Baidu SEO: Optimising for a Chinese Target Audience

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BaiduAs is common knowledge, the vast population of over 1 billion in China paves the way for fantastic consumerism which we Westerners should become involved with. All company’s need is to be recognised in order to succeed, and the best way to do this is through Search Engine Optimisation. However, when looking to heighten your company’s SEO in China, there are a few things you need to be weary of.

Although Google is a large percentage of the world’s favoured search engine, this is not the case in China. Quite separately, only about 16% of Chinese internet users search the web via Google. Instead, the Chinese prefer to use the search engine Baidu.

*Baidu held around 78.3% of the 500 million users in China during the first quarter of last year (2012). This works out to around 391,500,000- now that is a huge number of potential customers and it would be almost foolish not to get involved.

Optimising for Baidu
[*data from a research firm based in Beijing called Analysys International]

Here are four important steps to ensure that you are maximising your company’s potential and heading in the right direction with regards to exposing your company to the vast Chinese community.

1. Always Use Keywords

When you start looking into the world of Chinese SEO it is first vital to understand what keywords are going to be acknowledged and should be used on Baidu.

Firstly there needs to be an understanding of the common language used in China; simplified Chinese.

You must make sure you are always using this form of Chinese as this is what Baidu will recognise and therefore also much of your target audience. It would also be a good idea to employ a native Chinese speaker to write or check over any content that is written on the website. This will ensure that you are delivering the correct information that will be recognised by the masses and reach out to as many potential customers as possible.

Now, you’ll be happy to know that although there are a number of differences between Baidu and Google, keywords isn’t one of them. The same system applies to that of your local company website. Title tags and meta descriptions are still recognised and extremely important when dealing with Baidu.

What is vital to remember is to make sure you use the same keywords on and off your website, Baidu can react quite aggressively to those who choose to ignore this piece of advice and can actually penalise you.

Baidu has a keyword research tool, put in place for you to familiarise yourself with what current users are looking for when they browse on the search engine. This allows you to see which are the most popularly searched trends, and you can then get these keywords into your website’s content for heightened exposure.

2. Local Hosting

It is extremely important that you make sure your Chinese website design is as accessible to as many users as possible within the Chinese market. If you localise your page then the website will run much smoother and faster, making it much more appealing to the viewer. When websites are set up outside the Great Wall of China, connections tend to be slower and less efficient.

Baidu SEO
[Image credit – keithroper – flickr]

To opt for local hosting you will need to be in touch with an agency that can help you with all the legislation and rules and regulations of China, so as to make sure your website is running in a strictly orthodox fashion.

3.  Stay in Tune with Chinese Social Media

Weibo LogoDo not be fooled for one second into thinking that although China’s censorship laws have restricted citizens from using Facebook and other networking sites, they don’t use social media. China does have social networking platforms, the most popular being Sina Weibo (used by around 30% of the Chinese who actively use the internet.)

Sina Weibo is the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, and is as important as Twitter for company exposure. Much of Chinese digital marketing is made possible through forums like Sina Weibo and it is greatly important that you get yourself onto the site and start making your company’s voice heard.

Baidu has recently teamed up with Sina Weibo and now posts that are made on the social media site can be linked directly to the search engine. This will certainly help increase your reach within the SERPs.

As well as using Sina Weibo there are a range of Baidu products that are interesting to take note of in terms of expanding your Chinese website’s coverage;

  • Baidu Tieba – One of the biggest communication forums in China which consists of a vast online community who type in keywords and then start discussions. If your Chinese website was extended to this site and gained attention by the Chinese public, the advantages speak for themselves.
  • Baidu Baike – Web based encyclopaedia very similar to Wikipedia. Chinese censorship plays a part in what can and cannot be shown though, so make sure you are complying with the tight restrictions that are set in place.
  • Baidu Zhidao – Allows the community to ask Questions and Answers. A fantastic opportunity for your company to come into the public eye

4. Beware of Some Technical Differences

Make sure you take note of the types of software that just will not be recognised by the Chinese Baidu search engine such as JavaScript and Flash player. If used, the content will not play and this will only cause the website to look sloppy and unfinished, whilst confusing the potential customer at the same time.

So there you have it. Of course there is a huge amount to learn and come to grips with when it comes to the world of SEO for the Chinese population, but we hope that these basic tips will get you on the right path to success.  The main points to remember are; always use appropriate keywords, locally host your website, involve yourself with Chinese social media and remember that Chinese marketing strategies can differ from what you are used to here in the UK.

Arnold Ma
Passionate about all things digital, currently working at Qumin, London's first Anglo Chinese Digital Marketing Agency. With offices in both London and Shanghai, Qumin provides... Read Full Bio
Arnold Ma
Arnold Ma

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  • WebiPromo Marketing

    This was an enlightening article to read on how to go about in entering a new market. Arnold you did a great job of breaking down simple steps to get started. Over the years I have seen many businesses use Google translate on their websites when entering new markets. In my opinion, I see this as the wrong way of expanding. As you mentioned, keywords are important and when Google translates English to any language it does not necessarily use the keywords people search for in that particular country. I’m new to Search Engine Journal but I am looking forward to reading more of your articles.

    • Arnold

      Thanks, it’s all about creating content and marketing for a specific country from a ground up, especially true for China as the cultural/language is so different in comparison to the west.

  • Crystal

    This is brilliant. Arnold, you summarized the basics and detailed steps to reach out to the Chinese audience. I completely agree that these steps are a MUST HAVE for foreign businesses in China. Look forward to reading more of your articles, especially comments about some rising stars of Chinese social media like WeChat.

    • Arnold

      Thank you for the kind comments Crystal! I am actually writing some more specific posts about organic/paid Search and Social right now, keep and eye out on Twitter 🙂

  • Mariano Sanz

    This article is really interesting and shades a bit of light over the dark of Asian SEO. Thanks a lot Arnold!

    • Arnold

      You are welcome Mariano, glad you found it interesting 🙂

  • Josh Kinkelaar


    Good Article. Id be interested in learning more about what you do and any services you might offer our company for expanding into the marketplace. Could you email me and maybe we can discuss?

    • Arnold

      Thanks Josh, would be happy to have a chat, feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter and we can discuss further!

  • Lynne Morton

    Great article and very useful, but wondered if you could advise regarding the hosting of a website in China. We have a number of technical issues and the contact in China has offered us FTP access but do you know if 1) we could even access the site this way from the UK and 2) would this damage our SEO in china (limited thought it is)!. Thanks

    • Arnold

      Hi Lynne,

      Sorry to hear you are having technical problems…

      1 – yes you can access the FTP from outside China, might be a bit slow though but not a show stopper
      2 – accessing the FTP to upload content etc. shouldn’t damage your SEO at all

      Hope that helps!