‘What is Baidu?’ is one of the most frequent questions we answer here at China Gravy. So, in this article, we tell you all you must know about the Chinese search engine giant.
First, we break down the Baidu search function, how the SERPs are structured, and what this means for your business in China. Plus, as always, we have many useful tips and tricks for you! So, you can start generating revenues in the gigantic Chinese market ASAP!
What is Baidu – Introduction
To begin with, the company was founded in the year 2000 by Robin Li and Eric Xu. In fact, it is specialized in internet services and products and focuses on AI technology. For example, in December 2020, Baidu Apollo launched a fleet of almost 500 autonomous driving vehicles as robotaxis.
Of course, Baidu is most known for its Chinese search engine “Baidu” with more than 665 million monthly active users. As you are aware, Google is the search engine leader worldwide. But China is different in many ways.
Due to the Chinese internet censorship and local requirements, Baidu is the largest search engine in the Middle Kingdom. In fact, Baidu has a market share of 79%, followed by Bing (9%), Sogou (4%), Google (3%), Qihoo (2%), and Shenma (2%).
Origin and Products
First, the name is from a Chinese poem and the word literally means “a hundred times”. Baidu went public in 2005 and in 2007, it was the first Chinese company to join the NASDAQ-100.
Today, Baidu offers a large variety of services. These go beyond search (text, voice, image, MP3, video) functions. In fact, it provides maps, cloud services, community forums, news, social networks, encyclopedia, translations, gaming, online shopping, entertainment, virtual assistants, a digital wallet, a browser, and much more.
Relevance in China
With a population of around 1.4 billion, China is the largest country in the world. Unsurprisingly, it is also the largest e commerce economy worldwide. So, lift this potential for your business by selling your products and services in the Middle Kingdom. To do so, you won’t get around optimizing your online content for Baidu.
Here, we’ll explain the structure of the Baidu search engine results pages.
Baidu SERP Structure
The Chinese search engine giant processes around 5 billion search queries per day! Now, we’ll break this down, so you know what you can do to appear at the top of the SERP with your business.
First of all, SERP stands for search results pages. That’s the results after you enter a search term and click enter. Statistically, half the internet users click on one of the first four organic search results (or ads as sometimes they are difficult to identify as such).
In fact, most people don’t even click on the second page of search results. That’s why it’s so important to rank on the first page and as high as possible.
Likewise, you can also use PPC ads (pay-per-click advertising), which can be helpful, for example, in the beginning, or to test new keywords. And once you have identified successful keywords, you can also optimize for them in your SEO strategy.
So, due to the reasons mentioned above, it is more difficult to rank high organically on Baidu. Even more so for competitive keywords.
Therefore, for your China SEO, it is smart to focus on brand traffic and reputation management. But the actual lead generation typically comes from PPC ads. However, SEO can still be helpful in niches, which are not yet mainstream and full of ads.
Example: 普拉达 (Prada)
The below results are based on our search on 15 January 2021 from the location of Germany). In general, ads are marked with “广告” for advertising.
To show the power of Baidu, we marked all those results bold which are organic and are not related to its proprietary products/services.
Top Banner: Brand Zone: 品牌广告 (brand advertisement)
- ad to prada.com (text ad with the official “官方” tag)
- ad to versace.cn (text ad from competitor)
- ad to net-a-porter.com (text/image ad from competitor/brand platform)
- organic result for prada.cn
- organic result for Prada on Baike
- ad to thrz.cn (text ad to competitor)
- organic image search result for prada cn
- organic result for Prada on Tieba
- organic results for Baidu image search for Prada
- organic result for related searches: 其他人还在搜 (others are searching)
- organic result for Prada on Tieba
- organic result for Prada on Baijiahao (news blogging service)
- organic result for 91xinshang.com (competitor/brand platform)
- organic result for Prada’s latest information: 普拉达的最新相关信息
- organic result for Prada recruitment information: 普拉达 -最新招聘信息46条 -百度百聘
- organic result for related Hot Search jobs: 相关热搜职位
- organic result for pradagroup.com
- related searches
On the right side
- Union: 相关品牌 (related brands)
- Related Stock Information: 港股涨幅榜 (Hong Kong stock exchange)
- Hot List: 百度热榜 (trending news)
- Contact Baidu to place ads for “Prada”
While the algorithm itself isn’t public, in 2013, Baidu launched two anti-spam algorithms:
- Scindapsus (绿萝) is like Google Penguin. It focuses on reducing link-based spam.
- Pomegranate (石榴) is like Google Panda. It tackles low-quality content (many pop ups, ads, etc.) by ranking those sites lower.
Important for Ranking
Technically, you can follow these tips to make sure that your website performs well on the SERPs of Baidu:
- Chinese Website & Hosting: First, set up your Chinese company site with a .com or .cn domain. Secondly, host your site in mainland China or nearby. Keep in mind you may need an ICP license. Finally, make sure to use a native speaker to create Chinese content or translate English information.
- Speed: Next, make sure your site loads fast. You can use CDN, caching, or minification for speed optimization. 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: Optimize your content for mobile search. Almost 90% of online searches in China come from mobile devices, numbers increasing quickly.
- Index your website with Ziyuan: Optimize your site with the Baidu Webmaster Tool
This brings us to the end of the Baidu SERP features.
However, the question remains: Which marketing route is more efficient in the Chinese market? PPC or SEO on China’s leading search engine Baidu.
Until mid-2016, Baidu PPC delivered better results than SEO, mainly because popular terms were covered by paid ads and Baidu didn’t visually distinguish between paid ads and organic results well enough. This changed in the last 5 years, i.a. when the Chinese Government limited paid results to a maximum of 30% of the SERPs and the difference between paid ads vs. organic search results is clearer. Therefore, the cost of paid ads increased, shifting the advantage to SEO.
When choosing between PPC and SEO to boost your brand in China, keep in mind that getting results from PPC is basically instant while building SEO traffic takes some time. Besides, PPC results are measurable, and SEO success also depends on the Baidu algorithm changes/updates. However, while SEO may take longer to build it is the more sustainable marketing strategy, as it doesn’t depend on continuous investment for leads once it’s established.
Google vs. Baidu SERPS
Now, let’s look at the main differences and similarities between these two search engine giants.
Unlike Google, Baidu offers its services and tools in Chinese language only. In some browsers, you can use extensions like Zhongwen to help you with translation.
2. Image Search
The image-based searches and displays are more popular and widespread in China.
3. Rich Snippets
In general, on Baidu, snippets are more dynamic and interactive compared to Google. Besides, you can’t get the snippets through SEO like on Google, but have to pay for them.
4. Focus on PPC and Baidu’s Platforms
Overall, Baidu focuses more on PPC ads than Google. Interestingly, it’s more difficult to differentiate between organic and paid results on Baidu for a better user experience (according to their statement).
Plus, Baidu has a preference for promoting its more than 60 proprietary or partly-owned platforms like
- Baike (like Wikipedia)
- Tieba (like Reddit)
- Zhidao (like Quora)
- Tuiguang (a PPC keyword research tool)
5. Trust Factor
Besides, Baidu uses 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
Finally, longtail keywords are more important on Baidu to appear higher on SERPs organically. That’s because many ads run for regular keywords.
Also, make sure to get Chinese keywords from a native speaker. So, this way you avoid any cultural missteps.
Now, this brings us to the end of this article on “What is Baidu – SERPs Explained”.
What is Baidu – The Takeaway
Now, you should be able to answer the question ‘What is Baidu?’ yourself. Likewise, we’ve broken down the Baidu SERPs and given you many useful technical tips.
To sum it up, every journey starts with a first step. So, take your first step to boost your business in China and get your FREE consultation from China Gravy! We are your trusted agency for online marketing services in China.