Baidu is the most popular search engine in China with over 665 million monthly active users. This is different from the rest of the world, where Google is the leader. In China, Baidu has a market share of 79 percent, which is followed by Bing (9%), Sogou (4%), Google (3%), Qihoo (2%), and Shenma (2%).
Presently, the Chinese search engine giant Baidu processes around 5 billion search queries per day. What does this mean for businesses?
Creating SEO optimized content and optimizing the existing content to rank on Baidu can help businesses get organic Baidu traffic and leads.
Understanding Baidu SERP Structure
The term SERP stands for ‘search results pages’, which are the results you see after entering a search term on a search engine. As per the statistics, half of the internet users don’t look beyond the first four listings that they see (be it organic or paid ones).
In fact, the drop-off is even bigger when moving from the first page to the second. For this reason, it’s important to rank as high as possible on SERP.
For ranking high, your business can also leverage Baidu PPC ads (pay-per-click advertising). Once you have the list of keywords you want to target, you can optimize your campaigns for them and also make them a part of your organic SEO strategy.
Ranking high on Baidu organically is very difficult, especially for competitive keywords. However, SEO can be helpful in certain niches that are not popular yet or fully populated with ads.
Factors For Ranking on Baidu
Technically, you can follow these tips to make sure that your website performs well on the SERPs of Baidu:
- Chinese Website & Hosting: First, you need to set up a Chinese website for your company with a .com or .cn domain. Next, you would need hosting in mainland China or nearby. You may also require an ICP license. Lastly, for your website content, you would need to take help from a native Chinese speaker to translate your information into Chinese.
- Speed: Just like Google, Baidu also ranks fast loading websites higher. You can speed optimisation methods like CDN, caching or minification. Apart from this, be mindful of not linking to any websites that are banned in China.
Also, make sure to avoid links to sites that are blocked in China like Facebook and to disrupt any connections to those in the background.
- Mobile First: Your website content must be optimized for mobile search. Almost 90% of online searches in China come from mobile devices, and these numbers are increasing quickly.
- Index your website with Ziyuan: You can also optimize your site with the Baidu Webmaster Tool Ziyuan.
Baidu PPC vs. Baidu SEO
If you look at SERP for any keyword on Baidu, you will notice how it’s crowded with paid listings. In such a scenario, one might wonder – Which marketing route is more efficient in the Chinese market? Should one run PPC ads or focus on SEO to get traffic and leads from China’s leading search engine Baidu.
Until mid-2016, Baidu PPC was known to deliver better results than SEO. This was because most of the popular keywords were targeted by paid ads and Baidu didn’t visually distinguish between paid ads and organic results well enough.
However, in the last 5 years this has changed. The Chinese Government has limited paid results to a maximum of 30% of the SERPs and the difference between paid ads vs. organic search results is made clearer.
This doesn’t mean that the paid ads are less effective. In fact, most people are still unable to distinguish between paid and organic listings. But this change led to higher cost of paid ads, which means there’s a cost related advantage of focussing on SEO.
Ultimately, choosing between Baidu PPC ads or Baidu SEO comes down to this – Do you want instant results or can you wait for results? While results from Baidu PPC ads are instant, it takes significant time to get results from your SEO strategy. Success from SEO also depends on the Baidu algorithm which is constantly changing and evolving.
Google vs. Baidu SERPs
Let’s look at the main differences and similarities between these two search engine giants.
Unlike Google, Baidu offers all its services and tools in the Chinese language only.
2. Image Search
The image-based searches and displays are quite popular and widespread in China.
3. Rich Snippets
Baidu’s search snippets are more dynamic and interactive as compared to Google. Moreover, these snippets are only available through paid advertising options unlike Google where it’s possible to rank in search snippets through SEO.
4. Focus on PPC and Baidu’s Platforms
As evident from Baidu’s SERP results, Baidu focuses more on PPC ads than Google. Baidu paid ad results are harder to differentiate from Google’s organic results. Apart from paid ad results, Baidu SERP is often crowded with Baidu’s own more than 60 proprietary or partly-owned platforms like –
- Baike (like Wikipedia) – Baidu Baike is the Wikipedia of the Chinese search engine which has more than 15 million articles (in compliance with the government censorship).
- Tieba (like Reddit) – It’s a social platform similar to Reddit (users can post and vote for links, the most popular links of the moment are displayed on the homepage). Baidu Tieba uses “bars”, or forums, as a place for social interaction for users. The slogan of Baidu Tieba is “Born for your benefit”.
- Zhidao (like Quora) – Zhidao is a question and answer platform comparable to Quora. Here, the users who answer questions are rewarded with “credits”.
- Tuiguang – a PPC keyword research tool for Baidu
- Baidu Wenku (like an online library) is a portal for members to download and share files and books. It currently has more than 220,000,000 uploaded documents.
- Baidu Jingyan – Users on this platform can share their experiences and knowledge on how to perform a specific task or solve a problem.
5. Trust Factor
Besides, Baidu has a website credibility system, which shows the level of trust of a domain in its SERP snippet. This is a paid service, but Chinese users place high value on authority and trust.
The levels are:
- V1 and V2 can be purchased
- V3 must be earned
6. SEO Tips
For Baidu SEO, long tail keywords are more important to appear higher on SERPs organically. That’s because popular keywords are occupied with multiple ads. You can identify these keywords using AdChina.io’s Baidu Keyword Research tool. Once you identify the keywords that are more relevant to your business, you can either target them through SEO content or paid ads based on the cost per click and competition for that keyword.
Measuring and Tracking Your Baidu SEM Results
As with all marketing strategy and tactics, setting and measuring KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) will different from business to business and campaign to campaign. Here we’ll provide a more universal list that you can add or subtract to fit your Baidu SEM campaign objective and overall strategy.
Universal SEO KPIS
Every month you’ll want to track and measure at least a few of these universal SEO KPIs to identify weaknesses and refine your SEO strategy and tactics accordingly.
Organic Traffic: Obviously you’ll want to measure organic traffic which is traffic coming from the keywords you ranked for on Baidu or other search engines. If you’re new to SEO expect the increase to be gradual by very small for the first 6 to 12 months, but as you work on your SEO you’ll begin to see a more dramatic increase in terms of organic traffic.
Direct Traffic: Direct traffic is traffic coming from a user entering your website URL directly into the browser, this can be offline referral traffic or most often return visits.
Referral Traffic: Referral traffic can be traffic coming from other websites linking to you or social media links to your website. This metric will allow you to compare traffic and optimize according to where you’re getting the most referral traffic.
Bounce Rate: Contrary to popular belief having a high bounce rate is not necessarily a bad thing. Bounce rate is a measurement of how often people visit your website and leave without visiting any other page. Most search engines expect a high bounce rate because the goal of a search engine is assisting and directing people to the information they’re looking for.
Information websites such as news sites will want a low bounce rate because they want you to stay on their site for as long as you’re willing to and consume their content. For most business sites you’ll usually want a low bounce rate because you want to move the user down the sales pipeline and this will usually be a multiple page process.
Session Time: Session time measures how long an average user stays on your website without either leaving or closing their browser. This is a good metric to look at for engagement and to judge whether people are actually consuming your content and find them valuable.
New vs Return Visits: In the beginning you’ll probably not get a large percentage of return visits but as traffic grows on your website, you’ll begin to see a lot more return visits. This is another great metric to measure whether your content is relevant and useful to the audience. A high return visit is usually a good sign of people enjoying the content you have on your website.
Number of Pages That Get At least 1 Visit: This metric is not talked about often but it is important to see the number of pages that have at least 1 visit from the search engine. This will tell you how many of your pages are indexed by Baidu or other search engines in China.
Conversion Ratio: Unless you’re a SEO geek, the reason you’re doing SEO is to move the middle. While all the metrics we’ve mentioned so far are important and will give you a good idea on whether your SEO and content strategy work, ultimately you want to convert that traffic to paying customers. Conversion ratio is the metric you’ll want to set to measure the percentage of search engine traffic converting.