Baidu keyword research is the first step to successful SEO in China as well as PPC. In today’s online world, appearing at the top of SERPs in China and around the world is crucial to reach your Chinese audience.
In this guide, we from China Gravy, your one-stop China marketing agency, will discuss everything around researching keywords to connect with Chinese consumers.
Get started to reach your Chinese audience in the Middle Kingdom and abroad.
To begin with, we would like to say a few words about why researching keywords is important. For your website content including blog articles, you want to write about topics and use phrases that people are searching for online on their preferred search engines. It is also important to plan your PPC campaigns.
Ideally, those are buyer intent keywords rather than generic one-word phrases. An example of a buyer intent keyword is “buy black leather outdoor boots”. On the other hand, a generic keyword would be just “boots” or “shoes”.
So, all your campaigns for search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns start with researching the best keywords. This is the foundation for your next steps in the SEM world. Your ultimate goal is to appear at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), where your target audience can easily find you.
Starting Baidu Keyword Research
Generally, finding suitable keyword search terms contains the following steps. Fortunately, there are useful keyword research tools to help you along the way, which we will describe in more detail below.
1. Brainstorm topics and phrases
You can start by entering some ideas into your search engine of choice to get a first idea, which search query people are interested in and search (keyword suggestions through autofill and autocomplete).
Typically, you can also see related search terms at the bottom of the SERPs. On social media, you can identify popular or trending hashtags. For example, on Weibo, you can see how many followers a hashtag has. This way, you can get an idea of your potential target audience when running an ad with this hashtag.
2. Analyze this initial keyword list
The tools listed below can help you with this. Particularly consider the search volume (demand, popularity) and keyword difficulty (competition). Your perfect keyword has a high search volume and low difficulty.
3. Select the best keywords
And create related keyword clouds. Keep in mind to sharply differentiate your topic and keywords in order to avoid cannibalization.
4. Integrate these keywords
Add them to your content, which can be everything from the copy text to the meta descriptions, titles, and more SEO important tags.
Read our in-depth article on why a China SEO strategy is important for your business.
Researching Keywords on Google vs. Baidu
There are two very important aspects to keep in mind that will help you to excel with your Chinese SEO:
1. Long Tail keywords are more important on Baidu
That’s because SERPs on Baidu often have many rich snippets at the top. Unlike on Google, these snippets are paid for on Baidu. So, even if your site is ranking high organically, the actual position can easily be at the bottom of page 1 or even on page 2. As long-tail keywords typically have less rich snippets, you have better chances of appearing higher on the SERPs.
2. Use Chinese keywords for Baidu from a native Chinese speaker
As a foreign business, you may be tempted to use Google Translate to create your keywords and search terms. However, this will only lead to inaccurate, incomplete, and frustrating results.
Now, let’s start!
A. Chinese Keyword Research for China
As you know, China has its own search engines. Besides the market leader, Baidu, there is Sogou, which is gaining popularity. There are a few other websites for an online search in China, but they are negligible.
The keyword research tools which we will present will provide you with practical and useful keywords to add to your online presence.
Keep in mind that these tools:
- require registration, for which typically a Chinese phone number or business license is needed.
- are in Chinese language without translation. You can use extensions like Zhongwen on Google Chrome for automatic translation.
- may not be intuitive.
- require critical analysis of its data.
Now, without further ado, let’s dive into keywords search.
1. Baidu Index (Baidu Trends)
First of all, Baidu Index (Baidu Zhishu) aka Baidu Trends compares to Google Trends. This Baidu search index basically shows which search terms users entered. Therefore, it reveals trending data (based on search behavior) and can help you to better understand the market and your target audience.
It gives you a general idea of which terms are searched by which users.
You can log in either with a “regular” Baidu account or a Baidu PPC account. The advantage of registering a Baidu account is that you can access Baidu Ziyuan (Baidu Webmaster Tools) and Baidu Analytics (Baidu Tongji). With a Baidu PPC account, you can also access the Jimuyu page builder and Baidu Ads (Baidu Tuiguang), display ads, and more.
You can follow the search trends and your individual niche keywords and phrases over a period of time. Besides, you can analyze and evaluate search queries, and set filters like region or demographic.
Keep in mind that the displayed search volume of certain keywords on Baidu Index is relative and only shows trends. According to industry experts, doubling this number equals the actual number of searches.
Based on your analysis, you can adapt your online marketing strategy and create tailormade messages to reach your target audience.
Get started by entering a search term in the query box. Next, you will find a wide range of different information, which we will look at in a bit more detail here.
a) Historical & Forecast Search Trends
Find out how interest in a search term/keyword has changed over time. You can filter by region, time frame, and by the device. Besides, you can compare up to five keywords and their trending data.
b) User Interests & Needs
This graphic helps you to better understand the concerns and needs of users through extended and related interests. The closer an extended keyword is to the core keyword, the higher the relevance.
c) Related Searches
Here, you will find the top 15 related search queries by their search popularity. This way, you can identify competitors and gain further insights into the needs and concerns of your target audience.
This is particularly interesting for foreign companies aspiring to enter the Chinese market. They can get an idea of consumer interests and industry dynamics.
d) Interests by Region
This search allows you to filter according to geographic region. For example, you can choose the top 10 provinces that generate the most search for a specific term. Click on any region/province for a deep dive on the parameters there.
For example, if your budget is lower or your brand is new, you can start promoting your business in key regions to build your brand awareness.
e) Demographic Data
This provides a demographic overview of the audience, including age and gender. With this, you further break down your target audience and customize your online marketing strategy.
Next, let’s look at how to go beyond trends for keywords. Find out how to research and analyze keywords for Baidu in detail.
2. Baidu PPC Keyword Tool
To research keywords that will improve your ranks on this search engine, the Baidu keyword planner is ideal. It is the most accurate keyword research instrument, especially in terms of search volume, as this tool is part of Baidu. You can access this free tool under http://www2.baidu.com/.
But you will need a Baidu PPC account (different from a “normal” Baidu account) to log in. We have put together an in-depth guide for you on how to register both accounts with and without a Chinese phone number here. Getting a Baidu PPC account can be challenging for foreign companies. An agency like China Gravy can assist you with this. Get your FREE consultation!
Baidu research starts with logging in to http://www2.baidu.com/. Then, click on the blue button “进入” (enter), which you can find in the middle in the “搜索推广” (search promotion) section. Get started with Baidu keyword research.
Now, you have arrived at https://fengchao.baidu.com. At the top menu, select “工具中心” (tool center) and “关键词规划师” (keyword planner).
Fengchao – Keyword Planner
Now, you have arrived at the Baidu Keyword Planner Tool! It is one of the most reliable keyword tools for the Chinese market.
Here you can enter a keyword or URL and receive key metrics as well as suggested related keywords. You can then filter these suggested keywords. For example, by device, location (keep in mind Xiachen), search volume, cost estimate, competition level, and so on.
Apply the right filters for your objective and purpose to get the most suitable keywords.
This is the keyword information for “微信” (WeChat, China’s super app).
At the end of 2020, the suggested CPC (cost per click) for this search term is 1.47 RMB (0.23 USD). The monthly search volume is 13,670,371 and the competition is low.
Tip: If you already have a Chinese website, you can also use the Baidu Webmaster Tools (outside of Fengchao). This can also provide insight into organic keywords, for which your site has gained impressions or clicks. For example, you can identify which keywords were used to reach your website and focus on further optimizing those.
If you want to know more, we have put together an extensive guide on Baidu PPC for you here.
关键词挖掘 is 5118’s keyword digging tool. It shows you general keywords, related long-tail keywords, the CPC, mobile and desktop traffic, the daily search volume, and the competition (difficulty).
5118 mainly analyzes the search volume for the Baidu search engine but also shows the index volume for the 360 search engine. You can open a 5118 account to see more information.
5118 provides these results for a search of “微信” (WeChat).
This Chinese keyword research tool, Chinaz, allows basic keyword research. You can see the daily traffic divided by device, the CPC, related keywords, and more.
Chinaz gives you the keyword research results for the Baidu search engine. Likewise, China also shows the authority and other metrics for search engines like Sogou and 360.
To give you a better idea, these are the results for “微信” (WeChat).
5. Aizhan Keyword Tool
Aizhan is a similar website to Chinaz. Its keyword tool allows marketers to identify relevant keywords.
Start with a core keyword to get a list of long-tail keywords with a daily search index, indexed pages by Baidu, the top two websites ranking for the keyword, and the difficulty (color-coded, i.e. red is more difficult than green)
B. Chinese Keyword Research Outside of China
There are around 50 million overseas Chinese, meaning Chinese citizens outside of mainland China. That’s a large target demographic, which is worthwhile tapping into.
Let’s take a look at which tools are suitable to research topics and keywords to reach your Chinese target audience. Note that this refers to Chinese who have been living abroad for a longer period of time already. Chinese citizens who have just moved abroad will likely continue to use the Baidu search app on their phones initially.
Outside of China, the search engine of choice is Google with a market share of over 80%. Therefore, we’ll look at the Google Keyword Tool, but also present you with two alternatives.
1. Google Keyword Tool
You can find the Google Keyword Tool on Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords). This tool is free, but you need to register. Afterward, you can get the search volume, and get bid estimates for PPC campaigns.
The search volume for terms or phrases in simplified Chinese is naturally lower on Google, which is blocked in mainland Chinese. So, you can use Google keyword research to identify keywords in traditional Chinese, which is used in writing in Hong Kong and Taiwan and by many Chinese living abroad (as Chinatows are often founded by Hong Kong Chinese).
This may not sound important, but 30 million Chinese live in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The total population of mainland China is 1.4 billion.
Get search volume and forecasts
Discover new keywords
Next, let’s look at two more tools.
This comprehensive tool, SEMrush, doesn’t come cheap. Monthly plans from 99.95 USD. But it offers great in-depth research and analysis options beyond keywords to start your SEO and PPC journey, plan campaigns, and analyze them. It also comes with many practical tools around market insights, writing assistants, and more.
SEMrush offers an analysis of various metrics like keyword volume and difficulty per country. This way, you can analyze domains, do a keyword gap analysis, research backlink opportunities, audit your website, and create many useful reports.
Last, but not least, Ahrefs has a similar pricing structure as SEMrush, its competitor. Monthly plans start from 99 USD.
Both tools offer similar insight. However, Ahrefs has a larger backlink database and SEMrush has better keyword data. The main difference is that SEMrush only provides keyword data for Google and position tracking for Baidu (no search volume for Baidu keywords), whereas Ahrefs also provides insight for other search engines (but also no search volume for Baidu).
In fact, Ahrefs also offers keyword research for nine other search engines, including YouTube, Yahoo!, and Amazon. However, if your focus is to research Google PPC data, then SEMrush offers more insights as it shows both organic and PPC data.
The dashboard of Ahrefs is rather straightforward and similar to SEMrush. On Ahrefs, there’s site explorer, keyword explorer, site audit, rank tracker, and content explorer.
Comparing the Results
Here is a comparison of the monthly search volume of “微信” (WeChat) on the Chinese keyword research tools. This is an estimate based on the page visits.
For mainland China (focus on Baidu)
|“微信” (WeChat)||Baidu PPC Keyword Tool||5118||Chinaz||Baidu Index||Aizhan|
|Daily search volume||Daily search index|
As you can see, only 5118 comes close to the data of Baidu itself. All other tools show very high discrepancies. However, you can still use the other third-party tools besides Baidu to analyze SEO-metrics like authority, backlinks, and so on.
But when it comes to the accuracy of the daily or monthly search volume of a keyword, you should always use the Baidu PPC Keyword Tool first. Keep in mind that only the Baidu PPC Keyword Tool, 5118, and Chinaz will show you the search volume. Aizhan and Baidu Index will provide you with the search index value.
You can also see that the daily search index of Baidu Index multiplied by 1.5-2 equals the daily search volume.
Baidu Keyword Research – The Takeaway
To sum it up, knowing the best search terms (keywords) to reach your audience online is crucial in today’s fast-paced and competitive world.
This guide describes the process of researching keywords as a first step of your SEO strategy. You will be able to reach your Chinese target audience in China and abroad with the help of various useful keyword research tools.
Do you want to learn more about the Chinese market, but can’t set up a Baidu account? Or do you want to outsource the detail-oriented task of keywords-based advertising to an expert? We are here to help!
Every journey starts with a first step! Take this step now and message us your request or get your free consultation!