As China’s leading search engine, optimizing your content for Baidu is critical for success in Chinese eCommerce. We examine five simple steps that will give your online presence a huge boost.

With an 80% market share and 3.3 billion searches every day, Baidu is indisputably the king of Chinese search engines. Like Google, its name is a verb, meaning “the persistent search for the ideal”. Their names may be similar, but there are significant SEO-optimisation differences between the two, and if you want to be discovered, you’ll need to play by Baidu’s rules.

1. SPEAK THE RIGHT LANGUAGE

Short URLs written in Pinyin (a Romanised version of Chinese) are recommended, but for the website’s actual content, Baidu overwhelmingly favours Simplified Chinese.

You may be speaking the right language, but if you’re saying the wrong things, you could find yourself at the bottom of the SEO food chain. Baidu censors anti-government speech, adult content or gambling material, so you’ll need to make sure nothing on your website could be construed negatively.

This can be more difficult than you think: some apparently innocent words, such as “toad” and “rubber duck” are banned due to their political connotations (source: International Business Times). Similarly, an innocent photo of sunbathers or even piglets could see your website blocked for showing too much skin, so research is needed to make sure you aren’t accidentally falling foul of the censors. If in doubt, leave it out.

2. GET TO THE POINT

Baidu has a limited time to index webpages, and typically only takes into account around the first 100 kb of any page. If you want to rise up the rankings, you’ll need to make this count, and place the most relevant content and vital keywords at the top of the page so they’re discovered. Frequent updates, such as new content in blogs or news sections, will also help to boost your ranking.

3. MAKE PEOPLE STAY

If people don’t like your website, they’ll leave, and this can impact your SEO rating. High bounce rates, where users click away from your website shortly after opening it, will make Baidu think your website is untrustworthy and it will de-prioritise your content. To avoid this, you need to make information easily accessible and engage users quickly.

Chinese consumers typically undertake a lot more research than Western consumers, largely due to a lack of trust, history of counterfeits and the relative novelty of consumer products. Although Marketing 101 instructs us to focus on benefits over features, Chinese consumers will be put off by a lack of detailed company and/or product information.

Unlike Google, Baidu also offers verification levels for the web results it shows, ranked according to their trustworthiness, from V1 to V3. By registering and paying a fee, you can obtain one of these levels, which will help reduce your bounce rate and boost your Baidu ranking.

4. BE CERTIFIED

It’s recommended to have a .cn domain name, but it can be tricky to get hold of one because you either need to be a Chinese citizen or have a Chinese business entity. Any website based in China must also have a Bei’An license, and if you are a commercial website, you’ll also need an ICP license. The red tape around these licenses often puts companies off, but it’s worth it to secure top rankings on Baidu and increase web traffic.

Although .cn domain names are consistently ranked higher on Baidu, it doesn’t have to be game over if you don’t have one. The search engine’s primary requirement is that a site loads well for Chinese users, and while this is easier for .cn domains, .com and .net websites will still be ranked if they’re accessible from and optimized for China.

5. GO MOBILE

For the past few years, more mobile than desktop users have searched on Baidu, and this trend is expected to continue. While mobile optimization is generally a good SEO idea, it’s essential if you want to be seen on Baidu. It places huge importance on mobile-optimized sites, and will take this into account when ranking search results.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Unlike in the west, where Google is the first port of call for any inquiry, Chinese consumers often skip search engines and go straight to virtual marketplaces, like Tmall and JD.com, to search for products. Organic Baidu ranking has to be an important part of your strategy, but don’t forget that an estimated 70% of Chinese marketers are focusing most of their lead generation budget on mobile and social networking sites (source: eMarketer).

Stay tuned for our ‘Social Media in China’ blog to follow in the next few weeks.

ABOUT Jonny Simpson

I make sure English content is excellent. And I'll write, edit, proofread and translate for that to happen. I believe the most impactful content combines useful, culturally relevant information with compelling copy, and I've seen great results with Ermenegildo Zegna and Maserati.

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