What do you get when 2,740 Chinese internet users don’t know which search engine they’re using? Surprisingly the outcome is that the majority favors the Google results over Baidu’s results.
Chinese research company Intelliconsulting released a report (in Chinese) on the search result preferences of 2,740 web users that participated in a 12 day blind test.
Whenever they did a search during the test period they didn’t know whether they were searching with Baidu or Google. The software used for this Blind Test was developed by Tsinghua University (Beijing). More information on the method Intelliconsulting used is not available at this time.
Participants had to rate 8 different type of search results: news, Internet and technology, finance/business, entertainment, shopping/dining, travel/transportation, science/culture/education, and government services/public information.
The main conclusion of the research is that Google delivers more satisfying results than Baidu. 48.2% for Google, 39.8% for Baidu.
The results show as well that the differences in satisfaction with the search results between Baidu and Google gets bigger as the age of the user increases. The same goes for education. The more educated an Internet user is, the more he prefers Google results.
Another noteworthy part of the research is that the more a respondent uses search engines, the better he likes the results of Google.
The respondents were also asked what they didn’t like about the search results.
The instability of Google’s website, thanks mostly to the great Chinese firewall, was seen as negative as well as having no page-caching. The fact that Google doesn’t offer a search functionality for free mp3′s and other downloadable entertainment was also not appreciated.
The instability of Google’s website is a matter of politics, mp3 search is more likely a matter of law I think.
35.7% of the participants indicated that they didn’t appreciate that Baidu’s natural search results were mixed with advertising. The respondents also didn’t like the fact that results don’t include Chinese content from websites outside of China and that they don’t seem objective. (note, read filtered)
These are interesting results considering that Google’s China search engine mostly makes headlines with their decreasing market share and political issues about filtering results. The survey shows that even though Google is still trailing far behind Baidu, it doesn’t seem to be because of their search results.
Making sure the website gets more stable is key at this stage and offering more “entertainment” search will likely attract more younger users.
At this stage I can’t see Google directly starting to offer the hugely popular “entertainment” search yet on the Google.cn domain for legal reasons but as mentioned in my last overview of what happened in search in the last weeks, they may be experimenting with this on other domains.
Baidu can counter by making their natural results less advertiser biased and becoming more objective. The latter is easier said than done as they’re based in China and will have to comply even more with all the censor regulations.
The coming years, when the young internet generation matures (and downloading becomes less important in their daily life), will show if people will stick with Baidu or venture out more to Google.
Note: The charts are taken from Intelliconsulting and modified to make the results more understandable. Any possible mistakes in the translations are mine
Gemme van Hasselt is an Internet Marketing Consultant, living in Shanghai, and owner of Tiger Internet Marketing which provides Chinese seo services.