How to avoid the Seven Circles of Baidu Hell

Due to the power of the Chinese economy, it’s one of only a few markets Google hasn’t made a credible impact on. Baidu’s dominance in the Chinese Market is something to be feared, especially with the politically fuelled reactive de-listings that can occur. Due to Google’s international appeal, many western people (including SEO professionals) believe that similar practices will lead to success in China. Most eventually realise that this is not the case and will commit a deadly sin of Baidu, and will be cast down into the depths of Chinese SEO hell!

As Dante Alighieri wrote in his Epic poem “The Inferno”, he described Hell as having multiple layers, or ‘Circles’. This can also be applied to the Baidu search engine…

I appreciate that this is abstract and probably taking things a little far, but in the lead up to Halloween I wanted to make this sufficiently frightening! Keep in mind that these are the first seven circles, after that there is a significant drop off, but we’ll save that till next year.




The First Circle

“Localised Limbo”: Full of international opportunists, and virtuous companies. Western based institutions that assumed there western based ccTLD will have the same authority in Baidu. At the current point of writing, it is possible to gain authority on a .com or .org domain in Baidu, but local content on targeted ccTLDs. (.cn and are the best to go for. Obtaining a .cn domain would require a completely independent article as the process is rather involved, so is an additional option to consider.

The Second Circle

“Hosting”: Don’t forget where you website is being served from. This is the same for all countries. Currently, Hong Kong is the best bet for western countries to gain a foot hold in china without have to apply for an IPC License.

Third Circle

“Meta Tag Assumers”: has Google thinkers strewn about lamenting about past assumptions. Google has long since moved beyond description and keyword tags, linking them with easy spam abuse. Although subject to debate, Baidu is a much less complicated affair, with Meta possibly still a ranking factor

Fourth Circle

“Canonical Users”: The on-page canonical tag was a Google invention, and does not translate across every search engine. For Baidu, Make sure you implement rel=”index”, otherwise you may be missing a trick.

Fifth Circle

“Language use.”: Remember to use Simplified Chinese! Never use Traditional Chinese or English, as Simplified is the language of the masses.

Sixth Circle

“Chinese social media”: With more and more Chinese people heading online, Chinese social media is an important factor of Chinese SEO. It’s often daunting for western companies to even start due to the massive differences in culture and attitudes. For every popular western social media platform there are Chinese alternatives: RenRen is popular, and Chinese alternative to Twitter Weibo is also incredibly popular. To ignore Chinese social media would be committing your website to this circle of Baidu hell.

Seventh Circle

‘Politics’: It’s important to remember the web isn’t ‘free’ in China, it’s heavily controlled by the government, and Baidu follows up efficiently on political issues. So if you’re not guilty of any of the above issues, chances are you probably will get caught on this one eventually. To minimise risk, be careful with opinions on Chinese politics, and keep things informative but biased.

Even if you abide by all the above rules, you can still find your site one day missing from Baidu’s index. If you are a regular reader of this blog you may remember our reporting of the removal of British universities from Baidu’s index following Bing deal.

Whatever your endeavours in Baidu; remember that it’s less of an algorithm and more of a humanly operated system. As the algorithm is easily affected by spam, Baidu heavily relies on human content moderation. Be careful out there, and guard yourself with an international SEO company with experience in these matters.

Jason Paget is a Search Account Manager at Oban.