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Baidu SEO – the beginners guide

Baidu can be quite daunting to anyone who’s not promoted a website via anything except Google before, so in this blog we’re going to run you through some of the things you need to consider for your SEO campaigns for websites targeting the Chinese market.

Introduction to Baidu

Baidu is the largest search engine in China and the second largest in the world (number of people using it). Baidu was set up in 2000 and is ranked by Alexa as fourth in the top 500 sites on the web (http://www.alexa.com/topsites/global).

Domain names

A Chinese ccTLD (country-code top level domain) will work better within China, opt for a.com.cn or .cn domain.

This option will also benefit your SEO. As Google and Baidu may at times have wildly different rules in their algorithms this can lead to issues within your SEO work. Shortly after Google started handing out manual link penalties and launched Penguin, link building in China was still what Google would consider outdated. However, to succeed in Baidu it was often necessary to get links from what Google had labelled lower quality sites and often to pay for these. If you had a .com domain with a /cn subfolder for China, buying lower quality links to help your Chinese SEO in this way could have led to issues with your Google rankings.

Using a domain in PinYin (using Latin characters to express Chinese words) can help as well.

Hosting

As the internet in China is slower than some of the western world, Baidu places importance on your site speed. Getting a website hosted in China can be difficult and does require that you have a physical location in the country. If it’s not possible for your business to host directly in mainland China then there are two options.

Firstly, you could host geographically close to China in somewhere where it’s easier to get a hosting deal set up, such as Hong Kong.

The second alternative is to use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for China. This can act as a great work around, but when choosing a CDN provider make sure that the company you go with has the licenses required to operate from within Mainland China or else you may find your site isn’t as fast as it could be, and you’re not in a better position than if you’d hosted in Hong Kong.

Baidu SEO tips

Below we’ve outlined what you need to consider for SEO in Baidu:

– Simplified Chinese is preferred over English or traditional Chinese.

– Content should be unique and Baidu, like Google, reviews the quality of your content as well as the amount of relevance to a subject your website has on it.

– Baidu launched a mobile search algorithm in 2015 called Ice Bucket. The focus of this algorithm is about penalising non mobile-friendly websites, including those with too many ads and forced app downloads. This algorithm has been updated to Ice Bucket 2.0 since launch and mobile friendliness is now a major factor to consider for your SEO success in Baidu.

– Optimisation should also be in Simplified Chinese. The character limits are 80 characters for Title Tags and 200 characters for meta descriptions. Both of these elements are ranking factors.

– The keywords tag is also useful for your SEO but not as important a factor as many people believe within Baidu’s algorithm as Baidu has moved towards content quality in recent years.

Google in China

Google.com is partially banned in China and as such has a negligible market share within the Chinese search landscape.

It’s not just Google.com which faces issues with accessibility in mainland China however, YouTube; Google Maps; Gmail and Google+ are all blocked. This is important to note when embedding content on your website. If you have any Google Maps or YouTube videos embedded these won’t show up, so alternative mapping and video embedding tools will need to be used.

Avoid moving your social buttons from your global website template across to your Chinese website. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are blocked in China, although some users will access these services through the use of proxies, the number of users is unclear.

A note about other search engines

There are other search engines entering the market and on occasions over the past few years eating into Baidu’s domination of the search landscape within China. The largest of these comes from Haosou.com, which is owned by Qihoo 360 and previously so.com. There have been times over the last few years that the market share for this search engine has reached over 30%, however focussing your SEO efforts on Baidu at the moment makes the most sense.

Possibly in response to this challenge, Baidu did a deal with Microsoft in September 2015 to promote Windows 10 on its search results. As a result Microsoft changed the default search engine for Windows 10’s default browser Edge within China to Baidu from Bing which is the standard default for Windows PCs (reference http://www.computerworld.com/article/2985808/windows-pcs/microsoft-strikes-deal-with-chinas-baidu-gets-a-chance-to-upgrade-more-than-half-a-billion-pcs-to-w.html)

This is just a brief intro to Baidu there are more issues which need to be considered as part of your SEO efforts for China, to find out more about Baidu and how Oban can help you with visibility in China please contact us.