With almost 1 billion internet users, China is the biggest online market in the world.
How can international businesses tap into this high-potential market and drive online sales in China?
Well, one of the first steps is to optimize your web presence for Chinese search engines. For international businesses interested in the Chinese market, an understanding of the top search engines in China is a must.
In this post, we’ll share the most popular search engines in China and break down the top facts about them.
We’ll be covering the key statistics, features, and differentiators of the five most important Chinese search engines.
Then let’s dive right in.
First up on our list is Baidu, which is by far the king of Chinese search engines.
With an impressive market share of over 75%, it’s the largest search engine in China and attracts around 222 million active users a day. Google, in comparison, holds just 2.34% of the Chinese search engine market, despite its popularity in the west.
94% of Baidu users are Chinese, with the remaining user-base coming mostly from Japan and the United States.
At first glance, Baidu is very similar to Google. Its search engine results page is divided up into two columns: one for like-for-like results, and one for similar results. Both columns feature paid results, just like Google, and both are organized in the same way.
Both also offer additional services like maps and image search.
That said, there are a number of core differences between Google and Baidu:
- Baidu’s SERPs are dominated by ads and rich snippets
- It prioritizes its own websites, like Baike, Tieba and Zhidao.
- Baidu also only ranks Chinese/Mandarin sites.
- Baidu has a domain credibility system where websites can pay for higher trust scores.
As such, SEO for Baidu requires a very different approach than optimizing for Google. Check out our guide on Baidu SEO to learn more about these differences and how to tackle them.
While no search engine in China comes close to Baidu, Sogou is certainly a Chinese search engine to look out for.
It currently holds a market share of around 15% and is used by approximately 695 million users each month. This makes it the second-biggest Chinese search engine behind Baidu. And although it’s unlikely to surpass its competitor, Sogou shows no signs of slowing down.
In fact, in the growing voice-activated search market in China, Sogou is leading the way. Its mobile app, Sogou Pinyin, processes up to 802 million voice requests a day from its 454 million strong user base. It is the ninth biggest app in China.
It’s not just voice and desktop searches that give Sogou the edge. It’s also the only search engine in China that can search for public accounts on WeChat and is the default search engine for QQ. WeChat and QQ are two of China’s biggest “super apps,” owned by Tencent.
Other Sogou features include powerful translation capabilities, personalized “skins,” and the Sogou AI writing assistant. The writing assistant uses optimized AI algorithms to help users get the most accurate results.
Combined, these features position Sogou as a key competitor to Baidu. It’s also a future-focused search engine that’s perfectly placed to attract and serve the next generation of Chinese web surfers.
Next on our list of top search engines in China is Shenma. It’s a mobile-only search engine that essentially combines a search engine with an app store and e-commerce site.
Shenma is owned by Alibaba, the biggest e-commerce company in China, and is integrated with UC Browser — the second largest internet browser in China — which has opened it up to more than 500 million users.
It functions as a cross-platform app that presents users with a wide range of products available from Alibaba and other e-commerce sites, as well as apps and novels. It also displays product reviews from other customers in the SERP.
Think of it as a search engine to find, and verify, products you want to order or download.
For international businesses, Shenma can help reach e-commerce shoppers who are searching for specific, product-related keywords. Brands can then optimize for these keywords and/or run paid ads against them to increase sales.
Shenma search results are heavily dominated by ads — especially for Taobao and TMall stores. — which, with the right strategy, could offer a fast track to getting in front of its users, who have secured Shenma almost 2% of China’s mobile internet market.
4. Haosou (aka 360)
Haosou, also known as 360 Search, holds around 2.52% of the China search engine market. It appeals, predominantly, to professional users who are tech-savvy and conscious about web security.
Haosou is owned by Qihoo 360, which also owns 360 Secure Browser, one of China’s top web browsers. In fact, most Chinese computers have 360 pre-installed with Haosou as the default search engine.
It offers a wide range of services, including news, images, maps, and music, just like Baidu.
Launched in 2007 by Chinese tech giant NetEase, Youdao is a hybrid search engine and translation tool that lets its 700 million users translate Mandarin into over 20 different languages, including English, by searching for specific words and phrases.
Youdao users can also search for (and translate) web pages, images, news, blogs, product pages and more. However, Youdao functions more as an online educational platform than as a standard Chinese search engine (like Baidu).
In fact, Youdao is the biggest translation tool and online dictionary in China. It also offers a wide range of other educational services, such as online courses, interactive learning apps, and educational games. Think of it as a Chinese search engine with an educational twist.
Youdao offers a great opportunity for international businesses looking to target Chinese internet users who are interested in foreign products. Almost 50% of its user base is under the age of 24, and most are either students or high-income earners.
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