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. We hope that our Baidu SEO Guide will give you a good place to start.
Web Hosting and Legalities
Baidu is 100% Chinese and gives priority to websites that are 100% Chinese. So you need to have a website in simplified Chinese that’s not mixed in with your English website. Additionally, Baidu prefers websites that are hosted in China and have the “.cn” domain
Besides a China-based web host and a “.cn” domain, you will also need 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 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.
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 all the Webmaster tools that Baidu offers.
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)
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. For a sizeable part of the population, smartphones are the first portal into the online world. This means that having a fast, efficient mobile page with an easy to use interface is absolutely crucial for ranking on Baidu.
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.
Not Far From Comfort
Since Baidu’s algorithm is not too far off from Google’s, you can apply some of your SEO practices to Baidu. Keep in mind the following:
- Meta data
- Keyword usage
- Internal links
- Web structure
- Original, quality content
- Updated content
Meta tags and data need to be optimized in Simplified Chinese. The limit for the meta descriptions is 200 characters, while the limit for meta keywords is 100.
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.
You will need backlinks from high authority Chinese websites as well as links from different sources. Although quantity used to be favored, new algorithm updates are trying to weed out spam and focus on quality link building.
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.
The web structure has to 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.
Original, 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.
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 your products and services on the spot.
Things to Avoid on Baidu
Don’t add social sharing widgets to banned sites. Keep in mind that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube are all banned. If you want to connect your website to your social media channels, which you absolutely should, you need to connect it to WeChat, Weibo, or any one of the 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.
Baidu SEO Guide Summary
- You will need a “.cn” domain and a business ICP to run your 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