Understanding Baidu SEO Algorithm
Most foreign brand and business with experience doing SEO on Google think they can rank on Baidu the exact same way. Baidu is not the same as Google even though they may look similar, their Algorithm or approach to the ranking is different.
Many SEO experts in China believe that Baidu’s search Algorithm is Google’s Algorithm with a 3 to 4-year lag. While there is definitely some truth to that but in practice, you cannot simply do what was working with Google SEO 4 years to success in Baidu today.
12 Key to Winning Baidu Search Algorithm
Keywords: Search engine crawlers don’t read like humans do (although they’re getting better at it) and in order for the search engine to know exactly what your page about they look specific properties on your website such as meta tag, title tags, and how often certain keywords are mentioned on your page.
The more often a keyword appears on your webpage tells the search crawler that your webpage is relevant to that particular keyword. This is known as keyword density which is the number of times a keyword is used compared to the total number words the page.
Like Google, Baidu uses keyword density to measure and rank your website in China but don’t overstuff your website with anyone particular as you’ll be penalized by Baidu for spamming and gaming their system.
Domain Name and Age: Ok so in China Domain Name don’t actually matter because you cannot get a Chinese character domain name at least not yet. But Domain age does matter, typically speaking it is much harder to rank a brand new website than a domain that has been around for years.
.CN Domain: Contrary to popular beliefs, having a.CN domain does not actually help your Baidu ranking or ranking on any other search engines in China. In fact, most local Chinese brand and business do not use the.CN domain. That said if you can register a.CN domain in China then it would not be a bad idea to do so.
Hosting & Server Location: Baidu and other Chinese search engines do favorite hosting in Mainland China (Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, unfortunately, do not count) because it will be compatible with the Great Firewall of China and will have a much faster loading speed for Chinese searchers.
The problem however is hosting in China is very difficult and very limited because it is very difficult to find a good website hosting company unlike the rest of the world. This is why most people in China don’t just set up a website and start an online business and also why SEO is less popular in China compare to the rest of the world.
ICP License, Bei An, 备案: Like.CN domain, ICP (Internet Content Provider) License, Bei AN are unique to China. These are licenses required by the Chinese government in order for you to legally host your website in China. There are two types of ICP License:
Personal ICP License – The personal ICP License cannot be used to host any commercial or business-related website but it is much easier to obtain. All you need is a Chinese State Issued Personal ID to obtain the License.
Business ICP License – Business ICP License, on the other hand, is much harder to obtain. First, you’ll need a Mainland China Registered Business or a WFOE. Then you’ll also need to provide a physical address in China, phone number and even a Chinese bank card.
While Baidu or other Chinese search engines do not clearly mention whether having an ICP License will help with your SEO in China, but from our experience having the ICP License be a strong single that you’re serious about SEO in China and though win credibility from Baidu’s Search Algorithms.
Natural Chinese Language and Localization: If you want to rank a none-Chinese website that is not fully localized for Chinese audience you’ll still rank on Baidu, Sogou and all the other search engines in China but since Baidu and all other search engines in China mainly cater to Chinese audiences they do not crawl or index non-Chinese website as often.
Unlike Google which serves many countries in multiple languages, Baidu and other Chinese search engines such as Sogou or 360 are single language search engines focused exclusively on Simplified Chinese.
This means that search engines in China are gonna be more efficient and proficient at reading Chinese contents compare to Google and will be more in touch with natural Chinese language that is used in mainland China compare to Google.
This is why it is rare for a non-Chinese website usually do not rank well or rank at all on Chinese search engines.
The Speed of Your Website: Website load speed is not only the key topic for Baidu or China SEO but rather SEO in China. Like Google which is more and more emphasizing your website load speed especially on mobile queries, Baidu also likes a website that loads fast and this is also why Baidu favorite websites that are hosted within Mainland China.
Content on Your Website: Google’s Algorithm has gotten quietly sophisticated over the past 2 to 3 year with its Deepmind Machine Learning and AI. Less and less Google cares about your On-Page SEO Optimization and more and more Google cares about the quality and relevancy of your content.
Baidu, on the other hand, is not as sophisticated as Google and do still rely heavily on your On-Page SEO Optimization but it is catching up. Baidu does not like duplicate content and loves fresh content. Website in China that do not update with fresh content often will usually find themselves dropping in ranking while the website that updates at least once a month will find himself ranking on Baidu.
CDN, Hosted Libraries and Google Analytics
One of the biggest mistake that most foreign brand makes when they localize their website for China is that leave all their CDN, Hosted Libraries and Google Analytics from their English website.
Instead, it is ideal to use libraries hosted by Chinese CDNs such as:
- Staticfile.org Open Source Library
- BootCDN Open Source Library
- 360 Public Library
As for Google Analytics, you can still use it but with selective options. You can read more about how to use Google Analytics in China here.
Social Sharing Widgets
Another huge mistake we see often with foreign brands in China is they keep their social sharing widget for Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc. on their blog. As many of these social media sites is blocked in China just like the CDN and Hosted Library issued mention above, your social sharing widget will cause your site to load very slowly.
Other On-Page Optimization for Baidu SEO
Information Architecture & Site Structure
You want to make sure that all pages on your website are crawlable by the search crawler so that the search engine can find and index all your pages. But more importantly, keeping your pages well organized and categories using good information architecture practice will also improve user experience and conversion.
Meta Tag, Title Tag, and Alt Tags
Unlike Google Baidu and other Chinese search engines do use these tags as part of their SEO algorithm to determine to rank. For example, while Google now uses advanced image recognition technologies and machine learning to understand and rank images, Baidu still very much rely on “alt tag” and text content around the images.