Chinese search engine market overview

Chinese search engines play a significant role in Chinese every day lives for both personal and professional purposes. Chinese people rely on search engines to find product information and former user experience before purchasing.

Companies, with the purpose of leveraging China’s large and growing online market to do their branding, need to develop visibility on Chinese search engines. As a continuous impetus to China’s search engine industry, the advertising segment contributes an important increment in market volume.


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Since the end of the last century, more than a dozen search engines have appeared in China, but none of them has been able to shake Baidu’s position. According to the latest data, currently, Baidu still occupies the top position, accounting for 68.66% of the total market share.

The number of search engine users in the world’s second-largest economy surpassed 750 million, meaning that nine in every ten netizens in China had used online search services. As of 2018, the business revenue generated by Chinese search engines was up to 131.6 billion yuan and was expected to reach 203.7 billion yuan by 2021.


Chinese search engine market share in 2020

Chinese search engine market share — data from Statista 2020

Google and other foreign search engines are blocked in China mainland by China’s Great Firewall. Therefore, it’s those local search engines that dominate the market.

According to the latest data of Statista,  Baidu is the leading role in the Chinese search engine market, accounting for 68.66% of the total market share; Sogou, the second one, occupies 21.1% of the market, followed by Shenma, Haosou, Google and Bing, all owning less than 10% of the market.


ByteDance launched Toutiao search engine: will it change the market landscape?

On August 10, 2019, ByteDance, the Chinese tech behemoth and the mother company of TikTok,  launched its independent Toutiao search. ByteDance, which once emerged in the field of information flow and short video, is regarded by the market as a powerful challenger. Toutiao launched its online search, and many people may ask: will Toutiao replace Baidu?


Judging from the history of the Internet industry, the search engine is a market where giants must compete, but from the results of various Internet companies entering the search market, it can be found that most companies fail in the end, and the search market structure is not easy to break.

Unlike pure product competition, search competition relies on the ecosystem. It may not be easy for Toutiao to change the existing search landscape. But from the perspective of the overall development of ByteDance, the search engine is a new attempt it must make.

Compared with the second-level search echelon, whether Toutiao will affect 360 or Sogou after entering the search is currently unknown.

Search engine: a key channel for digital marketing in China

As explained in the beginning, the search engine is an important source for Chinese netizens to get information and opinions of others.

Baidu SEO examples.

Most advertisers perceive SEO & SEM as one of the most important ways to brand and are ready to allocate a big marketing budget in search engines.

The more your brand is ranked in China’s search engine results, the more traffic you will get, then it is possible to monetize the traffic and gain capital.

The Chinese internet is developing at a rapid pace,  search engine marketing now constitutes the largest share of digital marketing for SEO in China. Facing the huge search engine market,  the industry competition will be more and more intense.


The mobile search engine market is the new field of battle in China

According to data, as of December 2018, the number of Chinese mobile phone netizens reached 817 million, of which mobile search users reached 666 million in the first half of 2019, an increase of 2.1% from the previous quarter, accounting for 97.3% of online search users. In the fourth quarter of 2019, the scale of China Mobile’s search users reached 705 million.

With the gigantesque and sustainably growing user base in the mobile search engine in China, it has become a profitable sector that Chinese tech giants all want to put their fingers on the pie.

Moreover, the mobile search engine marketing, with the characteristics of low cost, fast communication speed, and accurate placement of marketing content according to search purposes, the value of mobile search marketing attracted more companies to increase investment in Chinese search marketing.

AI technology promotes mobile search engine users’ experience

With the gradual development and maturity of mobile Internet product technology, the proportion of mobile search in the search field continues to increase.

Mobile search engine channels mainly cover browsers, search engine apps, shopping apps, map apps, video and music apps, news apps, etc. Among them, browsers and search engine apps account for the highest share.

In addition, the rapid development of artificial intelligence technology has promoted the intelligent development of the mobile search industry and effectively improved user experience.

Chinese search engine market: difficult to change & uncertain

The Chinese search engine market is in all cases a very competitive market. It is also a market where the market landscape is already formed but still in changes with new tech giants’ entry.

Anyway, for all foreign companies who are planning to enter the market, it is primordial to understand how the search engine market works in China because it will be an essential tool for your branding and marketing strategies.

Indeed, it is complicated and different, but it is the most efficient.

gma agency

If you want to know more about the Chinese search engine market, feel free to contact us. GMA, an expert in Chinese digital marketing, is specialized in China’s search engine marketing with more than 7 years of experience.


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