these problems.
Translate into or create content in Simplified Chinese
Aside from making your content accessible to the Chinese market, this is only the way to move through Baidu’s page rankings. Baidu naturally prioritises Simplified Chinese (not be confused with Traditional Chinese) characters over Roman letters. Their algorithm is designed to address the unique nuances of the Chinese language. For example, most of the characters have multiple meanings, so the search engine must rely on context to identify the exact meaning of the keywords. Baidu SEO.
Make sure your site contains only permitted content
China severely restricts and monitors content that doesn’t abide by their strict regulations, employing a sophisticated system to identify anything falling outside those boundaries. Those who breach these rules will have their website blocked, as well as facing a fine and potential legal repercussions. If your website is hosted outside of mainland China, ensure that it does not contain any content that would violate Chinese law. Companies who host their website from within mainland China must obtain an Internet Content Provider (ICP) License before being allowed to publish.
Place a greater emphasis on paid listings
Baidu allows more than three paid listings to appear at the top of each search page. Traditionally, first page results were paid search ads and attaining a first-place ranking though organic SEO was not possible. Baidu is now moving towards Google’s model of displaying a mix of paid and organic search results. But, unlike Google, it is not always clear which is which.
Baidu has an excellent feature called BrandZone. It acts as a special dedicated area on the search page that displays the logo and short description of the best paying companies that are advertising for a specific keyword or phrase. The average click-through rate on Baidu Brandzone is between 50 and 80 percent
. All the world’s biggest brands use this service and it should be a key consideration in your overall SEO strategy if you want to give your brand maximum exposure.
SPECIAL TIP: If you are conducting market research, you can use Brandzone to reveal who the main players are in any given industry. This can be very useful in complex and fragmented markets.
Avoid outbound links
Although outbound links are favoured by Google, they are not by Baidu, so you must try to keep them to a minimum. Additionally, be extra careful not to link to any websites that have been punished for breaching Chinese content regulations or Baidu SEO rules. However, Baidu does strongly encourage internal links, so you can create multiple links between your own content to boost your results. Baidu SEO.
Link to Chinese Social Media
Baidu, similarly to Google, has very high social media integration. So, linking to different social media accounts can provide a significant boost to your page ranking. China’s online ecosystem also has their own social media platforms; namely WeChat, Weibo and Youku. Therefore, the more content you share, and the more you engage with Chinese consumers, the better your overall results will be.
Results take time
Baidu’s search spiders are significantly slower than that of their western counterparts. Therefore, it usually takes more than double the time for the changes to take effect and boost your visibility. This can be really important if your campaign is time-sensitive, so be sure to plan accordingly. Baidu SEO.
No matter how you enter the Chinese market place, having a strong online presence is essential for success. Navigating through Baidu’s ecosystem requires knowledge of the Chinese language, culture and consumer preferences. Companies are advised to employ local experts if they are serious about boosting their website’s visibility and overall brand recognition.