As the most popular search engine in China by far, Baidu simply is a step you can’t skip when doing business there. However, increasing your website’s ranking on Baidu requires a slightly different way of thinking about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) compared to what you might be used to with Google.
Considered the “Chinese Google”, Baidu is the most popular Chinese search engine and stands as the 5th most consulted website in the world. As of 2023, it represents around 70% of the Chinese market share. In comparison, only 4% of internet research is done with Google in China. In this article, we will deep dive into Baidu SEO best practices.
What you should know before starting SEO in China
As the Chinese economy is gaining in strength and size, businesses around the globe are making a beeline toward China, targeting Chinese customers. Millennials are more than ever ultra-connected and almost all of them are tech-savvy, doing shopping online and seeking better quality products. This explains why many companies have created online stores and eCommerce websites to lure Chinese millennials.
Having a website is critical in the digital era as it often will be your consumer’s first stop. Keep in mind, that although a website is absolutely necessary, most of the purchasing won’t be done through this channel.
Why is a website necessary then? you are gonna ask. The reason is online reputation. If you don’t have a website, you can’t do SEO. If you can’t do SEO, you will be barely visible on the Chinese internet. If you are not visible, in the customer’s eyes, it probably means you are not reliable. If you are in B2B, most of the lead generation will be done through your website as well.
A Short Introduction to Baidu
Baidu, the fifth-largest search engine in the world, dominates the Chinese market with a penetration rate of nearly 70%. With Google accounting for only 4% of searches in China, optimizing your presence on Baidu is crucial for visibility in the world’s most populous country.
Baidu’s success lies in its ability to parse and interpret Chinese text, making it more effective for Chinese users. Baidu boasts the world’s most extensive Chinese web index, catering entirely to Chinese customers through a user interface available only in Simplified Chinese. Non-Chinese sites are rarely indexed or displayed in search results. Trust Baidu to help expand your online presence in China.
Guide to Baidu SEO: “On-site” optimization for Baidu
Although Baidu SEO remains obscure to many, it is definitely a set you don’t want to skip when getting into the Chinese market! Here are tips & must know on SEO regarding China’s top search engine Baidu.
Factors Determining a Website’s Rankings on Baidu
Gaining high rankings on Baidu is the key to exposure in the Chinese digital market. Once you master the proper techniques required to get noticed by their spiders, you’ll see a steady significant rise in ranking. Keep it simple by following the basic rules outlined below and you’ll gain popularity in the Baidu search engine.
To start with Baidu SEO you need a website hosted in China
For loading speed reasons as well as website authority, having your website hosted in China is a definite plus but a neighboring country will work just fine. Avoid every Google plugging that would make your website appears broken in China. This will not only ensure you a better ranking on Baidu but also on other China search engines such as Sogou.
Baidu prefers sites that are hosted on Chinese servers. If it is easy to do, move your site to a Chinese server. However, lots of other factors determine how well your site ranks, and a site hosted outside of China can occupy the top positions for even the most competitive keywords.
Having a Chinese extension domain name – either .cn or .com.cn – is helpful too, though the ultimate importance of this on your site’s SEO potential is debatable.
With China Search Engines: Use Simplified Mandarin
Baidu’s biggest attribute and main selling feature are that they only index simplified Chinese characters. This is why it is important for you to have a website available in simplified Chinese. In fact, Baidu prefers 100% Chinese-written websites and has difficulty distinguishing several languages. So, if we want to appear as a priority and increase its visibility, we recommend a Chinese homepage.
To rank on Baidu think Qualitative and Quantitative Contents
In order to rank on Baidu, it is essential that you produce original qualitative content on a regular basis. This will improve your website authority and trust rank. Local search engines will automatically give importance to websites with many pages.
Google or Bing love updates but Baidu even more. Chinese Internet users prefer recent content and then search engines adapt their algorithms to fit the demands.
For Baidu SEO, the URL is not what matters the most
This is not chauvinism but simply Baidu is a search engine for Chinese websites in priority. For Baidu keywords in the URL are not that important. Moreover, Chinese specialists in SEO often create URLs in English even for Chinese articles. Often they choose to use the five first consonants for a company website URL.
The Importance of Content for Your Baidu SEO Efforts
One of the most fundamental points Baidu bases itself on is Metadata. In fact, a coherent title, with relevant keywords, allows an optimal positioning on the tag, even if the content is inconsistent.
Another important thing for Baidu: Metadata (<meta description> and <meta keyword>) that helps to put Metadata on an HTML page for the tools that can use it ( browsers, search engines, or indexation tools. So, we operate on the choice of these metadata according to the most researched keywords on Baidu and its competitors.
Do not use ISO-8885-1. The two coding platforms to use are UTF-8 and GB2312. Of the two, UTF-8 would be considered stronger since it caters to any language in the world.
Working with your on-page SEO
Unlike Google, China search engines and Baidu place significant importance on metadata. This includes:
- Meta descriptions
- Meta keywords
- Title tags
- H1 and H2 tags
- Alt tags
All of this information is highly important to Baidu’s spiders, so having it – and ensuring that it is translated into simple Chinese and well-written – will greatly help your rankings on the site. Also, when it comes to your keywords and site text, remember the following:
- Keyword density: Keep it around 6 to 10% for a strong showing.
- Anchor words on internal links: These would be clickable text linking one of your pages to another one of your pages. It helps a little and has a slight effect on your rankings.
- Easy navigation: Ensure that your site is easy to navigate with a clear hierarchy.
- Minimize Frame and iFrame: There is strong evidence to suggest that Baidu’s spiders may disregard iFrame content.
- Keep content at the top: Since Baidu’s spiders often experience poor connectivity, they are notorious for only crawling the first 100k to 120 kilobytes of your content. So, it is a good idea to keep the most important information at the top of each page.
- Refresh constantly: like other search engines, Baidu likes frequently refreshed content. So, make sure to keep your content refreshed on a regular basis.
The majority of SEO effort on your site should be made in this area. Select keywords, choose pages to optimize for those keywords, and then follow the advice above to do the actual optimization.
Search Engine Optimization in China: the homepage of your website is essential
Your homepage should be in Chinese. A welcome page will have more weight than an appendix. This system is aimed at giving priority to Chinese websites.
The website’s homepage and its content are really important for Baidu. Linking the landing pages you wish to rank there will certainly give them a boost. We recommend putting a lot of links in the header and footer like on all Chinese websites.
Use Baidu Webmaster Tools
Maximize your website’s visibility on Baidu with the user-friendly Baidu Webmaster Tools platform. Similar to Google’s optimization tools like Google Search Console, Baidu’s toolset allows you to track your site’s rankings and performance while also providing vital data for improving your online presence.
Boost your mobile Baidu SEO strategy and access various performance metrics in Mainland China to ensure your website climbs higher in the Baidu SERP. Don’t miss out on this invaluable tool for optimizing your online presence.
Remember about mobile optimization
Chinese consumers prioritize mobile access above any other nation, making mobile optimization critical for success in China. Baidu, the primary search engine, places substantial importance on mobile-friendly sites when evaluating search results.
Notably, Baidu compiles mobile searches through a separate application, m.baidu.com, while Google merges mobile and desktop search on the same URL. Baidu also transcodes non-mobile-optimized websites for faster loading times, but this can cause user experience and interface issues that may drive visitors away from your site.
To mitigate these concerns, start with mobile optimization during website development to provide higher-quality user experiences and keep visitors engaged on your site.
Submitting your website to Baidu
Submitting your site to Baidu is an important thing to do if your site doesn’t appear in Baidu’s search engine. Without submitting your site, the Baidu spiders won’t be able to find your website, which will not be indexed. You can submit your site to Baidu’s open-source platform.
Like Google, submitting a sitemap to Baidu helps them to find all of the pages on your site. Their platform for sitemap submission is http://sitemap.baidu.com.
Tracking Baidu’s keyword performance
To see which keywords are performing well on Baidu check:
- The Baidu Index
- Baidu Live keyword feed
If you have Baidu’s Phoenix Nest PPC, you can use their new Keyword research tool. Since it is so new there are still a few kinks to work out in its sophistication, but one of its highlights is that it allows you to build keywords that are geo-targeted.
Obvious but… Respect China’s Internet Regulations
Baidu follows the rules of the Chinese government when it comes to censorship. It will therefore give extra points to “safe” websites, that do not create scandals. A penalty will be placed on pages that are contrary to the censorship laws.
Do not criticize the Chinese government or claim that Taiwan is independent, to avoid being penalized. It is also good for your Baidu SEO to moderate comments. Every day on Youku or Renren moderators have to pay attention to hundreds of comments and delete what is a potential threat.
Offsite strategy for Baidu
To increase traffic to your website, it is important to actively promote it across the internet in relevant locations. The same is true for your Chinese website. Some of the ways to help out your Baidu rankings through off-site SEO are:
- News Posts: Baidu will rank you for your news posts. To fully utilize this, you must submit your news posts to Baidu News Protocol. This will help more visitors flock to your site.
- Promote your brand: this includes posting relevant content, videos, and images on as many Chinese websites as possible.
- Chinese anchors: with any of the off-site marketing you do, it is important to use simple Chinese characters as anchor text back to your site. The best scenario would be to use all Chinese characters for your entire post, as that will attract the spiders even more.
- Baidu Social Bookmarking Tools: there’s some evidence that submitting pages of your site to Baidu Bookmarks help to get pages indexed quicker.
Baidu SEO, Links Acquisition:
- Baidu will put websites that have many backlinks on top of their recommendations
- Baidu will also like certified and official links: newspapers, government websites
- The URL doesn’t have much importance and most of the websites don’t have an optimized URL.
- According to our tests, the “like” button does not affect a website’s rank
Inbound links (links to your site)
The number of other sites linking to your site is an important ranking factor for Baidu, much like Google. However, there are some differences. Here are some key areas to keep in mind:
- The quality of links is not so important. Gaining quality links (measured by how reputable and authoritative a site is) doesn’t seem to play a big role in your ranking on Baidu. So, it is not necessary to spend time befriending high-quality Chinese websites in the hope that they will link to you to build your search ranking. This might be useful when it comes to relationship and visitor building, but it won’t affect your SEO too much (at the moment, anyway).
- Quantity matters. At the time of writing, a link from a reputable site seems to carry as much weight as a link from a less reputable site.
- Chinese links matter. Gaining links from other well-ranking, reputable, and relevant Chinese sites is more important than getting links from English sites.
As far as linking from your site to other sites, Baidu considers the number of quality outbound links you have on your site as a factor. The weighting of this factor is however hard to quantify. Our advice would be to link to other sites where ever it is going to be useful to the reader.
Baidu Paid to Advertise
Baidu has a PPC, or Pay-Per-Click, platform much like Google’s Ad Words, named Baidu Phoenix Nest.
The main difference between Phoenix and Ad Words is that Baidu’s platform ranks websites higher depending on their spending level, whereas with Ad Words the relevancy of the content of your site compared to the search phrase increases your CPC (Cost-Per-Click), and betters your position in the PPC rankings.
Does it mean Baidu SEO is useless?
We would not say that. Although Baidu PPC is useful to kick start your project and get traffic at the beginning, in the long term, an SEO strategy is more beneficial. Indeed, organic traffic is more qualitative than Paid traffic and less susceptible to not getting any views the day your competitors decide to bid more than you on your keywords.
Organic results may not be displayed in front of paid ads, but they still generate a nonnegligible amount of quality traffic.
Need a Baidu SEO Agency?
Baidu SEO is not like Google SEO and it requires a set of skills and experience to know how to succeed and rank on the first page in search results.
We are a China-based agency with more than 10 years of experience and we offer a through approach to your Baidu SEO efforts. Here are some of our main services we offer on Baidu:
Contact us to know how we can assist you to rank your Website on Chinese Search Engines such as Baidu & learn more about our SEO services. Let’s start today!