Baidu is the most popular search engine in China. It is estimated, Baidu currently has a 65% share of the search engine market in China. The other two major search engines in the market are Haosou formally known as 360 and Sogou.
For any organisation wishing to target the Chinese market, optimising for Baidu is a necessity. While it’s important to keep Haosou and Sogou in mind as well, both are relatively new search engines that have only recently emerged in the Chinese market.
Optimising for Baidu
Baidu takes an even stronger stance on penalising websites with duplicate content over any other search engine. Every page on a website should have unique content. In some cases, it may be unavoidable to have duplicate content, therefore it is extremely important that canonical tags are in place to provide Baidu with information about the original source of content. Ensuring Meta data is unique is also very important.
All content and meta tags should be written in simplified Chinese characters. Baidu prefers simplified over traditional Chinese characters. Content on a Chinese website should not be in English. If it is, the page is unlikely to rank very well and won’t provide a very good user experience.
The quality and quantity of content on a page is a very important factor that Baidu uses to help determine rankings. It is recommended that pages contain a minimum of 300 words of unique content. This content should be very informative and provide valuable information to the user. Imagery, videos, and other engaging content is highly recommended.
Title tags should be written the same way you would for Google, but with a different character limit. With romanised characters, the title tag limit is 70 characters. A simplified Chinese character is equal to two characters, so the limit is 35 characters. When constructing the tag, use a keyword-rich phrase that’s descriptive of the page’s content, followed by a branded term.
Unlike Google and Bing, Baidu uses meta descriptions as a ranking factor. It is important therefore to include one or two keyword phrases along with a branded term. The length of Meta descriptions should not exceed 78 characters. Usually in Google this is 150 characters, but with Simplified Chinese this will be shorter.
Meta Keyword Tags
Meta keywords are not currently used by other search engines, but Baidu does use them as a ranking factor. They should be implemented on every page on the site and should include 3-5 keyword phrases. It is important to avoid keyword stuffing.
Heading tags are used in the same way they are for Google. Each page on a Chinese website should have a h1 tag, followed by h2 and h3 if necessary. Duplicate h1 tags on the same page should be avoided, just like when optimising for Google.
Surprisingly Baidu does not like websites that use a robots.txt file. Baidu prefers to crawl every single folder on a website. No index tags should be used instead, to prevent pages being indexed if you don’t want them to be. If a robots.txt file exists on a site it should be removed.
Sub-domains and Multiple Domains
Sub-domains should not be used on Chinese websites. Baidu prefers only one domain per site. If a company has websites in other languages, Baidu prefers them to be hosted from a different domain, rather than on subdomains or subfolders.
Site speed is a major ranking factor for Baidu. A site that loads slowly will have a much lower chance of ranking well. Chinese websites should ideally be hosted on a server in China.
Do not use iFrames for any important content. Baidu is unable to spider any element of a page within an iFrame.
Chinese Law Requirements
A Chinese office address should be included somewhere on the website to prove that the company/website is Chinese based.
Domain names ending in .cn .com and .net are preferred by Baidu.
.CN domain names are usually given preference in the Baidu SERPs over any other TLD.
Internet Content Publishing License
In China, a special license is required by the Chinese government to have any chance of achieving high rankings in Baidu. This license is called an ICP License. For more information on how to apply for this type of licence please see here – Applying for an ICP license.