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.
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.
Ideally, companies should have a single website for China, and one (or more) international sites, such as the following:
If this is not possible, a dual-language structure with Chinese in the root directory is the next best alternative:
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.
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.
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.
Comparable to Google Search Console, Baidu offers its own set of tools for similar purposes:
Provided in Chinese language only, these tools provide a direct interface to Baidu and its data specifically for your website.
This generally includes practices that aim to trick the search engine, some of which are outlined in Baidu's own guidelines:
Don't be persuaded by a local agency that China SEO is different — Baidu can and will punish these practices just as Google would.
Such as, but not limited to:
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.