Insights

Basics of Baidu SEO

Aug 14, 2023

Baidu is China's leading search engine. Generally, it follows the same rules as Google, but some key differences need to be observed in order to rank well.

Understanding Baidu's role

Unlike Google, which operates in multiple countries and languages, Baidu focuses on providing Chinese language search results for Chinese users.

Understanding this background provides helpful context for the differences in optimizing for Baidu.

Chinese language first

Ideally, companies should have a single website for China, and one (or more) international sites, such as the following:

  • www.company.cn: China-hosted site with Chinese language only
  • www.company.com: international site with English and/or other languages

If this is not possible, a dual-language structure with Chinese in the root directory is the next best alternative:

  • www.company.com: China language version
  • www.company.com/en: English language version

Don't place Chinese content behind a subdirectory such as /zh/. While this is perfectly acceptable for Google, Baidu will not rank it as highly.

Host in Mainland China

Mainland China hosting is a direct, positive signal to Baidu that the site targets Chinese users.

It is also connected to other positive signals such as faster loading time, and regulatory compliance.

For sites outside of mainland China, it's not impossible to rank in Baidu, but highly unlikely in industries with competitive keywords.

Build backlinks in China

Building backlinks is a key part of any SEO strategy — but Baidu specifically looks for backlinks from other China-hosted websites.

Don't make the mistake of launching a separate website for the China market, only to neglect it in your marketing and link-building activities.

Use Baidu Webmaster Tools

Comparable to Google Search Console, Baidu offers its own set of tools for similar purposes:

  • submitting sitemaps
  • checking indexing status
  • receiving notification of crawl and other errors

Provided in Chinese language only, these tools provide a direct interface to Baidu and its data specifically for your website.

Avoid Shady Practices

This generally includes practices that aim to trick the search engine, some of which are outlined in Baidu's own guidelines:

  • using hidden or transparent text for links
  • copy/pasting blog articles from competitor sites
  • creating secret "SEO only" islands of content

Don't be persuaded by a local agency that China SEO is different — Baidu can and will punish these practices just as Google would.

Follow Other General Rules of SEO

Such as, but not limited to:

  • making sure your site loads reliably and quickly
  • making the website layout responsive (mobile-friendly)
  • providing a steady stream of fresh content
  • ensuring the content is related to user search queries

Understand that Baidu is not Google

Compared to Google, Baidu does not enjoy a similar good reputation in China, due to a history of scandals and business practices that have put revenue ahead of trustworthy results.

As such, Chinese users are somewhat more likely to turn to other channels when seeking information.

Expect less organic search traffic for your China website, and relatively more traffic from social, referral, and direct visits.