Baidu SEO

Should I care about Baidu for SEO?

The opportunity to capture a share of the Chinese digital marketing sphere is certainly tempting, particularly given that Baidu alone has 218 million daily users and is the most used search engine in China. 

Indeed, given that Google is all but blocked in China (aside from a very seldom-used, dumbed down version of Google Hong Kong), you should definitely care about Baidu as a search engine if you are dealing with Mainland Chinese customers or perhaps plan to branch out there. 

If your business has operations in China or you have a product that you are planning to bring to Chinese audiences via ecommerce methods or otherwise, then you need to have visibility on Baidu.     

How does Baidu + AI matter?

Baidu has also recently integrated AI solutions alongside its core search engine product, with its ChatGPT equivalent known as ERNIE Bot. ERNIE bot was rolled out to the public in China in August 2023, with users being able to access the tool in the form of an app and on desktop.

While Baidu’s AI ventures will only (for now) be likely largely be applicable to users within China, particularly as it will undoubtedly fall victim to Chinese government censorship, it is worth keeping an eye on developments and how this impacts China SEO in general. Baidu currently has no plans to release AI-generated answers in search results like Bing and Google (in the near future), however it is worth keeping tabs on this if you are running China-focused SEO operations. 

What are the key differences between Google and Baidu?

While other search engines such as Bing share a lot of similarities with Google, Baidu does stand out with a number of core differences in its search ranking algorithm.

The first and most obvious difference is Baidu’s preference for websites based in China, with Chinese hosting and ideally on Chinese domains (.cn). You will need to have a ratified business presence in China in order to host sites within China and gain this advantage. If you don’t, there are a number of “near-China” hosting solutions that can help bridge this gap, with some third-party companies offering hosting solutions in locations such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. 

Aside from these core considerations (which really do make the difference for Baidu SEO), use of Simplified Chinese in your content is paramount, as is the strategy of establishing a brand presence on Baidu’s affiliated products (such as Q&A forums Baidu Tieba and Zhidao) given their prominence in Baidu search results.   

In pure technical SEO terms, Baidu’s crawlers are less advanced than Google’s and may have issues with crawling and indexing large and complex sites with heavy use of JavaScript. If your business is branching out to China, take steps to ensure the localised version of your site is clean and simple in its architecture. 

Aside from such SEO differences, your Baidu SEO strategy success will hinge mostly on investments around getting the right China-centric hosting and technologies in place. 

If I optimise SEO for Google does it work on Baidu?

Carrying out best practice SEO strategies for Google will only get you so far when it comes to search engine visibility in Baidu and China in general. Even if your Chinese translated content is performing well with Chinese speaking users who use Google (such as in Hong Kong, Taiwan, or in the case of overseas Chinese speakers in the US), this will likely not be the case for Baidu. Baidu will always prioritise content from within Mainland China, with backlinks and other such search signals being prioritised if they’re from Mainland Chinese publishers over anything else.

If you’re in a sensitive niche that is heavily censored by China, such as gaming, health, or anything politics or news related, expect little breakthrough as search results in these fields are government-approved.

This is why if you’re a business owner seriously investing in Baidu SEO, then it needs to be considered as its own separate SEO venture with ideally individual CN websites and hosting.  

Does Baidu send much search traffic?

With Baidu having over 677 million monthly active users, then the traffic potential is astronomical. Even if you’re a brand within a relatively niche offering that is able to occupy only a small percentile of the market share of your industry in China, potential users are still likely to be huge.

This is dependent on a solid Baidu setup and strategy of course. If you’re vying with decisions of whether to enter the Chinese market and have done your consumer research, then a deciding factor of whether to move forward with Baidu SEO may be informed by taking a look at your existing analytics. If your website is getting a solid proportion of traffic from Mainland China in its current guise, then it may be worthwhile converting this opportunity into something bigger with a Baidu venture. 

How do I set up my website to make it visible on Baidu?

You may already have some visibility on Baidu already, particularly if you are publishing content in Simplified Chinese. Like Google, Baidu continually crawls the web (albeit prioritising China-based websites) and will index sites without the need for business owners to actively pursue SEO efforts.

However, to consolidate this and move forward with improving search rankings from within Mainland China, businesses will benefit from verifying their web on Baidu Webmaster Tools. This will enable enhanced crawling opportunities, the ability to manage sitemaps, and monitor Baidu SEO performance closely.    

Setting up your Chinese website on Baidu Webmaster Tools will require credentials such as a Chinese phone number, however it is worth navigating this hurdle for better Baidu visibility and potential revenue from China.

Are there any Baidu or China-specific SEO tools or other considerations? 

A lot of success for Baidu SEO hinges on getting the right set up in terms of China (or near-China) hosting and getting your content well localised into Simplified Chinese, ideally on a CN domain or a near alternative. 

Given Baidu SEO metrics, such as keyword rank tracking and analytics, won’t be native or visible in your Google-centric toolset, it is worth investing in tools that offer this. Tools such as Dragon Metrics are one of the few that offer accurate Baidu rank track ranking, and you will also be able to visualise your Baidu SEO via the integration of Baidu Webmaster Tools and Baidu Analytics within the tool.

Familiar SEO tools won’t be able to report back accurately on your China SEO efforts, so it is a worthwhile investment to consider spending on specialist Baidu SEO tools so you can drive your efforts closer to revenue improvement from China SEO.

Are there other search engines in China I should be aware of?

Baidu continues to be the dominant force in the field of Chinese search engines, however there are some additional players on the scene who have been making inroads. 

Sogou is China’s main rival, and has been slowly creeping up on Baidu’s majority market share in recent years. Bing is also used prevalently in China, largely owing to Google being all but blocked there.

Baidu SEO Case study

UK household luxury brand makes major inroads in China with robust Baidu SEO strategy.

Problem: A major UK luxury retailer was aware that it had a massive untapped audience in China, following an audience listening and keyword research piece. However, it had little visibility on Baidu.

Solution: After considered localisation of its core web assets and product pages into Simplified Chinese, the brand then took steps to ascertain a “near-China” hosting solution to platform this content on. Steps were taken to get the site verified on Baidu Webmaster Tools via a third-party in China, and visibility on Baidu soon spiked, leading to a notable increase in organic traffic and conversions from Mainland China.

Let's work together?
Discuss Project