Since there are millions of articles on Google SEO, we shed a light on Baidu SEO in this Tenba Group ultimate Baidu search engine optimization guide to help you become a pro in digital Chinese marketing.
Businesses today rely on their digital presence and an active online community to connect their products and services with consumers. In the jungle of the World Wide Web, search engines provide an overview and guidance for those seeking information and answers.
This is why search engine optimization has become an integral part of online marketing. In fact, more than 60% of marketers name SEO as their top inbound marketing priority.
Although Baidu looks like a Google clone at first glance, there are some key differences between the two search engines. Baidu search engine optimization 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.
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.
A Short History of SEO in China
By now, you certainly know that SEO stands for search engine optimization. This means improving the content on your website and digital presence on social media and other platforms so that search engines can (a) find your business and (b) rank it as high as possible.
In the search engine world, Google is clearly the world leader with a market share of 73%. Bing (12%), Baidu (10%), and Yahoo (3%), and a few smaller ones share the rest of the cake among them.
In the Chinese search engine world, this picture looks a little bit different. Baidu is the search engine leader with a market share of 70%, followed by Sogou (20%), Shenma (5%), Haosou (3%), and Google (2%). In 2019, Baidu’s revenue was more than 15 billion USD, an increase of 3% compared to the previous year. Plus, 90% of internet users in China use Baidu!
Just like its global big brother, Baidu also comes with a variety of services. Plus, Baidu, Inc. the tech giant behind the search engine is actually one of the largest AI and internet companies in the world. Baidu’s more than 40 services include Baidu Maps, Baidu Baike (an online encyclopedia), Baidu Wangpan (a cloud service), Baidu Tieba (a discussion forum), and Baidu Zhidao (a Q&A community).
It is also worth mentioning, that due to the strict internet censorship (the “Great Firewall of China”) and inaccessibility of information, and because Chinese don’t have much faith in larger corporations, the population of the Middle Kingdom prefers to get their news from channels like WeChat and Toutiao.
SEO in China vs. the Rest of the World
Although search engine optimization goes beyond your business website, it usually starts there. So, first, we look in this Baidu search engine optimization guide at the main similarities when optimizing your website for Google and Baidu:
- Up-to-date quality content – useful information and added value always comes before optimization
- Optimizing for mobile devices – in China, around 80% of online traffic is on phones and tablets (vs. 50% global average)
- Keyword use – based on an analytics tool – Google Analytics resp. Baidu Tongji
- Internal links – to other relevant information, contact page, etc.
- External links – to high authority English resp. Chinese websites
- Backlinks – from high authority English resp. Chinese sites
- Meta description – with ideally 160 characters in the Google environment and around 78 simplified Chinese characters for Baidu
- Logical website structure – intuitive and flat navigation so that the search engine spiders can crawl easily
These are the most important differences between Baidu Search Engine Optimization and Google SEO:
1. Crawl frequency – The Baidu spider crawls Chinese sites much slower and less often than the Google spider. Make sure to manually submit any updates on your website to the Baidu Index.
6. Meta keyword tag – Whereas Google by now ignores the meta keyword tag, Baidu still takes it into consideration for its ranking.
By reading our Baidu search engine optimization guide you should have now a good overview of the global and Chinese market of search engines. Let’s look below at how Baidu SEO can be used to improve your rankings and gain more Chinese customers.
Baidu Platforms to Boost Your Rankings
In general, Baidu places more emphasis on pay-per-click (PPC) ads than Google. Therefore – and because Baidu has its preferred own or partly-owned platforms like Zhidao, Zhihu, Tieba, and Baike – high organic rankings are more difficult to achieve.
The good news is that it’s not impossible. Baidu SEO has its own specialties and requires some inside knowledge. But…we’re here for you! Being strategically active on the most important Baidu affiliates helps to optimize your business for China’s top search engine.
1. What is Zhidao?
Baidu Zhidao is a popular Q&A platform in the Chinese market and works similar to Yahoo Answers. Users can create questions and answer them on a variety of topics.
Relevance for Baidu SEO: By being active on Zhidao, i.e. answering (or asking) questions around your niche, brand, or business, you can direct highly targeted traffic to your website. In fact, this is such an effective marketing tactic that some internet marketing experts in China specialize solely on Zhidao optimization.
Keep in mind that just like with any forum, spam links and posts are frequent. As such, Zhidao is taking efforts to minimize spam. Keep this in mind, when posting or answering questions.
Plus, it is difficult to gain relevance with a new account. In general, you will need a good and relevant keyword with a high volume and low keyword difficulty. In combination with a lot of content, this will improve your rankings on Baidu. However, you will typically only get a lot of content in the form of answers to your questions, if you have an aged account with a lot of followers.
To achieve this you basically have two options. You can either set up your Zhidao account and take a lot of time and effort to mature it with high-quality content. Or you can collaborate with an agency, which works with popular accounts to share your desired information (influencer model).
2. What is Zhihu?
Besides Baidu Zhidao, another popular Q&A forum in China is Zhihu. It was originally founded by a company named Beijing Zhiren Tianxia Technology and works similar to Quora.
However, in 2019, Zhihu completed a 450 million USD F-round funding led by the Chinese short video platform Kuaishou and Baidu. Zhihu has more than 200 million active users, who answered more than 130 million questions to date.
Benefit for Baidu SEO: Similar to Zhidao, you can write and answer questions on Zhihu around topics of interest to your target group. Be aware of your brand values and identity when choosing the type of questions to answer in either one or both forums.
Compared to Zhidao, Zhihu is larger, more interactive, and often achieves better rankings than Zhidao. Actually, the best response is chosen through an upvote system. Zhihu also features high-profile Chinese entrepreneurs and public intellectuals among its users, increasingly providing Chinese netizens with space for rich discussion.
3. What is Tieba?
Baidu Tieba is the most popular online discussion forum in China. The plaform’s more than 300 million monthly active users can add a topic, and then view other peoples’ ideas on this (similar to Reddit). They can also follow certain topics or “bars” around pop culture topics, sports, and more.
In fact, this social interaction platform accounts for approximately 10% of all Baidu traffic. And more than 1 billion posts have been published on Tieba so far.
Baidu SEO Relevance: Tieba’s slogan “Born for your interest” already gives you a hint on how to engage with your potential audience. You can create a unique “bar” for your brand (unless someone else already did that for you).
This allows you to use this bar as a hub and redirect users to your forum (and from there to your social media or website) when they search for your brand on Tieba or Baidu.
4. What is Baike?
With more than 19 million articles, Baidu Baike is basically China’s answer to Wikipedia, which is not accessible in the Middle Kingdom.
Baidu SEO Benefits: While, in theory, Baike should provide unbiased content, it is still more commercially inclined than Wikipedia. In fact, businesses can pay for increased control of their brand’s Baike page.
Therefore, the SEO opportunities for you are to create brand- or product-related articles in Baike. Keep in mind that the verification process of Baike articles is quite strict and thus can be lengthy (similar to Wikipedia).
Since Baike belongs to Baidu, it is considered a trustworthy source of information with high authority. Thus, building positive, unbiased quality content on the Baike page of your business will help you to appear at the top of Baidu SERPs.
Answers to 5 Frequently Asked Questions about Baidu
To extend this Baidu guide, we answer the 5 most commonly asked questions around this Chinese search engine.
1. Does Baidu have a social community?
2. How do I Create a Baidu Account?
Before you can do anything with Baidu SEO, you must create an account. With this, you can use the various Baidu platforms and the Baidu Webmaster Tool.
Click here and fill out the Baidu account registration form. Keep in mind that you need a Chinese phone number to do so. For a super detailed tutorial on how to get a Baidu account, just click here.
3. How do I Index Pages on Baidu?
Although Baidu regularly crawls websites to keep their search engine users up-to-date, it can take 1-2 months until your site and updates are indexed. If you want to add your website faster to the Baidu Index (Ziyuan), you can submit your URL here. Submit your sitemap so that all sites are indexed (same process as Google).
4. Can I Use SEA/PPC on Baidu?
PPC advertising in China provides fast online promotion with instant results, just like in the rest of the online world. Of course, you can buy advertisements on the results pages (Baidu PPC aka pay-per-click) through the Baidu Ads Manager. If you’d rather outsource this task, a Baidu SEO agency like Tenba Group can help you with this.
Keep in mind that the online environment in China including search engines is closely regulated. For example, blacklisted terms include “best, no. 1, top class, guarantee, trustworthy”. And particularly highly regulated industries are the health sector, finance, and gambling (which is completely forbidden).
5. Does Baidu have an Analytics Tool?
Baidu Tongji is the official analytics tool of Baidu, similar to Google Analytics. It provides statistics and reports about a website’s traffic and sources, as well as conversions to sales.
With the Baidu Webmaster Tool, you can index your site and have access to even more options for SEO settings and analysis. You will find a Baidu tracking tool to monitor your website’s ranking on Baidu and much more.
How to Do Baidu SEO for Successful Marketing
There are twelve ways you can be using Baidu SEO tools to your advantage and a few things you might want to avoid or remember when it comes to Chinese marketing. Continue reading our Baidu search engine optimization guide to learn the more in-depth ways Baidu can be utilized for digital marketing success alongside the Chinese internet.
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, Singapore, and Seoul/South Korea are also great options that will allow your website to run fast for a 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 a keyword-based search forum, respectively. Branching out to these channels will increase your Chinese online presence, but that’s a discussion for another time.
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.
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 inside the Baidu PPC account 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.
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 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.
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. Our ultimate Baidu search engine optimization 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:
1. Crawling and Indexing
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.
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.
No Baidu search engine optimization guide would be complete without a reference to the Xiachen trend. Read more about Xiachen in this blog article about Chinese social media trends to follow.
Baidu SEO using Domain Authority as a Metric
Are you wondering how to boost your search engine optimization in China and around the world? Let us introduce Moz Domain Authority (DA). It is a metric system that allows businesses to define how well their websites are doing on search engines compared to their competitors.
To begin with, Domain Authority is a ranking score for search engines developed by Moz. It helps businesses to estimate which websites will rank better on the result pages of search engines. The scores are calculated from 1 to 100. Of course, 100 has the greatest ability to rank. With this score, you can compare your website to others.
The score takes into account several factors on the domain or subdomain’s content. Among the most important factors are the number of links to the root domain and the total number of links.
Keep in mind that improving your score is a time-intense process. Plus, in general, it is easier to increase a score from 30 to 40 compared to from 60 to 70.
While there are other providers – like Majestic CF/TF and Ahrefs DR/UR – to measure and analyze similar metrics, this article will focus on Moz DA. Majestic CF/TF stands for citation flow and trust flow respectively. Ahrefs DR/UR refers to domain rating and URL rating.
Benefits of a High DA
Domain Authority is a comparative-based metric, which helps businesses to figure out how they rank in comparison to their competitors. A high Domain Authority score should not be the main goal. Instead, Domain Authority is a powerful analytics metric for search engine optimization in China and around the world.
The new changes of the Moz Domain Authority include an index of 35 trillion links. These links provide Moz with more and newer link data for metric scores. Now, they more closely resemble real search engine results orders.
To sum it up, a higher DA score ensures that a website is practicing good SEO techniques. Slowly working to improve the score keeps your business competitive with its content and marketing.
Whether you are targeting Chinese consumers or buyers from other parts of the world, staying up-to-date and ahead of your competition is crucial in this fast-paced business environment.
Baidu SEO and Other Top Domain Authority Alternatives
Search engines in China also have their individual SEO tools, for example, Chinaz and Aizhan. They work similarly to SEMrush. Likewise, the authority metric is similar to MOZ DA, Majestic CF/TF, and Ahrefs DR/UR.
In China, the authority between desktop computers and mobile users differs. By the way, so does the keyword research. To sum it up, these are the authorities for Chinese search engines:
- Baidu Authority (desktop; mobile)
- Qihoo 360 Authority (desktop; mobile)
- Sogou Authority (desktop; mobile)
- Shenma Authority (desktop; mobile)
Next, let’s take a look at the latest updates.
Baidu Ranking Factors (Update Fall 2021)
The organic ranking factors on Baidu, that you can positively influence through SEO, are largely based on Google best practices. The Baidu ranking factors include
- Writing in Simplified Chinese instead of Traditional Chinese, for Mandarin content
- Using title tags with up to 32 characters and meta descriptions with up to 75 characters to optimize Baidu snippets
- Having a link to WeChat on your website via a QR code
- Acquiring backlinks from Chinese social media platforms to your website, e.g. by posting articles
- having any .cn ccTLD (.cn or .com.cn) to get a small ranking boost
- Applying https instead of http
- Using www subdomains
- Adding several images with alt-attributes
- Using tables and lists
- Filling the meta keywords tag, as Baidu still uses it as an SEO factor compared to Google which is ignoring it
- Using Pinyin in your slugs instead of Chinese characters or English
In terms of ranking factors, we also have the latest technical tips for you, so you can improve the ranking of your brand on Baidu organically.
5 Additional Technical SEO Tips for Baidu
Five additional technical SEO tips (on-page on your Chinese website) to improve your organic ranking on Baidu (and other Chinese search engines) and prevent your site from being blocked in China.
The most important aspect for a high ranking on Chinese search engines is valuable and useful content for the audience. From a technical point, consider the following aspects to improve your organic ranking beside the basic technical aspects we’ve already covered.
- Analytics: Use Baidu Ziyuan (Baidu Webmaster Tools) which is similar to Google Search Console + Baidu Tongji (Baidu Analytics) which is similar to Google Analytics. There you can check for crawling errors, indexed pages, and much more.
- Rank Tracking Tools: Use rank tracking tools like Aizhan or Link Assistant Rank Tracker to check Baidu authority and further SEO analytics.
- Domain Configuration: Using a separate/new website domain simplifies the process of localization.
- Loading Speed: your site needs to be accessible to Chinese internet users and Chinese search engines, which requires a fast loading time. Tools like 17 CE can help you to measure a website’s loading speed.
- Structure: Use a clear and logical hierarchical website structure. URLs should be written in Pinyin, not Chinese characters. Avoid using dynamic URLs (with a question mark in them). Use canonical tags to prioritize your content. Make sure robots.txt doesn’t block any important pages or sections. Use language tags and submit a sitemap to Baidu.
This brings us to the end of the ultimate Baidu SEO guide.
Your Baidu Search Engine Optimization Guide – The Takeaway
There you are. You have now gained excellent insight into the Chinese search engine number one – Baidu! 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
- 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.