Google tends to receive ample consideration due to its impact in Western Markets (i.e. USA, Australia, Canada). However, the Eastern markets aren’t as heavily reliant on the search engine. Studies show Google represents a meager 2.3% of all searches in China. The remaining 97.7% include local search engines demonstrating the significance of driving your focus in that direction.
Market Share for Major Search Engines in China (2017)
Baidu is top dog in the search market with a resounding 68.5% of all searches. Its nearest local competitor is 360 Search, and its market share is 14.2%.
Remaining search engines include:
- Sogou (12.4%)
- Google (2.3%)
- Shenma (1.6%)
- Youdao + Bing + Yahoo (0.9%)
What is Baidu?
In 2000, Eric Xu and Robin Li established Baidu. It was a tech company with a patented search engine under its name. Its earlier variations were a “Google clone” according to industry experts. The founders’ goal was to be “first to market” even if it meant copying aspects of Google’s setup. Over time, they developed a separate brand and made changes to build credibility in China.
What was the reason for Baidu doing well?
It was able to maximize Chinese text through parsing and interpretative technology. Even Google remained a step behind with its knowledge of the local language(s). By establishing its presence, Baidu was able to relate to the local population and produce targeted search results. As of right now, Baidu houses the largest assortment of Chinese web pages and Chinese language sites. Its primary focus is the Chinese population and therefore minimal attention is given to English-based pages or sites. In fact, only a few are listed as the emphasis remains on Chinese-based websites.
Baidu’s interface is available in Simplified Chinese. This makes it a user-friendly platform for Chinese users.
Of course, it’s important to note, Baidu is a tech company and offers a range of additional services. The search engine is an extension of what’s already in place. For example, Baidu is renowned for hosting travel sites, cloud computing services, music, maps, a Wikipedia clone, translation services, video platforms, a web browser, and more. The list is endless illustrating how engrained Baidu is in the local community.
What about the revenue structure?
Most of the company’s revenue comes from search result pages and its built-in ad network.
Baidu vs. Google SERPs
Baidu is built on Simplified Chinese. Its UI doesn’t support other languages.
Baidu places its related topics in the side bar and is image-centric with the layout. The sidebar also includes additional information including links/videos of related content. The searches also include a text description to clarify specific details.
For example, let’s assume a person searches “Will Smith” on Baidu. The search results will pop up with “related” actors on the side. If a person were to search “blue jackets,” the sidebar would highlight related clothing and/or brands.
(“Will Smith” on Baidu)
(“black jacket” on Baidu)
Even something as simple as “Harry Potter” will provide information such as the cast, related films, and more in the sidebar. Baidu is a well-developed algorithm and can pick up on search queries in seconds. It will know various entities and can make connections seamlessly. For instance, if a person were to search “panda” it will display an elephant in the sidebar due to its connection as a mammal.
(“Harry Porter” on Baidu)
Baidu’s adverts are highlighted similarly to Google’s. For example, if the ads are placed near the top of the page (i.e. above all search results), they’re highlighted by a discreet pink hue. They also use the term “advert” (广告) inside the colored box to illustrate it’s a paid search result. Google uses the same tactics on its site to help users.
The tinted background is unobtrusive but visible to the naked eye. It doesn’t deplete conversion results for marketers while maintaining the quality user experience Baidu’s renowned for. It’s important to remember organic search results have the classic white background on both platforms.
Here is an example when you search “hotels in Nanjing (南京 酒店)”：
(Baidu SEM ads on top)
(“organic” result on SERP. In facet, all info provided by nuomi.com, a “Groupon ” owned by Baidu)
Baidu uses a “V-label” and “Official” to help build a relationship between companies and users. Companies entering the PPC program gain access to apply with agencies for this label. Once it’s setup, a company will have the label beside its name. Google snippets don’t provide a similar option in their Adwords program.
How does the system work?
Baidu provides a certificate of trust to companies submitting business-related information. This certificate costs a set yearly fee. The premise is to confirm the seriousness of a website and what it’s proposing. Baidu’s system also incorporates three levels. V1 and V2 are paid labels, while V3 is earned through a merit-based setup. What’s required to achieve this V3 label? A website has to offer substantial value through traffic numbers, social signals, and more. However, a V3 can only be earned if a V2 (paid) was already established.
V-Label does popup in the organic search results despite being a SEA extension. Experts continue to analyze Baidu’s use of the V-label to determine what’s going on. Questions arise such as “Is Baidu selling ad space without marking it as paid search?” or “Are companies receiving loyalty bonuses for advertising on Baidu?”
The answer isn’t clear and remains a mystery. However, experts continue to veer towards the latter where a loyalty bonus is setup. If a company can illustrate the seriousness of its website, Baidu’s algorithm doesn’t mind including it in the organic search results. The idea is to show Baidu’s trust system is comprehensive and can be trusted to show appropriate results even with the involvement of companies.
After clicking on Baidu SERPs, Google Chrome does state “potentially untrustworthy” while going through organic search results. If users trust Baidu’s V-label, they’re safer and can avoid such problems. This is why the search engine relies on its trust system for organic results too.
The integration of Baidu’s in-house products is what makes it distinct from Google. These products are included in the search pages to provide an extra layer of assistance to users. However, Baidu’s insistence with its products also creates a new test in China with SEO. For example, it’s important to remain aware of Baidu’s various properties such as Baidu Wenku, Baidu Maps, Baidu News, Baidu Baike, Baidu Lvyou, Baidu Tieba and so forth.