Google and Bing aren’t the only search engines for which you can optimize your website to rank. Depending on your website’s audience, you may want to target Baidu as well. Research by StatCounter shows that nearly four-fifths of all online searches performed in China are processed by Baidu.
Founded January 1, 2000, Baidu is China’s most popular search engine. It’s become known, in fact, as China’s Google. But like Google, Baidu isn’t bound to its country of origins. Chinese-speaking users from across the world, including the United States, can access Baidu to perform online searches. Targeting Baidu in your organic search engine optimization (SEO) strategy will allow you to draw these users to your website.
Existing Website vs Separate Version
To rank on Baidu, you have one of two options: you can either optimize your existing website for the Beijing-based search engine, or you can build a separate version of your site. Most webmasters typically prefer the latter method. If you optimize your existing website for Baidu, you’ll forfeit English-speaking traffic. Building a separate version of your website, on the other hand, ensures that both English-speaking and Chinese-speaking users can access it.
Consider a .cn Domain
Whether you intend to optimize your existing website for Baidu or build a separate site, you may want to consider a .cn domain. It’s a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) that’s designed for Chinese websites. You can either move your existing website to a .cn domain, or you can build a separate site on a .cn domain.
Baidu ranks websites with all types of domains, but it favors those with a .cn domain. Most high-ranking websites on Baidu have a Chinese-designated domain name. Keep in mind that .cn domains have stricter requirements than generic top-level domains (gTLDs). You’ll have to verify your identity, for instance, by providing the registrar with a copy of your driver’s license or passport. You don’t have to live in or operate your website in China, but you will need to verify your identity to activate a .cn domain.
Write Content in Simplified Chinese
Your website won’t rank high — or possibly at all — on Baidu unless it’s written in Chinese. For an effective Baidu SEO strategy, you should write content for your website in Simplified Chinese. Simplified Chinese is a modern variant of the Traditional Chinese language that’s spoken in mainland China.
Baidu is only available in Simplified Chinese. There’s no option for users to switch to a different language. With Simplified Chinese being Baidu’s default and exclusive language, you should use it when writing your website’s content.
Don’t Forget Alt Tags
When adding images to your website, remember to use alt tags. Most search engines analyze alt tags when crawling images, and Baidu is no exception. When compared to Google, though, Baidu relies more heavily on alt tags to process images for ranking purposes.
Alt tags are pieces of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) code that provide a text-formatted description of a published image. When Baidu encounters an image on your website, it will read the alt tag. Baidu may then increase your website’s rankings for keywords used in the image’s alt tag, especially if they are relevant to the rest of your site’s content.
Promote on Chinese Social Media Networks
Social media promotion can help your website secure better Baidu rankings, but you’ll need to choose the right social networks on which to promote your site. Most of the top U.S. social networks are blocked in China. Therefore, promoting your website on Facebook and Twitter won’t lead to higher Baidu rankings. You’ll need to promote it on Chinese social media networks for maximum SEO effect. Doing so will send positive signals to Baidu that drive higher rankings.
Some of the most popular Chinese social media networks include:
• Tencent QQ
• Sina Weibo
Build Authoritative Backlinks
Baidu uses backlinks in its ranking algorithm. It will analyze how many backlinks your website as well as the authority of its linking domains. Authority refers to the perceived credibility and trustworthiness of another website. Building backlinks from these authoritative sites will usually result in higher Baidu rankings.
It’s a little-known fact that Google’s PageRank algorithm was based on the work of Baidu’s founder. In 1996, Baidu founder Robin Lin developed a backlink-based scoring system for websites. When Google filed a patent for its backlink-based scoring system, PageRank, it cited Li’s work. Today, Baidu continues to rank websites based on their backlinks.
Sign Up for Baidu Webmaster Tools
Baidu offers a suite of online analytics tools that you can use to further refine your Baidu SEO strategy. Known as Baidu Webmaster Tools, it contains many of the same features as Google Search Console. You can use Baidu Webmaster Tools to track your website’s rankings, impressions and click-through rates (CTRs). It also offers tools for finding broken links, validating robots.txt files, conducting security audits and more.
The downside to using Baidu Webmaster Tools is that it’s only available in Chinese. You can use a browser-based translator to convert the interface to English, but no translator is perfect. Nonetheless, if you’re proficient in the Chinese language, or if you a Chinese-speaking business partner, you can sign up for Baidu Webmaster Tools.
Optimizing your website for Baidu isn’t much different than optimizing it for Google or Bing. You’ll need to create engaging content while also building backlinks and promoting your website on social media. Just remember to tailor your website towards a Chinese-speaking audience.