As more and more Chinese online, Baidu continues to innovate to meet their increasingly diverse tastes. With their goal of best serving the needs of their users and customers with intelligent and relevant solutions, they look forward to a robust future.
The reasons why we are investing in Baidu are as follows:
- SEARCHING is still the best method to find relevant information on the internet, while Baidu is leading the search engine field with its top-notch technology.
- Baidu covers over 70% of the Chinese search market share (followed by Sogou, 360, Shenma).
- Baidu owns one of the top advertising platforms in China with Baidu's own search and display network.
- The high average ROI from Baidu search marketing.
As a global marketer, we are always seeking chances to tap into the Chinese market. Here is what you need to know to enter the China's market with friendly SEO tips to rank on Baidu organic results.
Get a .CN domain or Don’t Bother?
Baidu favours the.CN domain suffix over .com in ranking its search results. If you are looking to rank your website on the Chinese search engine, it is highly recommended not even trying to rank with a .com in China. Your best strategy is to use the same domain prefix you are already using and just buy it as a .CN version. For example, say your main money-making website is naturalgoodmood.com. You can try GoDaddy, which will set you up with a shiny new .CN domain for around seven bucks.
Other Baidu-specific SEO tip is that Baidu likes everything done through a top-level domain (TLD).
Web Hosting: Chinese local server or Oversea server?
First of all, you might absolutely love your web host. However, while on the topic of web hosts, please don’t go to the shared hosting route. Upgrading to a dedicated or VPS (virtual private server) is a good idea no matter where you are, but it becomes critical when trying to snag Baidu's attention. The problem with shared hosting is that you share server space and computing resources with dozens or even hundreds of other websites. If one of your neighbour websites is out of line, there’s a good chance the whole IP and server will be taken down in response, leaving you to start over from scratch somewhere else. It is best to get your own server from the start.
Secondly, there is a Chinese internet firewall between mainland China and overseas. This will slow down the loading speed on the Chinese users' browsers. If you host the webserver in China, then you will need an ICP licence issued by the Chinese authority which requires your business is registered in China. The best solution we found is to host your website on a Hong Kong server. That's because Hong Kong is the closest place to mainland China with a high-speed network connection in between. It's also outside the ICP regulation and internet firewall.
[check out our China server package]
As with Google, you can start typing a keyword into the search box and receive a dropdown list of relevant, popular associated phrases that people are searching for. The other major Chinese search engines include 360 and Sogou. Repeat this tactic with all three to come up with the main keywords.
Armed with a list of likely keywords, it is now time to head over to the Baidu Keyword Planner. Similar to Google, you have all sorts of opportunities to spend money on search engine promotions and advertising. You also can choose to use the keyword planner for volume research which requires a Baidu account.
Inside the Keyword Planner, you can filter for metrics such as the below measurements:
- Average daily search volume
- Average daily mobile search volume
- Level of competition for a keyword
- Estimated top page bid cost
The goal of on-site optimization is the same whether you are talking about Baidu, Google, or any other search engine on the planet. The point is to make it easy for the spiders to crawl and accurately index your website, hopefully resulting in higher positioning in the SERPs. Online entrepreneurs and SEO professionals accomplish this with orderly website structure, fresh content, and appropriate use of keywords.
If your website’s SEO is already tuned to Google like a tightly strung violin, don’t worry, you won’t have to scrap it all. Consider it a good start.
The following areas for consideration are Baidu-specific.
Social Sharing Widget: western social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the like have one thing in common in China - they have been blocked in China. Trying to use them will result in your website running slowly, and the local audience will wonder why you are not using the government-endorsed social sharing platform like WeChat or Weibo.
Flat or Deep Website Structure: It is a well-known reality that Baidu’s spiders start to fall apart trying to index a site that is too deep, but the flat structure doesn't look so hot with those links all over the place on every page. Try to find a balance that maximizes user experience but goes no deeper than necessary.
On-site Internal Linking: Here are some Baidu best practices for internal linking.
- The homepage should only link to the main category pages. Sub-categories and other pages should be linked from the main category page.
- Every page should link back to the homepage.
- Include a good link description in the anchor text.
- More internal links to a given page indicate its importance to Baidu.
- The closer a page is to the homepage - measured by how few clicks it takes to get there - the more important it is deemed.
- Orphaned pages (those not linked to) won’t be indexed.
On-site Internal linking is also a big deal with Baidu. You can significantly improve search engine ranking by cleaning broken or redirected links and, once again, be very clear with anchor text.
Keyword Placement: As for placing keywords in content, Baidu is a few years behind Google when it comes to algorithm sophistication. Your old school techniques will help here, to some extent, but don’t take this as a license to keyword stuff like it was 1995. They still should occur naturally in the content.
Geo-Targeting Chinese Consumers
For years, marketers have targeted a demographic broadly described as middle-class, educated, married, evenly split between genders, and urban dwelling. Until recently, urban was quickly categorized as living in or near the three cities of Beijing, Shanghai, or Tianjin. Now marketers have a feeling these areas might have reached a saturation point.
In other words, the greatest potential for new customers and larger market share probably lies in the so-called second-tier and third-tier cities that have a population similar to, say, Chicago at 3 million rather than Shanghai’s 24 million.
Savvy marketers, looking five to ten years down the road, see the growth of the middle class in second, third, and even fourth-tier cities exploding. For online efforts, the task is to tap into these largely unexplored (by western brands anyway) areas before everyone else. Though television has long dominated the Chinese landscape as the primary marketing medium, things are changing rapidly.
Consider the following tactics to get your brand recognized in China’s outlying regions.
Mobile users: Recent research indicates that 61% of all Chinese internet traffic is of the mobile variety. Highly target the mobile device audience, you will likely get better conversion. That means every page of your website, every email you send, and every social media post or ad you create should reflect that reality.
Branding: If you already have a successful brand, your business is obviously doing something right. However, attracting a Chinese customer might require anything from a minor tweak to a complete brand overhaul. The bottom line is to show awareness that you understand local cultures and preferences. As an example: In China, people like to drink herbal tea and green tea. It would be a good idea to reflect that local preference in your marketing tactics.
Baidu Webmaster tool: one of the free tool that Baidu offers to website owners and SEOers. The platform is similar to Google webmaster tool and the website owner can register for their website and upload sitemap. Baidu webmaster tool will provide the data such as SEO impressions, keyword rankings, page indexations, crawling status and website errors.
There is one aspect of this discussion not touched upon yet. In fact, I held it until the very end so there would be a better chance you would remember. Though the Chinese are voracious learners of the English language, plan for your website and all marketing contents to be written in Chinese and, for the love of all that is holy, don’t rely on automatic translation software. You have no idea the kind of negative sales backlash that might result when the wrong word or phrase is rendered.
If you do not have a firm comprehension of the local language, do yourself and your business a favor and hire a native speaker to write copy and proofread each element of every sales effort. If you cannot afford that expense yet, wait. It would be better to pause your Chinese marketing plans than to do it badly. As the saying goes, there is no second chance to make a first impression.