What is the difference between Baidu SEO and SEM?

In this article, I am going to answer the question of how to make Chinese people find you.

What are SEM and SEO?

SEM is search engine marketing, while SEO stands for search engine optimization. When it comes to entering the Chinese market, both of them serve as tools to improve a brand’s visibility and further move to working on one’s reputation. They can be used solely and they can be used in combination for a better result.

Why do you need SEO and/or SEM?

That is to say, the primary aim of doing SEO and SEM is to make you visible to the Chinese people. It is not an easy task because you have competition here. China is a huge market with barely any gaps in it right now. They can easily find what they are looking for.

So it is not only important to be there on Baidu, but also to be on top. Imagine two different cases.

  1. A Chinese person is looking for a product you can sell. He types it in the search bar of Baidu and gets millions of links and checks a few. You might be 10th, 1000th, 1000000th, etc.
  2. A Chinese person is looking for a product you can sell. He types it in the search bar of Baidu and gets millions of links and checks a few. And you are among the first five, let’s say.

So what’s the conclusion? Only being on top of the search requests gives you chance to be found and checked by your target audience.

This is what SEO and SEM do.


What is the main difference between SEO and SEM?

The main difference is to what extent the effect they give is long-lasting for you. SEM is more of a short-term tactic to get more attention. Once you finish with SEM, there will be no post-effect. SEO is a long process, but the results it gives might work for a very long time thereafter.

What is SEM?

Search engine marketing is a fast way to generate leads. It requires relatively small effort and leans mostly on your budget. It is an eMedia Buying strategy. 

The mechanism is as follows:

  • You set up a company account within Baidu (this is the most challenging part as it might be time-consuming);
  • You pay to Baidu and get ads on top of Baidu;
  • People can see your ads on top, click on them, and get redirected to the page that you choose – a landing page;
  • The ads disappear once you have run out of the budget required.

This mechanism is called PPC, or pay-per-click. You simply pay for the people who click on the ad and land on your selected page.

So, what you have to do for SEM is to:

  • Allot a necessary budget;
  • Take care of your landing page and make it absolutely attractive, informative, persuasive, etc.;
  • Keep track of your leads.

What are the advantages of doing SEM?

  • SEM starts working just as you pay – it doesn’t require too much time;
  • It can be less costly;
  • It makes the people see the page with the information you think they should see to become interested;
  • It gives quick results.

What are the disadvantages of SEM?

  • It is accelerated – you can run out of your ads budget in a single day;
  • Very short-term;
  • The registration process is not easy at times;
  • There are fewer chances to get high-quality leads like that, in fact.

We wrote a very comprehensive Guide to Baidu PPC Advertising in China, you should check it out!

More on SEO on BAIDU

Just as I said, search engine optimization is a process. It is a process of climbing up the Baidu search results, climbing over your contenders, and getting on top where everyone can see you and reach out to you.

How to conduct Baidu SEO?

  • Chinese Hosting (still pretending to be a bit isolated, China’s Internet may only warmly welcome local websites with local hosting);
  • Keywords (search requests are all linked to keywords that can be directly connected to your website; the more keywords you have, the better your position on Baidu);
  • Backlinks (Baidu is a smart system! Internal and external backlinks help to create the authority of the website).

How to make good use of backlinks in the Baidu system?

Baidu is not just a tool to search, but it is a complex system of various services. Let’s check what it has for you to contribute to a successful Baidu Campaign:

  1. Baidu Baike (Chinese Wikipedia; a webpage here gives you substantial credit);
  2. Baidu Zhidao and Zhihu (forums similar to Quora, also contribute to delivering a top rank to you);
  3. Baidu Tieba (another forum to get more backlinks within Baidu).

Used all in combination, these tools might get you to the top of the Baidu search engine.

Not only do they make you visible to Chinese consumers, but also play a significant role in starting to build up your reputation with positive comments on forums.

What SEO gives:

  • Steady and long-lasting position on Baidu;
  • Deeply rooted presence in the entire Baidu system;
  • A contribution to the reputation through positive comments within the system;
  • Effective targeting with links to various pages of your website depending on the search request;
  • High quality leads;
  • An opportunity to analyze the process.

The only disadvantage is the time that it requires. However, Rome was not built in one day as well.

Basically, the perfect option is to start working on SEO and do SEM in the meantime.


If you need more guidance on how you can do SEO and SEM, get a call with us asap.

We are the GMA – with us every successful story started with Baidu.

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