Chinese Search Engines Beyond Baidu: Meet Sogou!

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Surely you know that the Chinese search engine world is dominated by Baidu with a market share of 70%. The second-largest search engine, Sogou may currently only have a market share of 17%. But you should remember this name, as this search engine is gaining relevance with smart investments and collaborations quickly.

In this article by Tenba Group, your top SEO agency for China, we take a deep-dive into the fascinating world of online search in China beyond Baidu. Plus, we describe the Sogou search engine in detail.

Chinese Search Engine World

Previously, we have extensively spoken about Baidu, the largest search engine in China. This included smart SEO strategies, Baidu Index, and how to boost your rankings.

In this article, we would like to draw your attention to the bigger picture. The remaining 13% search engine market share in China is divided between Haosou (4%), Google (4%), Bing (3%), and Shenma (3%).

In general, more than 900 million internet users in China love spending time online and surfing, searching, and chatting on the go. In fact, Chinese users spend almost 6 hours per day online and more than 2 hours on Chinese social media.

Keep in mind that mobile search accounts for about 62% in China. Besides, voice search is gaining relevance, currently at about 30% of all online searches.

In case you are wondering about the role of Google in China…it’s basically non-existent. Google China moved its business from mainland China to Hong Kong in 2010, in order to surpass the Great Firewall of China. Yet Google in China today only has a Chinese market share of about 4% – access via VPN connections as it is blocked in mainland China.

Therefore, adapting your digital marketing strategies in the Middle Kingdom to Chinese search preferences on Baidu, Sogou & Co. is crucial for a strong Chinese internet presence. But more about this in a minute.

About Sogou

The Sogou search engine was launched in 2004 and literally means “search dog”. The company behind it is Sogou Inc. – a Chinese technology company, specializing in online search services and AI-supported web applications.

sohu sogou search engine

In fact, more than 10 billion websites are indexed on Sogou. Today, the largest owners are Tencent (38%), Sohu – Sogou’s parent company (33%), and the CEO of Sogou (5%).

In late 2017, Sogou debuted on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “SOGO”. In 2019, Sogou reported total revenue of almost 1.2 billion USD. That’s plus 4% compared to the previous year.

Sogou SEO

First things first, Sogou has developed its own algorithm. Therefore, the usual Baidu and Google SEO techniques don’t work identically on this search engine.

For Sogou SEO, keep in mind that the algorithm places a high value on site authority and original content, as determined by its own “SogouRank” index. Therefore, all actions that improve your site’s authority like caching, correct use of tags, compressions, high-quality backlinks, excellent content, and user-friendliness.

Besides, Sogou as a Chinese search engine favors websites that have content in simplified Chinese. Therefore, creating a website in Chinese will help to improve your Sogou rank. Also, a local domain with .com.cn or .cn will increase the trust of Chinese users.

Moreover, a large number of backlinks is very helpful for Sogou optimization. It seems that the quantity of links is even more important than on Baidu. While you should always have high-quality backlinks to your site, Sogou doesn’t seem to evaluate this too much at the moment.

Furthermore, in terms of on-site SEO for Sogou, the title tag is crucial. Sogou gives a lot of importance to this parameter. At the same time, meta descriptions are not as important on Sogou (at least, at the moment).

To sum it up, the algorithm of Sogou is not as complex as Baidu, but high-quality content is very important for Sogou. In general, it’s easier to rank high with your site on Sogou because this search engine doesn’t (yet) place such high emphasis on advertising and affiliate pages. Finally, Sogou indexes WeChat articles.

The Role of Tencent

As Tencent is the majority owner, it may not surprise you that Sogou plays a significant role in Tencent’s superapps QQ messenger and WeChat. Thus, the search engine is continuously improving its mobile search functionality.

Since 2014, Sogou has been the default search engine for QQ.com, China’s second most popular website. Also since 2014, Sogou became the only search engine that can search public accounts on WeChat. With more than 1.2 billion monthly active users (AMU) on WeChat and more than 600 million MAU on QQ, that’s an enormous reach for the search engine.

Chinese search engines beyond baidu - meet sogou

In July 2020, Tencent made a 2.1 billion USD bid to buy Sogou, aiming at supercharging its app WeChat. The decision to accept and regulatory permissions are still pending to-date.

Other Partnerships & Investments

In 2013, Qihoo, a Chinese internet security company, which operated the Qihoo 360 search engine, was discussing to buy Sogou for 1.4 billion USD. However, this deal didn’t go through. As a result, Qihoo rebranded its 360 search engine to redirect to Haosou. As such, it holds 4% of the Chinese search engine market share as you read in the introduction.

Zhihu – similar to Quora – is China’s largest Q&A platform. Besides Baidu and Tencent, Sogou is also an investor in Zhihu. In fact, Sogou launched the Zhihu search in 2014 and is also the default search engine on Zhihu.

In 2016, Sogou partnered with Microsoft to use Bing to find information in English. Also in 2016, Sogou donated 30 million USD to Tsinghua University in Peking to build an Artificial Intelligence Institute.

More Sogou Products

Among Sogou’s other products are:

  • Sogou Pinyin is a popular Chinese Pinyin input editor to type Chinese characters and words. It has a penetration rate of more than 80% and over 300 million users.
  • the Sogou Browser with “dual-core” techniques similar to Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge.
  • Sogou Voice Recognition Technology including voice translations in Chinese and English. In fact, Sogou is China’s largest search engine by voice at the moment. Click here to take a deep-dive into voice-search.
  • Smartwatches with GPS positioning, of which Sogou sold more than 1 million in China.

To sum it up, Sogou’s revenue comes mainly from brand advertising and online games. Now, with all these activities, you may wonder, how the largest and second-largest search engine in China co-exist, and what differentiates them. Let’s take a closer look.

Sogou vs. Baidu

Sogou is gaining importance in China as it is the pre-set search app on most mobile phones in the Middle Kingdom. Besides, Sogou has beneficial proximity to Tencent. The Chengdu offices of Sogou and Tencent are in the same building, and Tencent is the majority owner of Sogou.

However…besides Alibaba, Baidu remains one of the largest competitors of Tencent and Sogou. While Baidu focuses on online search, AI, and autonomic driving Tencent has a wider approach: The combination of social media with games, payment, and much more gives Tencent with its popular apps an advantage over the Chinese search engine giant.

Further opportunities in Sogou lie in the lower PPC cost and straightforward SEO tactics. With Sogou PPC, it’s easier and cheaper to reach lower-tier residents and Chinese social media users, where people spend most of their time! In fact, Xiachen is a hot digital marketing trend in 2020! But…for now, the overall search volume on Sogou is still smaller than on Baidu.

The Takeaway

With this article, you’ve gained further insight into the Chinese search engine world beyond Baidu. You got to know Sogou in more detail and the opportunities that come with SEO and PPC activities on this search engine.

Are you ready to get started? A China online marketing company like Tenba Group can help you with everything around Chinese search engine optimization, WeChat advertising, KOL marketing, and more.

PS: Check our bi-monthly blog to never miss China SEO and PPC news.

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