Baidu SEO Guide – 12 Dos and 3 Don’ts

Although Baidu looks like a Google clone at first glance, there are also some differences between the two search engines. SEO is a big challenge in a local online market but can be absolutely daunting when trying to make your website visible in the market in China.

This week, Tenba Group presents the Baidu SEO Guide 2020 with 11 must-dos and 3 things to avoid to improve your business ranking on China’s favorite search engine.

A Short Recap of Baidu

While Google dominates the global search engine universe, Baidu is the go-to search engine in China with a market share of 70%. The functionalities around SEO, SEA, and PPC are similar to Google with China-specifics.

So, without further ado, we present the 11 things you should absolutely be doing to have your business rank well on Baidu:

1. Web Hosting and Legalities

First things first in this Baidu SEO Guide: Baidu is 100% Chinese and gives priority to websites that are 100% Chinese. So you need to have a separate website in simplified Chinese that’s not mixed with your English website. Additionally, Baidu prefers websites that are hosted in China and have the “.cn” domain.

  • Registering a .cn domain is pretty straightforward and can be done by anyone.
  • Host your website in China. Hong Kong and Singapore are also great options that will allow your website to run fast for great user experience and better ranking on Baidu.
  • If you decide to host in China, you must obtain a business-level ICP (Internet Content Publishing License). The ICP is essentially a legal green light from the government to run your website but it’s next to impossible to get if you are not physically present in the country. All of this is generally easier if you establish a local partner that can handle all the legalities.

Something important that Western businesses need to be aware of is that Baidu’s results are censored. Depending on what kind of business you have, this may or may not affect you. However, as many political, cultural, and even entertainment topics are banned, be sure to do your research and check your website for any inappropriate references.

2. Targeting Baidu’s Audience

Additionally, since Baidu is 100% Chinese and targets a mainland Chinese audience, using a translator is not going to be enough to succeed. In fact, even if you already have a website in traditional characters (used in Taiwan and Hong Kong) you will need to change them to simplified Chinese characters that are used in the mainland.

Overall, you will need a Mandarin speaker not only for translation and localization of your website’s content, but also to navigate the Baidu Webmaster Tool.

There are a large number of Baidu SERP features so it will take more than basic optimization to reach users. Just as Google owns YouTube, Maps, Flights, and others, Baidu owns many products as well. While Google separates its other products to a degree, Baidu often redirects traffic to its other channels.

The three most popular ones are Baidu Baike, Baidu Zhidao, and Baidu Tieba, a Wikipedia-like information library, a Q&A site, and keyword-based search forum, respectively. Branching out to these channels will increase your Chinese online presence, but that’s a discussion for another time. Read more about that in this Tenba Group blog post here.

3. Google vs. Baidu Mobile Platforms

If we compare Google’s mobile search app to Baidu, we can see that Google has a very simple search interface. Baidu has a search bar and news stories underneath. Moreover, Baidu lets you access mini-programs. These are quite similar to WeChat’s mini-programs (read more about that in our previous blog post).

Some of these mini-programs are created by Baidu, but Baidu allows third-party apps as well. When looking at Google and YouTube, they are mostly separated. Baidu combines a search engine with the platform to watch videos, live streams, and even movies into one.

4. Build a Solid Mobile Site

In Western markets, it has long been: website first, mobile platform second. In the Chinese market, the situation is reversed: 89% of online users access the online world via their smartphone. This means that having a fast, efficient mobile page with an easy to use interface is absolutely crucial for ranking on Baidu.

baidu china seo

Just like Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), Baidu offers its MIP (Mobile Instant Pages) protocol for mobile devices. Creating MIP pages is not too difficult, but requires some manual efforts at first.

5. Fill in Metadata

Metadata must be optimized in Simplified Chinese. The limit for the meta descriptions is 200 characters, while the limit for meta keywords is 100. Remember to fill in the meta keyword tag, as Baidu still uses this to determine the ranking of a website (unlike Google).

6. Keyword Research

You can do keyword research by looking at the associated searches in the dropdown results. This is quite similar to Google. You could also do the same with Qihoo 360 and Sogou, China’s other search engines to find similarities. From there, you can use the Baidu keyword planner that will look quite familiar if you’ve used the Google Ads keyword planner before.

7. Use China-Friendly SEO Tools

When doing keyword research or tracking the progress of your website, for example, in comparison to your competition, make sure to use SEO tools, which have integrated Baidu.

For instance, you can use SEMrush for position tracking on Baidu, and SEO Chinaz for keyword research, backlink analysis, and more.

8. Acquire Backlinks

Backlinks from high authority Chinese websites as well as links from different sources will improve your Baidu ranking. Although quantity used to be favored, new algorithm updates are trying to weed out spam and focus on quality link building.

9. Use Internal Links

For internal referencing, every page on your site should link back to the homepage but the homepage should only link to the main category pages. The subcategory pages, or anything else under the main category pages, should only be linked from the category pages.

10. Implement a Simple and Logical Web Structure

The web structure must be logical and intuitive. Users must be able to navigate back to the home page in less than 4 moves. Too flat and it can appear “fake”. Too deep and it becomes more complicated than users would like it to be. Not to mention, it makes it very difficult for Baidu’s spiders to crawl the site effectively.

11. Write original, high-quality content

Just like Google, Baidu prioritizes original and quality content. Simultaneously though, you should be flexible enough to follow Chinese trends which can arrive very quickly. Be sure to always keep your eye on the hot topics of the day.

12. Update your  content regularly

Be sure to keep products and offers updated. If users see the information that’s even several months old, they could be discouraged and go elsewhere. As a side note, Chinese users love online shopping so embed links to products in articles and blogs. Make it easy for users to shop for your products and services on the spot.

These were our top picks for the ultimate Baidu SEO Guide. Do you still want more? Find out what NOT to do on Baidu next.

3 Things to Avoid on Baidu

Just as there are things to actively do to improve your business ranking on Baidu, you can also avoid common mistakes. Your ultimate Baidu SEO Guide would not be complete without these. These are our top 3 things you want to avoid on Baidu, so you don’t receive a penalty from the search engine:

baidu chinese search engine

1. Crawling and Indexing

Avoid making crawling and indexation difficult for Baidu’s spiders. For example, you should limit any JavaScript or AJAX content as it makes it difficult for Baidu to crawl your site.

2. Social Signals

Don’t add social sharing widgets to banned sites. Keep in mind that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are all banned in China.

If you want to connect your website to your social media channels, which you absolutely should, we advise you to connect it to WeChat, Sina Weibo, and other popular Chinese social media channels.

3. Xiachen

Don’t focus your geo-targeting only on major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin that are already oversaturated.

Keep in mind that China’s second-tier and third-tier cities have populations in the millions and are largely unexplored by Western companies. Read more about Xiachen in this blog article about Chinese social media trends to follow.

There you are. You have now gained excellent insight into the Chinese search engine number one – Baidu!

Your Baidu SEO Guide – The Takeaway

You are now an expert on Baidu SEO, the Dos, and Don’ts. Remember the following:

  • Get a “.cn” domain for your Chinese website
  • Baidu is 100% Chinese and subject to censorship by the Chinese government
  • Baidu’s algorithm is similar to Google’s in many ways and some SEO practices can be transferred
  • Avoid making crawling and indexing difficult for Baidu’s spiders as they often have a hard time with Javascript or AJAX content
  • Connect your website to Baidu’s other products and avoid banned social media platforms

Contact the professional team of your favorite Chinese digital marketing agency, Tenba Group, today! We are ready to catapult your business to the top of the Chinese search engines through smart SEO, SEA, and PPC.

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