Introduction to Chinese SEO

Introduction to Chinese SEO

16.11.2017
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With a population of almost 1.4 billion, China has approximately 731 million internet users. Wouldn’t it be nice to put your brand’s name in front of them and get yourself an extra couple million loyal users and customers? While generally speaking SEO is still SEO no matter what country it comes from, there are still some differences between Western and Eastern principles of search engine optimization.

The first and foremost difference between Chinese and Western SEO lies in the popularity of particular search engines. There is no question that Google is massively popular around the globe, but when it comes to China, the Chinese people do not really share the world’s excitement about Google.

Chances are that Google is not commonly used because of China’s Great Firewall, but even before the restrictions came into force, Google never stood a chance of becoming even the second most used search engine. In China, the unrivalled leader among search engines is Baidu, commanding more than 65% of market share. The second and the third most used are Sogou and Haosou with about 15 and 12% respectively, while Google is left behind with slightly more than 2.6%.

How Is Baidu Different From Google?

  • The search engine was designed specifically for Chinese-speaking users and supports only Simplified Chinese.
  • Unlike Google, for users’ convenience Baidu always opens new tabs when search results are clicked.
  • Almost all organic search results are displayed together with thumbnail images.
  • Paid search results are not easy to distinguish from organic ones.
  • Baidu’s rich snippets can take up to 70% of space on the first SERP.
  • For data structuring, Google’s schema.org rivals Baidu Webmaster Tools.
  • Baidu’s mobile version does not use the same link as its desktop version. Instead it adds the letter “m” and we get http://m.baidu.com/.
  • By default, non-mobile friendly websites are transformed by Baidu into better faster-loading versions when they are accessed from mobile devices.
  • Baidu has a paid three V-level (V1, V2 and V3) system to display the credibility of domains to users.

Companies that are willing to enter the Chinese market should keep these differences (and a couple more things) in mind when devising an SEO strategy to succeed in China.

How to Get Started with SEO in China?

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  1. ICP Licence. First things first, you should get an ICP (Internet Content Publishing) licence to be officially allowed to run a website in China. This is one of the things that Baidu takes into account when judging which website to favor. These licences can be of two types:
    – For commercial use (requires you to have a local business registration);
    – For individual use (requires you to have a Chinese physical address and a local phone number).
  2. China-Friendly Domain Name. Chinese users are believed to love .com-, .com.cn- and .cn-ending domain names the most. They inspire more trust in average Chinese Internet users than any other domain names.
  3. Hosting Provider. To increase the odds of ranking higher in China you should use the services of a Chinese hosting provider because Baidu does not perceive foreign hosting providers to be good enough.
  4. Mobile Optimization. 95% of 731 million of Chinese Internet users prefer to access it from their mobile devices. The importance of mobile optimization is huge to the point that Baidu even optimizes non-mobile friendly websites itself. But if you want it to be properly done, you had better do it yourself before Baidu makes its own decision about how your website should look and operate on mobile.
  5. Keywords. These are equally important to both Google and Baidu but there is a considerable difference between how keyword research should be approached and what tools should be utilized. Do not rely on online translators, even though you know exactly what keywords you want to rank in China – ask for assistance from native speakers.
  6. Link Profile. Both internal and external links are important to ensure good SEO performance. The first guarantee better navigation and play into your hands in terms of user experience. Furthermore, internal linking helps Baidu recognize that content on a website’s pages is mutually relevant.
  7. On Baidu, high-quality external links carry the same SEO weight as on Google, but with only a slight difference. Baidu likes websites to be linked to other relevant Chinese websites while for Google it is all about quality, not the country of a link’s origin.
  8. Quality Content. Content is king and this statement is true regarding Baidu SEO too. Baidu loves fresh, up-to-date and high-quality content, and it punishes websites that are trying to game the system by shamelessly publishing duplicate content.

And remember, you should never try to translate your existing content into Chinese and call it a day. This almost never works because the purpose and targeting are no longer accurate – there are too many differences in culture and mindset between the Chinese and people from Western countries.

Bottom Line

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As you can see, many things that work for Google work for Baidu as well, but there are still some nuances that cannot be overlooked. Generally speaking, to devise a fruitful SEO strategy for the Chinese market you must think like a Chinese, to be able to cater to their needs and meet their expectations.