Baidu is the most popular search engine in China. Previously, organic search on Baidu was not considered effective due to the abundant presence of paid ads, but now change in Chinese laws has given hope to marketers to break into upcoming market again.

In a recent Search Engine conference held in Beijing, hosted by engineer’s from Baidu core search and Webmaster Tool teams, three significant Baidu search engine optimization tools were highlighted. This included Baidu’s eco-empowerment strategy, Mobile Instant Page (MIP) project and 2016 algorithm updates.

The eco-empowerment (thanks to the Chinese Governement )

New phenomenon in eco-empowerment aims to provide users with considerable efficiencies in production, execution and monetization with search results. Baidu’s eco-empowerment is supported by two main features: page load speed and HTTPS. This update targets to control delays in page loading and provides security against site hijacks, spams and PII data leaks. To fulfill these targets Baidu is now following footsteps of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in revising Mobile Instant Page (MIP) project.

Baidu released Spider 3.0 in early 2016, which dramatically increased the speed of URL discovery and indexing. The speed of crawl speed was increased by 80% and now Baidu is adept of indexing trillion of web pages in real time.

The Baidu Mobile Instant Page (MIP) project

Baidu’s extremely ambitious project, which is serving the same purpose as Google’s AMP is reported to implement more than 2800 sites and has been able to reduce load time by 30 to 80 percent which has consequently increased the landing page clicks from 5 to 30 percent.

To achieve this efficiency Baidu has been making its way through obstacles. It has learned many valuable lessons from Google’s AMP implementation project. A channel has been added in Baidu Webmaster Tools for page submission. After release of Baidu’s MIP project in Dec 2016, more than 900 million MIP pages have been indexed.

It appears that Baidu has entirely imitated Google AMP project but there are a few notable differences between the two project. Firstly, Baidu’s MIP is using scripts to retain compatibility with mobile browsers except Chrome and Safari in China. Secondly, MIP pages put JavaScript before the ending </body> tag, whereas in Google’s AMP, only scripts between <head> and </head> are applied. Both MIP and AMP only allow asynchronous scripts, but this doesn’t count as a big difference, since neither of the approaches will delay the page interpreting.

Baidu’s localisation and globalisation

Since Google withdrew from China in 2016, only two Google products are functional; Google Maps and Google Translate. Mobile internet users cannot access Google’s AMP in mainland China. Some people think Baidu could not have dominated China if Google was still there. However, statistics shows that Google has less Market share than Baidu even when it was in China. Other browsers like Bing are not at all challenging Baidu in China.

Baidu is expanding its reach to other parts of the world by partnering with Merkle, it is learning about other markets and expanding its business reach. Now some sort of co-operation is seen between Google and Baidu. With Google’s DoubleClick for search, one can bid for Baidu pay-per-Click (PPC) ads. On the other hand, Baidu is working with Google on configuring AMP-MIP in order to develop standards for Progressive Web Apps. Lastly, Baidu aims to adopt the Schema.org data structure in 2017 to support MIP specifications.

The 2016 algorithm updates ; Ice Bucket, Skynet, and Blue-sky

Baidu has issued updates on its algorithm to protect the online eco-system. The main algorithm updates are Anti-app-fraud, Ice Bucket, Skynet, and Blue-sky. These algorithm updates will give protection against the following threats:

 

Code Name Targets of Penalty
Green Radish Link spam, link trade, comment spam, hacked web pages
Pomegranate Low-quality pages with pop-ups and massive ads
Anti-app-fraud (this update doesn’t have a codename) Mobile pages that lure/deceive users of downloading marketplace apps (Google Play isn’t accessible in China)
Ice Bucket For mobile pages only; app-gate for contents, app-links, popup ads interrupting UX, ads of adults/porn/gambling
Skynet Malicious mobile pages with PII leak risks
Blue-sky Directories for sale, content spam

 

With increased usage of internet on smart gadgets, it is evident that mobile- first web is rapidly transitioning to mobile-only web, therefore three out of four of these algorithm updates are intending for mobile pages.

 

New trends in Baidu SEO (2017)

 

Previously, not much attention was given to organic SEO strategies in China, as paid ads on SERP were thought to be more efficient method of gaining attention. Now this trend has changed and in accordance with regulation released by China’s Internet Ad Law, Baidu has decreased the number of sponsored results in the main column of the SERP from 10 to 5 Ads per page. This has caused organic results to gain more view ability as compared to sponsored links.

  • Takeaways for SEO strategy in China Baidu Webmaster Tools also knows as Baidu Zhangzhang, must be used proactively. It offers only eligible data source for SEO and a set of exclusive features, such as brand/site name protection and site link management. (Unfortunately, the interface is only available on in Chinese language).
  • Site loading speed and security are extremely important for pages indexing and ranking. Page optimization and load speed must receive more focus and budget allocation. Implementing HTTPS should be considered.
  • An aggressive inventory setup for media and publishers will probably lead to penalties from the engines. Development on native ads inventory is a better option. New internet advertising law of China, published in September 2016 should be aligned in the strategy.
  • Brands with rich content or a firm content strategy should focus on their mobile site. A responsive site may not be adequate in 2017. Adopting MIP should be taken as priority.
  • Technical SEO is back now. The gap of knowledge and technology between engines in and out of the Great Firewall is shrinking. Technologies used for Google and other global engines will be soon adopted by Baidu and other local engines. An early implementation on the leading-edge technologies like the structured data markup, MIP and Progressive Web Apps (PWA) will emerge soon.

For brands gaining digital exposure in China by implementing organic SEO strategies has become evident with new developments in ecosystem. Foreign brands are advised to integrate organic search engine techniques to gain more viewership. Marketing to China is a specialised digital making agency that can help in implementing newly developed SEO techniques in Baidu.

 

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