Baidu is China’s number 1 and most popular search engine, with approximately 63% of the country’s market share. Increasing your website’s anking on Baidu requires a slightly different way of thinking about Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO) compared to what you might be used to with Google’s requirements.
In this article we’ll explain the factors that determine your site’s rankings in Baidu. It’s not a comprehensive guide by any means but explores the main aspects in enough detail to make a difference to your site. So, let’s get started.
Baidu versus Google: Key Differences
Baidu have smart engineers who are constantly improving their services, but they are still far behind companies like Google when it comes to the technology that evaluates and indexes the most relevant and authoritative content.
However, they will get there sometime in the future, so it definitely would not hurt you to additionally apply the same SEO rules to Baidu that you would for Google, and in the long run it might actually help you once Baidu catches up with their technology because you will already be prepared.
Figure 1: Differences between Baidu and Google, at the time of writing.
Submitting your site to Baidu
Submitting your site to Baidu is an important thing to do if your site doesn’t appear in the Baidu’s search engine, i.e., it is not indexed yet. Without submitting your site, the Baidu spiders (computer bots that scour the internet) may not find you and your site will not get indexed.
You can submit your site to Baidu’s open source platform at:
Submitting a sitemap
Like Google, submitting a sitemap to Baidu helps them to find all of the pages on your site.
Their platform for sitemap submission is found at:
Utilising simple Chinese characters
Baidu’s biggest attribute and main selling feature is that they only index simplified Chinese characters. One of the main issues in indexing the Chinese language is that:
- There are so many differing dialects within China, so
- There are often several different characters for the same keyword.
For search engines hoping to index Chinese websites this can be a problem, not to mention those who index both the Chinese and English language.
Figure 2: Remember to use Simplified Chinese on your site.
Baidu solely indexes simplified, traditional Chinese characters. This is an advantage for English speaking companies’ websites hoping to rise in the Baidu rankings because, when you’re translating your site, there is no guessing as to which characters to include or which dialects to focus on.
You may have noticed “Pin-Yin”
Baidu does have a feature called “Pin-Yin” which allows users to type out in English how the Chinese symbols sound phonetically. However, since Baidu does not index English words, these search results are often inaccurate. So there is no need to focus on this feature when it comes to optimising your site.
Your HTML coding
Do not use ISO-8885-1. The two coding platforms to use are:
- UTF-8, or
Of the two, UTF-8 would be considered stronger since it caters to any language in the world.
Look to Bing to help your Baidu visibility
Part of Baidu’s current success in China is due in part to Google’s exit from the country last year because of censorship issues. Since Google left, Baidu has enjoyed a complete monopoly in the search engine market.
At the same time, Microsoft’s Bing search engine has been present in China for a while, but is still struggling in the country, capturing only a 2% market share. Recently however, Bing and Baidu announced a partnership. The results of this partnership mean that:
- A few Bing search results will show up in Baidu’s results.
Figure 3: Microsoft’s Bing have partnered with Baidu.
This means that if you have a solid ranking in the top 3 on Bing for your English speaking site and a top 3 ranking for your simplified Chinese site, your visibility will be extremely prevalent in the Chinese market.
Working with your on-page SEO
Unlike the direction Google has gone in recent years, Baidu places significant importance on meta data. 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.
We recommend that the majority of SEO effort on your site are made in this area. Select keywords, choose pages to optimise for those keywords, and then follow the advice above to do the actual optimisation.
Thinking about your online location
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.
Tracking Baidu’s Keyword performance
To see which keywords are performing well on Baidu check:
If you have Baudi’s Phoenix Nest PPC, you can utilise 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.
Working with your off-site SEO
To build any site’s reputation and visitors, it is important to actively promote your site across the internet in relevant locations. The same is true for your Chinese site. 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 utilise 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 Tool. There’s some evidence that submitting pages of your site to Baidu Bookmarks helps to get pages indexed quicker.
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:
- Quality of links 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 as 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 quantity 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.
Including a Pay Per Click strategy
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 spend 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.
On Baidu, the organic and paid results look the same; they are not clearly separated like they are on Google. This may change in the future.
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 and significant rise in your search engine rankings.
Keep it simple by following the basic rules outline above and you’ll gain popularity in the Baidu search engine.
References & Further Reading