Baidu is the most popular search engine in China. Over 70% of the 500 million Internet users use it for search. With its command over such a large market, it’s small wonder that most businesses with interests in China are curious about Baidu SEO.
Let’s have a quick look at how Baidu SEO can be done.
The common language of China is Simplified Han and this is what Baidu will recognize. Always ensure that your website is written in this form.
Keywords are important in Google, but they take on even more prominence in Baidu. While Google is slowly moving away from its dependence on keywords and anchor text, Baidu still considers these very important. Some SEOs even consider a keyword density of 12% to be optimal for Baidu (seems a bit high if you ask us though).
There is a banned list of keywords. Never use any of the words on it if you don’t want to run the risk of getting your website banned as well.
Due to frequent connectivity problems, Baidu’s crawlers won’t index pages that are too deep in your hierarchy. Keep your website’s architecture flat and accessible.
Quantity over Quality
Google’s frequent updates have ensured that SEO specialists understand the importance of the quality of links over the number of links pointing to their websites. Baidu hasn’t reached that level of sophistication yet – quantity is still more important. Obviously, that means that there are many opportunities for link spamming.
However, over the last year, Baidu has been updating its algorithms to punish lower quality sites.
Anchor text should of course be in Chinese. They should also match the keywords being used on your website. Baidu is quite strict about this and may penalize sites where the anchor text and keywords are not in sync.
Baidu still relies heavily relies on meta tags to determine relevance so ensure that your meta tags are optimized. This also includes meta keywords tag since Baidu uses them to some extent still.
Local Domain & Hosting
Google does show a slight favour to websites with the relevant country TLDs and that are hosted locally. But these have never been a great concern because you can set your geolocation in Google’s Webmaster Tools. Baidu, on the other hand, attaches a not insignificant bonus to .com.cn / .cn domains and websites hosted within the Great Firewall.
China’s .cn domains are administered by the Ministry of Information. This means that unlike buying a typical .com domain, .cn registrations will be manually (as in, by a human) reviewed. There are also licenses you will have to apply for. If you have ever dealt with the government, you know this can take time.
Should you write off Google if you’re marketing to the Chinese market?
No, of course not.
After Google’s exit of China, it now maintains its servers in Hong Kong. Google’s share of the China search market is less than 5%, measly considering how well they dominate the rest of the world.
However, with its 500 million Internet users, China is too attractive a market for even Google to pass up. And let’s not forget that the projected 300 million Android users in China are devoid of Google’s services such as Google Play (formerly known as Android Market).
There is speculation that the search giant is looking to partner with Qihoo, whose search portal So.com is the second most popular one in China. That will see So.com being powered by Google’s search algorithms. If that comes to pass, then Qihoo might see a rise in market share, and SEOs operating in the China market will be back optimizing for their favourite (or least favourite) search engine.
If you’re targeting to the Chinese-speaking market, then remember that there are millions of Chinese-speaking people living outside of China. They are more likely to be using Google than Baidu, so it makes sense to optimize for Google as well.
Google is still years ahead of Baidu in terms of search technology. Think of optimizing for Google.cn as optimizing for Baidu in the future.