Chris Nokes

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Chris Nokes

With many brands creating sites in different languages and marketing to other countries, we have to wonder how they take optimisation into consideration.

Indeed there are pitfalls associated with multi-language targeting that are easily overlooked, but can prove costly in the long run.

Take China for example, their main search engine is not Google as you might imagine, it’s Baidu. In fact, use of Google in China is a mere 2.01% compared with Baidu’s 73.65%. If you’re making a website to cater to people who use Baidu then it’s a given you’re going to have to cater to Baidu itself, just as we do for Google.

Baidus and don’ts

So, how exactly do you manage your SEO for a site other than Google? Are there fundamental differences or are they uncannily similar? Let’s take a look.

Looking at this objectively, Baidu’s going to use a completely different method because it’s based on a completely different language. Not just any language, one of the most complex in the world, Chinese. Translation is something to consider when you have a site you’re hoping to raise your rankings for on Baidu. Whether you’re outsourcing translation and content, getting a team in-house or setting up a team overseas, there are going to be ups and downs but it's crucial to make a decision. It all ties into creating good content.

Let’s get to know Baidu and what it does

Baidu offers a range of services other than just a search feature. This includes music and video, travel and it’s very own Wikipedia-like service. Baidu is unlike Google in a few ways. Baidu only caters to Chinese speakers and writers, it uses structured data implementation from its own platform and it uses the same user agent for its crawler on both mobile and desktop.

That being said, you won't have to completely start over when it comes to perfecting SEO for Baidu. There are some similarities to Google in how it works, so don’t panic just yet. When it comes to the Baidu algorithm it sticks to the same concepts and behaviours as Google but with somewhat of a delayed response. Baidu seems to follow Google’s example but around a year or so after it’s implemented. This includes work in recent years seeking to combat low quality content and link spam.

Baidu isn’t as lenient as Google when it comes to duplicate content and will be firmer in lowering your site in its rankings if it detects this. Recovering from a Baidu site penalty can also be far more of a lengthy ordeal as you attempt to reestablish previous ranking positions.

Whereas Google has made strides in crawling Javascript and AJAX on sites, Baidu still isn’t at the same level and so avoiding these is beneficial if you want to rank higher.

Here are few SEO points to take note of for Baidu:

  • When it comes to crawling, you can adjust the frequency of it yourself using Baidu Webmaster Tools.
  • In order to retain the high value of backlinks on Baidu, they should direct to a Chinese site rather than a foreign one.
  • As with Google, updating your website often with new content is a sure way to help raise your rankings (research shows between 200-800 Chinese characters is optimal although we’d suggest steering clear of exact word count thresholds).

Something that you always need to take into consideration for your SEO is some thorough keyword research. It’s important to note that the keyword research tools that work for Google will not work with Baidu. Its keywords are governed by their own specific tools such as Baidu Index, which gathers data including keywords, trends and popularity. Though this tool is most effective if you can understand Chinese.

Social media doesn’t have a direct effect on your Baidu rankings (just as it doesn’t with Google) but it can have a positive influence according to research which seems to suggest a correlation. Sina Weibo is similar to Twitter in many ways and is one of the most important social channels in China.

For its superior insights into Chinese websites, Baidu Tongji is available when it comes to studying analytics, however, Google Analytics still works. The best option is to combine the two to gather your data.

Baidu SEO can be a challenge for another reason, Baidu’s own rich snippets. Baidu heavily gives its own rich snippets precedence over organic results in its search pages - they can occupy up to 70% of first page real estate! This makes it a challenge to get your site higher up in the rankings and shows that, overall, Baidu can be a difficult search engine to gain success in.

These are a few observations we have made concerning SEO for Baidu. It may be something you hadn’t thought would concern you and your site but it’s always better to cover all your bases and hopefully this information will prove useful to you if your business is planning on going global!

For more information on how to help get your international site ambitions up and running and how we could assist in formulating a tandem digital marketing strategy, get in touch.

Our expertise isn’t limited to just Google, there’s a whole world out there and we’re happy to help you with just about anything that’s digital about it.