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Baidu is often referred to as the Chinese Google, and while its respective dominance in its market is similar to Google's, this can lead to the misconception that the two search engines differ only in name and region.

This is of course not the case. Baidu is a completely different search engine to Google, with different values and ranking factors.

Read on to find out my seven on-page tips for Baidu SEO, or for more information on this topic download Econsultancy's Baidu Search Best Practice Guide.

1. Use the correct language

The first step to SEO success on Baidu is selecting the correct language. On the face of it this sounds simple, but there are several different dialects within China and the same word can be represented by several characters.

To circumnavigate these issues Baidu solely indexes simplified Chinese characters.

This is an advantage for English speaking companies’ websites hoping to rise in the Baidu rankings because, when you’re translating your site, there is no guessing as to which characters to include or which dialects to focus on.

2. Choose a suitable domain name

A suitable domain name is a crucial aspect of any website no matter the country or search engine being targeted.

Baidu has several recommendations for domain names including making it as short as possible and memorable.

Other advice provided by the Chinese search engine includes choosing a domain name that generates a sense of trust, using well-known suffixes such as .cn or com.cn. Analysis shows that internet users find a .com domain name is much easier to remember, eg. Apple in China: www.apple.com/cn. It is not a compulsory requirement to register a .cn domain name.

3. Site structure

Your site should have a clear structure and navigation which helps users quickly find what they are looking for, while at the same time allowing search engines to quickly understand your site.

Baidu recommends a tree-like site structure with a flat architecture where possible as this allows the search engines to find your content in as few clicks possible. No more than four clicks to the deepest level is recommended.

The most important pages should be found in the top levels of the site and it is important to ensure that each page can be reached through at least one text link.

Baidu’s crawlers and algorithm are not as advanced as Google and so rely heavily on the on-page information provided by the web pages of a site.

In addition to this, due to poor connectivity in second and third tier cities where desktop access is less common Baidu’s crawlers will often simply crawl only the first 100kb to 120kb of content on a page.

Consequently, a site needs to be fast, mobile optimised and easy to crawl as it will be accessed through a 3G connection.

Baidu also indexes far fewer pages than Google. As of last year Google had 48bn pages in its index, while Baidu had just over 800m pages. This means that a website with thousands of pages indexed in Google, might only have a few hundred pages indexed in Baidu.

Therefore, 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.

4. Avoiding crawling restrictions

As I’ve mentioned, Baidu’s crawlers are not as advanced as Google’s and therefore it’s imperative you avoid certain types of web content in order to be properly optimised in China. Badiu can only read text content and can’t read Javascript and Ajax content or links.

Therefore it’s recommended that you avoid excessive image or Flash use, JavaScript links and use regular text content instead of image files where possible.

Badiu’s crawlers will also ignore frames or iFrames. If you really must use Flash web pages, make a text version for search engines and put a link in the homepage for this.

5. Title tags

Your title tag should be attractive with a clear message and should contain the most important keywords.

When splitting up the keywords Baidu recommends an underscore (_) as a good separator. This is in direct contrast to Google and Bing which recommend a hyphen (-). A common example of underscore usage in well-known Chinese websites are:

Sina.com

Tech.HuanQiu.com

Recommended Title Tag Format

6. Meta Description Tag

Although the Meta description is not a ranking factor, Baidu highlights your search query with red text rather than bold text as used in Google which makes keyword heavy entries a lot more attention grabbing.

So getting keywords in your title and description will help to increase CTR.

You can check the CTR of a page using Baidu Tuiguang (www2.baidu.com) or Baidu Editor which is available for any companies that have a Baidu account in the ‘account brief info’ menu.

7. Subdomain

Baidu treats subdomains differently to Google and Bing. It doesn’t measure subdomains as totally separate sites with different ranking metrics. Instead, it treats subdomains more like an organised subcategory.

Therefore they inherit the root domain’s authority meaning a subdomain’s authority is directly related to the main root domain.

A couple of points to bear in mind on subdomains:

  • Don’t have too many.
  • Don’t share the same content between two separate subdomains as Baidu will recognise this as duplicated. 

As it’s Chinese New Year this Friday, why not get to know the country’s search engine and ecommerce market with our infographic below. 

Ian Harris

Published 30 January, 2014 by Ian Harris

Ian Harris is the CEO and founder of Search Laboratory, and a contributor to Econsultancy.

10 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

Oliver Ewbank

Oliver Ewbank, Digital Marketing Manager at Koozai

Nice post. Really interesting to see they highlight keywords red in Meta descriptions. This will have a great impact on CTR.

about 2 years ago

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steve blackburn

I had to block Baidu from crawling my website because it was hogging all the resources and ended up DDoS my site. Once I blocked their entire IP range of crawlers my site came back online! Worth it.

about 2 years ago

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Tait

Not bad. It would be nice if you linked to sources, like the research mentioned in point 2.

about 2 years ago

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Jenna Moss

Great information sharing..good work..

about 2 years ago

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Daylan Pearce

Paid Media is also a massive part of Baidu marketing. The Baidu algorithms in particular fluctuate so much that organic search is still very volatile, but buying your way in will always guarantee rankings.

about 2 years ago

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