If your business is looking to expand into China, knowing how to optimise your website for Baidu is essential for success. We provide a comprehensive breakdown of Baidu SEO and what it means to be search engine friendly in China.

Baidu is China’s primary search engine and is far more popular with Chinese Internet users than Google. You might attribute this to the Great Firewall, but Google never had a strong foothold in China even before the restrictions were put in place. Baidu’s appeal likely arises from a superior ability to interpret Chinese texts to give users more relevant results.

Ok, so Baidu cannot be overlooked. How can I optimise my site for Baidu?

Baidu’s user interface is only available in Simplified Chinese and it greatly prefers Chinese language websites in search results. Baidu also considers your server location, backlinks and business address when structuring search results. Very few non-Chinese language sites are included in search results as they are crawled less frequently, if at all. Therefore, translating your site into Simplified Chinese will give you the best chances of ranking on Baidu.

There are also noticeable differences between Google and Baidu in how they display search results. Firstly, all SERPs links on Baidu will open in a new tab, so users can easily return to the Baidu page.

Secondly, Baidu takes rich snippets to a whole new level in terms of quantity and diversity. Not only can one rich snippet contain dozens of links, some snippets are paid deals only available to partner sites. You may find some searches return with an entire page of rich snippets, so even high-ranking organic results appear at the bottom of the page – or even on page 2. To combat this new challenge, focus on long-tail keywords in your SEO strategy. These keywords generally have fewer rich snippets and will give you a better chance of pulling in traffic.

Baidu SEO SERPS SEO Sydney
Baidu SEO SERPS SEO Sydney
Examples of the wide variety of rich snippets in SERPs when searching for hotels in Beijing.

Additionally, type in any search and you’ll find most organic search results are associated with a thumbnail image. Therefore, it could be worthwhile to focus more on image optimisation as they may have greater influence on your click-through rate. Exerting more effort into optimising title and alt texts is also beneficial for search results on Baidu Images as Baidu’s image processing algorithm is still quite basic.

Websites can also apply for a domain credibility badge through Baidu, which works in a similar way to being verified on Instagram or Twitter. These badges appear in SERPs as a small V with a number attached that denotes Baidu’s level of trust in a domain. Although it’s unclear if this badge is a ranking factor, businesses may still consider applying as it can improve CTR and the website’s search appearance.

Baidu SEO SEO Sydney
An example of a domain credibility badge is circled in the image above.

Businesses should also be wary of where their content comes from. Baidu has a lower tolerance for duplicate content than Google, so it may take much longer to rebuild lost rankings if you are penalised by Baidu. Having said that, the search giant is similar to Google in how it values fresh content. Baidu greatly favours websites that update their content frequently, so maintaining a constant stream of original content can help boost your rankings on the search giant.

Another notable difference between Google and Baidu is in how their algorithms interpret meta keyword tags. Unlike Google and many other Western search engines, Baidu still uses meta tags as a ranking signal. Therefore, businesses should strategically include 3-5 keyword phrases in every page.

Furthermore, Baidu lags behind Google in crawling JavaScript and AJAX content, so you may consider updating your website to ensure no important content is fed through either, or that there is a HTML alternative.

What will my site look like in search results?

Baidu will show users different SERPs depending on the type of search query. Businesses can submit their address to Baidu, which allows their location to appear in local results for brand queries. Baidu also offers ad space for businesses – called Brand Zone – enabling multiple links, images and detailed information about the business to appear as an entire area at the top of search results.

Baidu SEO SEO Sydney
The Nike online store taking up the Brand Zone section of search results for “Nike”.

Baidu highly prioritises its own properties, so many SERPs will be heavily populated by other Baidu products. In particular, organic search results in informational queries are often intermingled with Baidu Jingyan and Baidu Zhidao results. Baidu Jingyan is a platform for people to share step-by-step guides for solving problems, while Baidu Zhidao is comparable to Yahoo! Answers. Together, they compete with organic results in SERPs.

What about mobile searches?

The popularity of mobile searches in China are growing at incredible speeds, with almost 1 in 5 users accessing the web exclusively on mobile devices. WeChat, online e-commerce services and everyday conveniences such as taxi-booking apps all contribute to mobile Internet use in China. As such, it is imperative to optimise your site to be mobile-friendly on Baidu. Luckily, Baidu has given us some pointers – here are some key takeaways from the Chinese guide.

  • Baidu does not recommend using subfolder, such as www.seomelbourne.com/mobile, for mobile sites.
  • Add meta descriptions and meta keyword tags to the website HTML. Descriptive meta descriptions are particularly helpful in the presentation of search results.
  • Use a short and clean URL for your mobile site.
  • Don’t use Javascript redirects. Instead, use 302 redirects to take users back to the home page.
  • Make sure Baidu’s web crawlers are not blocked on your mobile site. Baiduspider is Baidu’s official spider for both web and mobile sites.
  • Your mobile site should have a clear structure and navigation. Baidu recommends linking between three layers: the home page, channel pages and content pages.
  • Baidu recommends following this template for title descriptions:
    • Home page: website name_product or service description
    • Channel page: channel name_website name
    • Content page: content title_channelname_website name

Baidu takes mobile-friendly design very seriously and will transcode non-mobile-friendly pages with their SiteApp to modify the page for mobile viewing. Baidu’s SiteApp transcoding may modify or remove on-page elements automatically without approval by site owners, which could significantly impact your Baidu SEO. As transcoding is often imperfect, the formatting of your pages may change and site navigation on your site may be hidden. For this reason, it is always better to configure a mobile-friendly site yourself than to let Baidu do the work for you.

Let’s say you have already built a mobile-friendly site: what suggestions does Baidu have for on-page optimisation?

When it comes to page structure, Baidu encourages sites to prioritise the main content by placing it in the middle of the screen. Pop-ups that detract from user experience will be penalised by Baidu, affecting the search rankings of these pages. Baidu also recommends formatting pages to minimise horizontal scrolling or zooming in so visitors can consume content without many disruptions.

Baidu has similar tips for optimising web pages for readability and resource accessibility as other search engines. It’s quite evident that Baidu places great emphasis on user experience and will take UX enhancements into account when calculating rankings.

After implementing mobile-friendly optimisations to your site, the next step is to monitor how your site performs. You can check your server’s connection performance in China through Chinese pagespeed sites, which will allow you to see how fast your page loads. This is especially important if your site is hosted outside of China as the Great Firewall can greatly slow down load times. Baidu Webmaster Tools also offers a Mobile Optimisation section, which allows you to check clicks and impressions of your site. For traffic and conversion data, you can use Baidu Tongji or Google Analytics (go to ‘Acquisitions’ → ‘Source/Medium’ → ‘Baidu/Organic’).

How do I implement content marketing strategies for Baidu?

Just like Google, Baidu values high-quality content and prioritises content they deem to be relevant in the search results. We will focus on aspects of content marketing that are specific to Baidu, but you can also check out our other blog posts on SEO strategic content, blog writing tips and evergreen content writing.

Trust is king

Websites that are trusted by Baidu appear higher in search results even when their content has fewer backlinks than competitors.

Be original

Although Baidu has a harder time finding stolen content, the search engine will penalise duplicate content more harshly than Google, so it’s always best to avoid these black-hat techniques. To prevent other sites stealing your content, you should submit URLs to Baidu as soon as content has been published. This means Baidu will index your content first, which can help you rank higher than the spammers trying to rip off your work.

How long is a piece of string?

While Google prefers long-form content, it is easier for Baidu to process shorter content. As a result, you should try to keep content to 200-800 Chinese characters to help Baidu understand your article’s topic.

Ready to get started?

Baidu can seem like a tough nut to crack for anyone accustomed to Google SEO – and there will definitely be a learning curve – but knowing how this search engine operates can greatly help you enter the Chinese market. We hope that this guide has helped break down the major differences between Baidu and Google SEO so you can begin implementing a targeted Baidu SEO strategy.

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