Baidu is a leading multinational technology company based in China, specializing in Internet and artificial intelligence (AI) related businesses. The company is behind the first search engine in China with the same name, which most Chinese people use to search for information on the Web.
Unlike the rest of the world where Google dominates the search engine market, the Chinese market is dominated by Baidu. And since the American giant is banned in mainland China, most Chinese people use Baidu to search the Web.
If you have a website for which you want a global audience, your presence on this search engine will attract many more visitors from China.
But to enjoy this search engine efficiently, you must know it and master it perfectly.
- Baidu: What exactly is it?
- What are the fascinating facts you need to know about this search engine?
- Baidu SEO: What are the tips to boost your digital presence in China with this search engine?
- What is the difference between Baidu SEO and Google SEO?
Here is a set of questions that I will clarify in this mini-guide.
Chapter 1: What is Baidu and what is its history?
In this chapter, I will start from the very important basic notions to allow you to fully understand the term Baidu.
1.1 What is Baidu?
Many people have never heard of Baidu. Yet it is the most popular search engine in China and one of the largest companies in the world.
It is often referred to as the “Chinese Google”, and for good reason.
Indeed, Baidu’s layout and functionality are very similar to Google’s. Both are powerful search engines and have :
- An electronic messaging service;
- A language translator;
- A web mapping service;
- and so on.
Since its creation, Baidu has always been the number one search engine in China. It had initially faced competition from Google.
However, due to strict digital regulations in China, Google and all its subsidiary sites (Gmail, Google Translate, Google Drive, Google Calendar, etc.) have not been accessible since 2014.
From this point on, all Google sites were completely blocked in mainland China, leading to the expansion of Baidu’s dominance in the market.
As a major search engine and natural advertising destination for businesses, it is one of the technological darlings of 21st century China.
1.2. Fascinating facts about Baidu that you must know at all costs
China’s Google has a long history of acquisitions, growth and intrigue. Here is a list of some of the facts that make this search engine what it is today.
1.2.1. What is behind the name Baidu?
The name Baidu was taken from a beautiful poem called The Green Jade Table in the Lantern Festival. Written by Xin Qiji (1140-1207), this haunting poem describes the search for one’s dreams amidst chaotic distractions.
Here are the lines that inspired the name Baidu.
Do you see the connection? The Chinese search engine allows you to perform a constant and ideal search. The word Baidu is composed of two Chinese characters. Here’s what they look like:
In French, this word means “countless times”, or “a hundred times”.
1.2.2. Qui a fondé Baidu ?
Although Baidu has reached breathtaking heights, its creator actually started from the ground up. Born as the only son of two factory workers in Yang Quan, Robin Li didn’t have the capital to start a big company.
He studied computer science at Peking University (now the headquarters of Baidu). After the campus was closed due to pro-democracy protests, he moved to Buffalo and earned his master’s degree at the State University of New York.
After graduation, he got his first job at a company called IDD (a subsidiary of Dow Jones). It was during this time that Li created RankDex, a site rating algorithm.
However, in 1999, he was invited to return to China to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the communist regime. And it was then that he met his biochemist friend Eric Xu.
Together they decided to capitalize on the growth of the Internet industry in China by creating Baidu.
1.2.3. Baidu started with funding from Silicon Valley
When what is destined to be the largest search engine in China was launched in 2000, it attracted the attention of major venture capital firms.
With $1.2 million in funding from Integrity Partners and Peninsula Capital, Li and Wu returned to Beijing to launch their project.
It didn’t take long for other venture capitalists to take notice. A few months later, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and IDG Technology Venture invested $10 million in Baidu.
1.2.4. Baidu’s all-time high share price is $284
When the company went public in 2005, it was listed on the NASDAQ in the United States of America.
That’s how he opened the stock at $27 and closed it at $112. Since then, Baidu stock prices have varied widely. In May 2019, Baidu’s stock price reached a staggering closing price of $284.
However, this has diminished with the onset of the trade war and the decline of the Chinese economy. Today, a share of Baidu stock can be purchased for $117.
Here’s a look at the company’s stock prices between August 2005 and October 2020:
1.2.5. Baidu has launched AI-powered cameras that can detect the ocular background
Baidu is not only about providing users with the best way to find what they are looking for. In fact, the company is also concerned about the general welfare and health of the Chinese people.
In 2018, the company revealed high-tech cameras powered by AI. These cameras did the work of ophthalmologists to spot eye conditions leading to blindness.
- Macular degeneration;
- And diabetic retinopathy.
In 2019, hospitals began using the Chinese company’s cameras to perform eye screenings on patients.
1.2.6. Before AI-powered cameras, Baidu launched a chatbot for doctors and patients
Baidu is a major player in the Chinese healthcare market. In fact, two years before it launched AI cameras to track the eye fundus, it introduced Melody to hospitals.
Melody is a chatbot that allows patients to give their health information to doctors. Thanks to him, doctors and patients can communicate in a faster and easier way.
1.2.7. Ads have priority on Baidu
While Google gives priority to organic results, Baidu’s first search pages are full of ads.
This resonates with the fact that Chinese users believe that companies that pay for advertising are certainly trustworthy.
1.2.8. Robert Li warned Google of fierce competition if it ever returned to China
Google plans to return to China with changes that match the country’s strict censorship laws. Baidu’s response? Google should expect fierce and all-out competition.
1.2.9. Baidu’s reach extends beyond China
Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (called BAT) are three of the largest Chinese companies.
As for Baidu, it is currently the 6th largest Internet company in the world and the 3rd in China, behind Tencent and Alibaba.
BAT has been expanding its influence well beyond China for quite some time. It is recruiting American talent and investing in American artificial intelligence (AI) startups.
1.2.10. Other interesting facts about Baidu
- Considered a major marketing platform for businesses, Baidu Advertising has thousands of clients deploying Baidu SEO and Baidu PPC campaigns.
- Due to Internet censorship laws in China, many keywords have been blocked on the Chinese search engine. This is to prevent Internet users from accessing undesirable content.
- Baidu is more than a search engine. These users can access news, government searches, Internet TV, anti-virus products and more.
- The Chinese search engine is entirely in Mandarin.
- The Chinese company is part of the world’s largest autonomous driving program. It is partnering with major companies such as Ford, Intel, Grab and Honda to provide artificial intelligence technology for driverless cars.
- Baidu is the first Chinese company to join the AI Partnership. Joining the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google, the Chinese company is on a mission to explore the benefits of AI.
- The popular Chinese search engine has over 1 billion active mobile users. As of March 2019, it had 1.1 billion mobile users. Its DuerOS voice assistant generated 2.37 billion voice queries per month.
- According to Alexa, Baidu is currently (2020) the 4th most well-known website in the global market.
This ranking puts it above Wikipedia, Twitter and Instagram.
Please also note that 94.5% of its users are from China.
- 90% of Internet users in China use Baidu. Although it is not able to compete with Google on a global level, it is the number one in China with over 700 million users to its credit.
- A large part of the company’s revenue comes from its Pay for Placement (P4P) advertising platform, similar to Google Ads Pay Per Click (PPC).
- Like all companies on the net in China, Baidu is also subject to strict online censorship. On several occasions, the Chinese government has fined Baidu for not properly censoring its platform.
- The company is currently testing the autonomous driving project called “Apollo Project” and other AI programs, which puts it at the forefront.
To finish with the facts, remember that this Chinese company is preparing solid projects for the future in order to compete with Google on the global market.
Now, we can’t talk about Baidu search engine without paying attention to its SEO techniques which are the most important part of this mini guide. Let’s start with it!
Chapter 2: Baidu SEO – How to boost your digital presence in China with this search engine?
We all know that having a winning SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategy is an absolute necessity to boost your business’ visibility online. However, the tactics of Baidu SEO and Google SEO are vastly different from each other.
First, here is an illustration of Baidu’s domination of the Chinese search engine market:
It should not be forgotten that China has become a large online market in recent years, as at the end of 2018, about 828.5 million people had access to the Internet in China.
The Internet is therefore an important way for Western companies to target the Chinese population.
However, it is one of the most complex online markets due to several barriers such as:
In this penultimate chapter, I have prepared a list of do’s and don’ts based on the latest updates to the Baidu search algorithm to get around these barriers.
However, there is no way to fully understand the many SEO techniques of the famous Chinese search engine without knowing how the Baidu Spider robots work.
2.1. What is Baidu Spider?
Baidu Spider is an automated program (aka crawler) containing a piece of code used by the Chinese search engine.
The latter uses this robot to determine the rank of its search results. The role of this “spider” is to explore Web pages and index them in the database of the famous Chinese search engine.
However, only pages that meet Baidu’s user experience requirements will be indexed and ranked according to their values as assessed by these robots.
2.2. Baidu SEO vs Google SEO: What is the difference?
Although Baidu has a significant number of similarities with Google, it is important to know the differences and nuances between the two search engines in order to deploy the right optimization resources.
Here is a summary in the following table:
2.3. BAIDU SEO: The most important SEO tips you need to know to succeed in the Chinese market
If you are considering SEO in China, the challenge is that there are different SEO rules compared to other parts of the world. If you are a Google SEO expert, your knowledge can be a good starting point.
But, if you want to improve your ranking in search results and increase traffic to your website in China, you need to approach SEO in a different way.
Thus, the best way to improve your SEO in China is to optimize your website for Baidu SEO.
Here are the best tips for optimizing your website for the famous Chinese search engine.
2.3.1. Focus on hosting in China
Since Baidu targets a primarily Chinese audience, it generally gives preferential treatment to almost anything from China. This includes the hosting location of your web servers.
There are a ton of Chinese hosting providers. However, to get the best SEO performance on Baidu, you must therefore host your site in mainland China (Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan unfortunately do not count).
This is not to say that sites hosted outside of China will always rank poorly, but local hosting is certainly an advantage. There are two main reasons for this preferential treatment.
The first is that hosting in mainland China is a strong signal that the website is specifically targeting the Chinese market.
The second is due to the Great Firewall of China. Many sites outside mainland China, and therefore outside the Great Firewall, load much more slowly than domestic sites and are not always accessible.
As the famous Chinese search engine is responsible for returning fast and reliable sites in its search results for local users, this puts foreign sites at a great disadvantage.
Unfortunately, due to local laws, hosting a website in China is much more complicated than in other countries. Usually, you will have to find a local partner or agency to take care of this task for you.
2.3.2. Get a ICP license to improve website performance in China
The Internet in China is tightly controlled by the Chinese government. Therefore, if you decide to host a website in China, you must obtain an enterprise-level ICP (Internet Content Publishing) license.
The latter represents a legal authorization from the government. So before a Chinese hosting company hosts your website on its servers, it will first check your PKI license.
Moreover, having an ICP license positively affects your SEO because, Internet users in China trust websites with an ICP license more.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to obtain the latter if you are not physically present in the country. The only way to easily get around this barrier is to have a Chinese agency that can handle all the legalities for you.
2.3.3. .CN Top Level Domain
As a reminder, Baidu always favors everything local for better SEO in China.
Here are the reasons why the .CN domain could be important in the referencing of this search engine:
- Using a .cn domain tells Baidu that your website is intended for the Chinese audience;
- Having a .cn domain also tells the Chinese visitor that the website is created specifically for them, which leads to greater popularity and more backlinks;
- A .cn domain can help you rank better in the long term in the SERPs of the popular Chinese search engine while influencing other direct ranking signals;
- .cn domains are often cheaper than .com domains.
Obtaining a .CN domain only requires a Chinese ID, which is considerably easier than hosting in China or obtaining an ICP license.
However, hosting in China and obtaining an ICP license is more valuable for SEO than a .CN domain.
2.3.4. Focus on China’s social networks
Social media play an important role in digital marketing today. Thus, their management is crucial in improving your SEO strategy in China.
Keep in mind that leaders outside of China like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube have all been blocked by China. However, there are some standout equivalents that are similar to these.
Here are a few:
- WeChat replaces Facebook and Whatsapp combined;
- Sina Weibo replaces Twitter, Instagram ;
- Xiahongshu aka Little Red Book replaces Pinterest.
So if you want to connect your website to your social channels, which you should definitely do, it is advisable to connect it to these Chinese social networks.
This will allow Baidu’s algorithms to index the publications of these social networks in the results pages.
2.3.5. Use of a content delivery network (CDN) in China
If your site loads slowly in China, taking advantage of a content delivery network (CDN) could be a good solution.
However, the cost and complexity of setting up a CDN in China is relatively high. However, if you are willing to invest in setting up a business and doing SEO in China in the long run, this could be a good option.
2.3.6. The speed of loading the website
The time it takes for a website to load is one of the most important ranking factors for Baidu.
In other words, websites that load slowly will not rank competitively on this search engine.
As stated above, if you want to get a good ranking on this Chinese search engine, you need to make sure you select a hosting service that guarantees high performance in China.
All sites hosted outside of China have a high probability of lagging or being intermittently inaccessible.
2.3.7. Baidu gives priority to HTTPS websites
Since 2018, Baidu has preferred websites with HTTPS.
Many sites in China do not have the SSL certificate yet. So make sure you have one for your Chinese website.
2.3.8. The use of Mandarin is essential
This seems obvious, but some people do not know it. The only official language, which is the language used and recognized by Baidu, is Mandarin, called simplified Chinese in French.
Source : Dragon Social
If you are aiming for a good positioning on Baidu in order to attract new customers to your website, then the content of your website should be entirely in simplified Chinese.
That’s why it’s best to use a native writer instead of Google translation to create and edit your website content.
Especially since, for a better SEO performance in China, content translation is far from being enough.
It must be written by a writer who has a perfect command of Mandarin, and must be accurate and grammatically correct in order to optimize the Baidu referencing.
2.3.9. Use other Baidu services to boost your online presence
Just like Google which has many products around its search engine (Map, Gmail, etc.), Baidu also has other major products besides its search engine.
Here are a few:
- An encyclopedia called Baidu Baike: It is a Wikipedia-like library of information.
For example, when you search for “JVC” (a Japanese company), the Baidu Baike page (with a giant logo) of the latter ranks below its own official site (JVC China):
- A mapping solution called Baidu Map: Displays map results related to your search and additional information like reviews, prices and comments.
- A forum platform called Baidu Tieba :
- A question and answer website called Baidu Zhidao :
The fact is that the famous Chinese search engine usually puts its own applications on top of the SERP (search engine results page).
In order to improve SEO on this search engine, it is also important to take advantage of these other products.
For example, if your company’s SEO performance in China is not satisfactory, try creating a Baidu Baike page for your company.
2.3.10. Create a solid mobile site
In China, smartphones are more prevalent than desktops. In the Chinese market, 89% of Internet users access the online world via their smartphone.
So, if you want to penetrate the Chinese market and attract new customers, your website must be optimized for mobile devices.
This means that having a fast and efficient mobile page with an easy to use interface is absolutely crucial for ranking on this search engine.
In 2015, Baidu released an update called Ice Bucket, which penalizes websites that don’t display properly on cell phones, providing even more incentive to become responsive.
SEO purposes aside, if your Chinese audience cannot easily surf your website on their mobile devices, you will encounter a high bounce rate and visitors will have no reason to return to your site.
2.3.11. Your homepage is a top priority
Designing a great homepage should be the top priority for anyone looking to break into SEO in China.
While Google gives more importance to internal pages, the famous Chinese search engine tends to focus on your homepage. It gives priority to a website’s homepage more than its other pages.
Therefore, if you want to increase your ranking, use the best design for your homepage.
2.3.12. Create the page ”About us
An “About Us” page allows Chinese prospects to get to know you, humanize your brand and make their experience much more personal.
Source : SEJ
Once visitors see a real face and an authentic story behind your business, they automatically become confident.
Add these relevant details to create the perfect “About” page:
- Create a story and build trust;
- Build trust with candid photos;
- Keep in mind that the story is more about “them” than “us” ;
- Showcase your credentials, key affiliations and impressive stats.
2.3.13. Create the perfect contact page
The “Contact Us” page is a goldmine for Baidu SEO if done correctly.a
Add these relevant details to create a perfect contact page:
- Full address;
- Telephone / Fax / Email numbers ;
- Names of employees and their contact information;
- Contact form ;
- QR Code ;
- Baidu Map: Add directions to your business.
2.3.14. Keyword search for Baidu
Keyword research is fundamental to every Google SEO campaign, and the same goes for the popular Chinese search engine.
The latter always considers meta keywords as very relevant, as it always uses it to determine the ranking of a website (unlike Google).
Be sure to optimize your website, especially the home page, by inserting your most relevant keywords into :
- Headings ;
- Headers ;
- Metadata ;
- THE URL ;
Keep in mind that long tail keywords occupy a high place in this search engine.
Due to rich snippets in the top positions of Baidu SERP, natural ranking for short keywords can be difficult.
Thus, targeting long tail keywords guarantees more chances to be ranked at the top of the SERP.
Here are two keyword search tools from the Chinese search engine:
- Baidu Keyword Planner
It is the Chinese equivalent of Google’s keyword planner. This free tool is designed for marketers to research potential keywords for Baidu.
SEO professionals can find interesting data and keyword ideas for their keyword research in China in this tool.
Unfortunately, like all Baidu PPC tools, the Baidu Keyword Planner is only available if you have a commercial license in China.
- Baidu Index
It works like Google Trends. With Baidu Index, you can easily gather information about current topics on the net.
In addition, Baidu Index provides you with powerful visualization tools that will facilitate your keyword research for the Chinese market.
2.3.15. Get quality backlinks
In fact, the famous Chinese search engine has recently improved its algorithm to make it more similar to Google’s.
Previously, any backlink could improve your ranking on Baidu. What mattered most was quantity rather than quality.
From now on, Baidu only looks for high quality backlinks. In addition, it gives preferential treatment to backlinks from Chinese websites with high authority.
So, don’t waste your time on backlinks from foreign sites, as it won’t improve your ranking on this Chinese search engine.
2.3.16. Keep your page title clear and concise
Your page title matters a lot in the Chinese search engine’s keyword matching. So, in an effort to discourage cheating behavior in the creation of the page title, a comprehensive algorithm update has been launched by Baidu.
So, to create a winning title without running the risk of being penalized, you need to pay attention to the following: The search engine’s algorithm prefers website titles to be short and clear.
Any irrelevant or potentially misleading words in your page title will compromise your ranking. So it’s very important to incorporate the exact keywords you want to rank for into your page title, but remember to keep it concise.
2.3.17. Always publish fresh content
Publishing new content helps improve your ranking. Investing in high-quality content, produced by Chinese writers who know Baidu’s best practices, can pay off in the end.
Import at least 1 to 2 publications per month to inform Baidu’s crawlers that your site exists. You should also devote some of your energy to updating the existing pages, otherwise they will end up being neglected by Baidu.
2.3.18. Make the website clearer and flatter
A clear website with a flat hierarchical structure is easier to understand by Baidu Spider and your audience.
Take the time to create a good user experience, and improve your on-page SEO.
Here is a checklist to help you see if your website structure meets Baidu Spider standards:
- Each of your web pages should at least be reachable by a text link;
- Place important content in the directory on your home page;
- Having a navigation bar on each page helps;
- Having too many sub-domains is often called cheating by the search engine.
2.3.19. Investing in the Baidu trust system
This system allows a company to appear in search results with verified information about your company. You can put a V icon on your web page when you register.
This shows Internet users that you are verified and therefore trustworthy.
Source : SEJ
While Google relies heavily on domain authority and link equity for trust signals, the Chinese giant uses a badge icon displayed on a site in its SERP snippet.
2.3.20. Internet Censorship in China
There are some practices in particular that you should strictly refrain from if you want to be well positioned by the Baidu search engine. They can seriously harm your website and are usually blocked in China by the Great Firewall (GFW).
The latter is a generic term used to describe Internet censorship in China. Here are some of these bans:
- Sites that publish politically sensitive or anti-government content;
- Any culturally sensitive information;
- Content deemed inappropriate by the Chinese government (gambling, pornography, etc.).
If your website contains Java scripts, your ranking on the Chinese Google SERPs may be affected. The crawler will be unable to interpret them. Therefore, it is better to avoid them on Chinese websites.
Also avoid using Flash content. Think of other text strings to describe the content or use appropriate Meta tags.
A beautiful 100% flash page like this will be read as an empty page or penalized for insufficient content:
Source : Template monster
Flash or too many images can slow down the performance of a website anyway. It is therefore important to always think carefully before inserting them.
The Frame or iframe structure will be ignored by Baidu Spider, so do not use it when creating your Chinese site.
2.3.22. Last but very important point: Use Baidu Webmaster Tool
Here is what the translation of the page in French gives:
By putting into practice the best Baidu SEO tips listed above, you are likely to have satisfactory results.
However, no matter how good your website’s ranking is, you’ll have to constantly look for ways to maintain or even improve it against other Baidu SEO gurus.
The Chinese giant actually offers a very good tool for this. Similar to Google Search Console, it also has its own portal called Baidu Webmaster Tools to allow you :
- Monitor and optimize the performance of your site;
- Index your website on the search engine;
- Submit your sitemap;
- See the keywords by which the website is ranked;
- and so on.
Currently, this tool only accepts the registration of mainland Chinese citizens. Nevertheless, if you have a local Chinese employee or developer, don’t miss the great advantage this tool offers.
These are my best tips to get a good ranking on Baidu and target the Chinese people for your business.
Chapter 3: FAQ
3.1. Why should online marketers consider Baidu?
Although there is still a long way to go for the Chinese Google to reach other countries, its influence in China is growing.
Every year, more and more Chinese are logging on and the local search engine giant is doing everything in its power to meet the needs of these customers.
For online marketers, this means one thing: There is an untapped potential of billions of searches per month.
However, optimizing for this Chinese tech giant is not the same as for Google. To succeed with Baidu SEO, you need to gain a thorough understanding of how it works. We talked about this in Chapter 2.
3.2. What are the challenges that can be faced when adopting Baidu?
The problem here is the lack of Baidu referencing resources available in French or even in Chinese for that matter.
In fact, the race for the first page ranking of this Chinese search engine exposes the webmasters to some challenges.
Any foreigner trying to rank for Baidu will have to deal with: complex language issues, different user behaviors, cultural differences, legal issues, technical considerations and even censorship.
Despite the challenges of the Chinese search market, online marketers who successfully optimize for this search engine reap great rewards.
For those interested in expanding their online marketing efforts in China through SEO, follow the tips in Chapter 2.
3.3. What is Baidu Pay Per Click?
Baidu Pay Per Click (Baidu PPC) is an online promotion method where payment is based on results. It is the equivalent of Google Adwords.
With Baidu PPC, a small investment can bring a large volume of potential customers to a company, effectively increasing the company’s sales volume and brand awareness.
Baidu PPC charges according to the number of potential customers it brings to a company’s website.
With this service, companies have the flexibility to control their online marketing investment, allowing them to get the best possible return on investment.
3.4. Our company is small and the marketing budget is limited, can Baidu help us?
Baidu PPC has a high performance/price ratio, allowing companies to gain potential customers without spending much money. It is a good choice for large companies, but even better for small and medium-sized companies.
3.5. What is Baidu Browser?
Baidu Browser is a Baidu browser that represents one of the many service offerings produced and developed by the China-based Internet giant.
Source : Pinterest
It has many features beyond those of standard browsers, such as built-in video and audio download tools.
It is important for companies to know how to leverage and work with Baidu to get better results.
Those looking to promote themselves to Chinese consumers should be aware that all Baidu SEO and PPC efforts must be tailored to local specifics, which work very differently from Google SEO and PPC.
This means understanding the platform, layout, keywords, language, users, etc.
Now, I hope that after reading this mini guide, you have a perfect knowledge of the famous Chinese search engine, from its history to its operation.
See you soon!