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Baidu SEO Guide – On-Page and Technical SEO

Arnold Ma

by Arnold Ma on 10th April 2012

China has consistently been one of the fastest growing economies in the world for the past decade. It is now an essential growth area for any business hoping to maintain a global position.

As the economy grows in China, people with access to modern necessities such as computers and the Internet have been growing rapidly.

Amongst a number of success stories, the search engine of choice for China has been Baidu. In this post, we take a look at the rise of the search engine and provide you with some core SEO principles that Baidu acknowledge.

Internet Usage In China

In the year 2000, only 22.5 million Chinese people had access to the Internet, this translate to an Internet penetration rate of a measly 1.7%, but just 5 years later in 2005 this has already grown by an astonishing 357% to over 103 million people – that’s a 7.7% penetration rate.

By the year 2011, the number of Chinese Internet users has grown to an astonishing 513 million (still at only 38% penetration). This is now over double the amount of users in the US at 250 million, who still have a very high penetration rate of 78%. In contrast, the UK has only 51 million Internet users, but have the highest penetration rate of 82.5%. That means in China, there’s still room to grow.

So, where does Baidu fit in? Well, very comfortably in fact! As the principal search engine in China, Baidu dominates with a 78% share of the Chinese search engine market, in comparison Google has a 65% share in the US and a 92% share in the UK. However, when the 78% market share that Baidu has is translated into actual search engine users, they suddenly dominate, and almost double Google’s UK and US search engine users combined!

How To Dominate A Search Engine with 400+ Million Users – Baidu SEO guide

Baidu and Google are very similar search engines at their core. They both use a search engine crawler to index pages around the web. The crawler used by Baidu is called the “Baidu Spider”. Baidu however index a lot less pages than Google, currently Google has 48 billion pages in its index, while Baidu has just over 800 million pages. This means that a website with thousands of pages indexed in Google, might only have a few hundred pages indexed in Baidu.

What does this mean in terms of SEO? Well, with Baidu, it’s more important than ever to get your technical and on-page SEO right. As a result of Baidu not indexing as many pages as Google, this will ensure that your most important pages are indexed.

This therefore emphasises the importance of on-page and technical SEO when working with Baidu. Both the crawl spider and the ranking algorithm is still not as advanced as Google, so Baidu relies heavily on the on-page information. Of course links are still important, and part 2 of this post will focus on analytics, links and other topics.

Domain

First of all, when it comes to domain names, it is important to use a local TLD such as .cn or .com.cn. If you really want to dominate Baidu, build a website just for the Chinese audience. Ensuring that your website is hosted in china is vital, as US and UK hosted pages can be very slow when viewed in china.

Baidu Webmaster Tools

Just like Google, Baidu also has its own webmaster tools. It is essential that you register and add your website to Baidu webmaster tools, just like it is important to register your website with Google webmaster tools. The only downside is that the whole platform, being from China, is in Chinese. However, Google translate does a pretty good job if you are using Chrome.

Baidu Webmaster tools: http://zhanzhang.baidu.com/

Within this, you’ll be able to do many of the same things you can with Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. For example, submitting your website to the spider and sitemap, checking your robots file, traffic data and statistics. It’s nowhere as advanced as Google Webmaster Tools, but absolutely essential for Baidu SEO.

Meta

Meta descriptions and keywords have been made largely obsolete in Google’s ranking algorithm, but Baidu still puts huge emphasis on them. Ensuring that your Meta description and Meta keywords (yes, Meta keywords) are optimised is very important.

Titles have the same value of importance in Baidu as they do in Google, and they should be unique on each page of your website. Whilst different SEOs use different tactics when it comes to titles for Google, for Baidu, they actually suggest that you include your site name in your title on each page. They also suggest that you write a short description of that specific page – not forgetting your keywords, of course.

The same rules apply when optimising your Meta description. Ensure it is well written and click enticing text with a strong call-to-action. Make sure you include you service description, highlighting your unique selling points and always remember to include your target keywords.

Another important thing to note is that Baidu highlights your search query with red text rather than bold text as used in Google – making keyword heavy entries a lot more attention grabbing. So getting keywords in your title and description not only helps your rankings, but will also help to increase CTR.

The ultimate baidu seo guide image 2

Content

Baidu has recently partnered up with Bing to display English results, but English searches represents a very small percentage. The chances are that if your business requires a presence in China, you would want Chinese searchers to be able to read your content.

The ultimate baidu seo guide image 4

In order to capitalise on the Chinese search market, make sure your website is in simplified Chinese, ignoring any other dialects used in China such as traditional Chinese. This is assuming that you can write, speak and actually understand Chinese of course.

Baidu hates duplicate content just as much as Google does, so follow the same unique content rules as you would with Google SEO.

Due to censorship implemented by the government, Baidu will not index any websites that include keywords banned by the state. This won’t matter to 99% of the businesses, but please do your research for your industry to ensure you are not excluded by the number one search engine in China.

As mentioned, the Baidu spider is not as powerful as the Google Bot, so placing your most important content near the top of the page will help the Baidu spider find them, and thus index your page more effectively.

Header and Alt Tags

Baidu actually places much more importance on header tags and alt tags in the ranking algorithm, so make sure your keywords are naturally well placed in your H1, H2 and H3 titles and image alt tags.

Website Code

Just like Google, stay away from elements that cannot be crawled by the Baidu spider. For example, do not use Flash and iFrames if possible.

When creating the Menu page, again, do not use Flash. Plain HTML menus that are easily crawled is strongly recommended.

Website Structure

Similarities between Google and Baidu are evident again. It is important that your website structure should be user friendly and spider friendly. Try to ensure your content does not go too deep. Again, the Baidu spider is not as powerful, so keep your website to just one or two levels deep where possible. For example, Home page > top level categories > second level categories > content. If you are going to have very deep pages, using breadcrumbs will help.

Arnold Ma

Arnold Ma

Arnold has a broad experience in both traditional and digital marketing. His degree in Internet Engineering gives him the perfect technical expertise for SEO and PPC. He writes about his experiences in both of these topics.

15 Comments

  • Kun Dang 10th April 2012

    Nice intro to Baidu Arnold, what’s your opinion on the intelligence of Baidu to recognise Chinese characters vs sentences? Eg, in UK, we typically use “stop words” (and, or, the etc) to define a phrase, Chinese is slightly different often with multiple meanings per word. Do you think Baidu has a similar semantic language engine as Google to understand context as well as words?

    Reply to this comment

    • Arnold Ma

      Arnold Ma 23rd April 2012

      Hi Kun,

      Thanks for your comment, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I wouldn’t worry too much about semantic search with Baidu, it is still quite a bit behind Google in terms of technology, Google is only just starting to properly implement semantic search. I’d focus on getting the other factors spot on. Baidu is still very much keywords, backlinks, focused.

      Reply to this comment

  • Tait 11th April 2012

    Have you done any tests with regards to how Baidu treats meta keywords? If so, I’d’ like to hear about it.

    I have tested and have found no significance – Baidu did not even pick up the keywords at all. Plus, Baidu I believe Baidu previously stated that they do not consider keywords.

    Reply to this comment

    • Arnold Ma

      Arnold Ma 23rd April 2012

      Hi Tait,

      Thanks for the comment, as far as I know the official stance on Baidu is that Meta keywords is still been used, they haven’t said they do not read them (Google has), but if they are over optimised they will be ignored or penalised.

      However, if you have done tests it could be they are phasing this out and keeping it quiet for now, as the Baidu algorithm gets more advance they will drop more on-page factors, like Google :)

      Reply to this comment

  • John Barnes 20th April 2012

    i think in their webmaster guidlines they say to use meta keywords, but im not sure!

    Reply to this comment

  • Tom 20th April 2012

    How do I find good Chinese hosting provider?

    Reply to this comment

  • Tom 23rd April 2012

    Thanks Arnold. Just one more question, they don’t offer .cn domains. Why is that and where can I get one?

    Reply to this comment

  • Tom 23rd April 2012

    Very expensive £48 for two years, it’s like £5 for .co.uk

    Reply to this comment

  • النجاح 30th April 2012

    it’s doesn’t allow blogger sites, I have tried many times but I can not add the sitemap, and even robots code. Baidu cant read it on blogger……

    Reply to this comment

  • NUV 20th August 2012

    Great post, thanks!

    I’ve been struggling to find sitemap submission tool from Baidu Webmaster Tools, but just can’t find it. Then I read somewhere that sitemap tool is not enabled by default. I sent message to customer service and asked if they could enable the sitemap submission tool. I haven’t had a reply. I don’t have my site indexed yet and thought that sitemap submission would help.

    Do you have good tips on how to get the sitemap submission tool enabled?

    Reply to this comment

  • Pranesh 30th December 2012

    Baidu could become gaint as G if they do more indexing of sites around the world apart from it’s own country, esp blogger for me :) as it requires the site to be user friendly it should also be webmaster friendly with language as well as servies..nice post, thanks!

    Reply to this comment

  • Jacqui Low 9th February 2013

    Thanks for the article Arnold! Baidu isn’t as difficult as some people make it out to be – you do need to translate everything. I think it would be helpful it was a bit more friendly to languages other than Simplified Mandarin.

    As you said it’s still developing, so it’s webmaster tools are more rudimentary than google as well, but still get the job done at the end of the day.

    Reply to this comment

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