Baidu SEO: How to do SEO in China. An interview with SEO Zac – #CrawlingMondays 20th Episode

Learn about the SEO fundamentals in Baidu with SEO Zac, one of the most well known SEOs in China: What are the main search engines in China?, What are the differences and similarities when doing SEO for Baidu vs. Google?, What are the main challenges when doing Baidu SEO?, What tools do Chinese SEOs use when optimizing for Baidu?, Is it important to use a Chinese ccTLD and a local hosting? Check it out:

Welcome to a very special edition of Crawling Mondays, from China. I have had the chance to be here since a few days. I have had the chance also to meet one of the top specialists here, on Baidu SEO. I had the opportunity to ask him about top criteria, top insights, top trends of search in China, including, of course, Baidu. I hope that you enjoy this as much as I did. Let’s take a look.

Hello, everyone. It’s good to be here and have the opportunity to talk a little bit about my SEO. First of all, let me introduce myself. My [inaudible 00:00:53] name is Zac. Zac [inaudible 00:00:55] I am based in Singapore, but originally I came from Beijing. And then I immigrate to Singapore about twenty years ago. So only I’ve been SEO consulting work for mainly Chinese clients. Currently there are actually a few search engines in China. Baidu is a bigger one. There are a few smaller ones, like Sōusuǒ, in Chinese that means “search, search.” Also Sougou, “search dog,” something like that. The market share total of Baidu is about 80%. So the majority of the users are still using Baidu. Baidu is still a very popular search engine but the trust in Baidu is getting worst because of few accidents. Someone searching for medical issue in Baidu and then they get a fake website. And they call the fake advertiser and got scammed. That happened a few times. The people in city know this case well, but in countryside, a lot of people don’t really know of this thing. So people are still using Baidu.

But in city, young men, young women, younger generation are losing trust in Baidu. So they’re also going to website similar to Quora, but there’s a Chinese version called Zhihu.com. It’s the same question-based website a lot of people are typing in there and they provide a lot of very high quality content. They search there, also they search in WeChat, the Chinese version of WhatsApp. It’s highly popular and I see everyone in China is using WeChat.

In Baidu there’s SERP. Hopefully, the layout, the SERP page is quite similar to Google. You can see some ads, I think up for ads in the top, and also at the bottom, you can see three to five advertisements at the bottom. In the middle, I think, in Baidu have also see news, content, pictures, photos and videos, the news. So the layout and content is the same, but the few problems that Baidu has a lot of their own content [inaudible 00:03:25] so they have [inaudible 00:03:28]. So a lot of people ask questions in Baidu the rank. So they rank their own content in the first page. When people come, you can see five or six pages belong to Baidu itself. So that’s the first problem you have, basically.

The second problem is that if you want to enter into Chinese [inaudible 00:03:53] market, funding is very tough, because the popular way of ranking in Baidu is called click-through rate. Basically, it’s better to use machine or sometimes use human beings to click the result on the page to increase the click-through rate. In Google I know and understand click-through rate is also a ranking factor, but a small ranking factor. Google include a anti-spam so they can detect, okay this is black hat, this is spamming, so we won’t use that on his page in the first place. In Baidu, it’s working. It’s working pretty well.

In the past one year. And also, I’m not sure whether they do care, or they do have the resources to solve the problem. But at this moment, it’s working fine. So this is another problem they have to fix. But technically the basics [inaudible 00:04:39] and the process of Baidu SEO is almost the same as Google. But there are few technical differences. For example, Baidu has a very strong domain…homepage.

Optimization? Yeah.

In Google, it doesn’t really matter which page you put the keywords, so regardless a homepage, or category page, or maybe a product page or category page. But in Baidu, it really make a difference. The trend in Baidu SEO is that we put a lot of keywords on homepage only.

Also a few other technical differences. For example, the indexing speed in Baidu is [inaudible 00:05:32] slow. In Google, in a few minutes you can see the result in the search page. But in Baidu, maybe you have to wait a few days. So the indexing, crawling speed is rather slow. Also, for example, another issue is duplicated content. In Google, you can copy duplicated content from other website because with content from other website and publish on your website. But Google is very good at, to identify who is the original source. But for Baidu, whether they cannot identify who is the original source or they don’t care. So if you’re a small, new webmaster, with a new website and you publish a article and somewhere else [inaudible 00:06:35] if they copy or script your website and publish on their own website, then they will get the credit.

But what about meta robots noindex, canonical tags, do they work in the same way in Baidu?

It’s true they work in the same way, but have to say, for example, 301 redirect, or [inaudible 00:06:59], or no follow, or… everything is [inaudible 00:07:03]. For example, if you put 301 redirect it will take ages to take your time. In Google, less than one minutes it will, “okay new website”, you have a old website you can have a 301 redirect to your new website. The migration will have within one month. In Baidu, personally, I encountered a case that a 301 redirect didn’t take effect after one year. They are supposed to be supporting everything, but it’s very slow.

Whether it’s a .com or .cl it’s okay, it doesn’t matter. But [inaudible 00:07:46] is totally in China, mainland China. But for branding purpose .cn domain is better. To me, the bigger problem is hosting block. If you’re on the market of China of course, naturally, you want to put your server in China, within China. But because of public service law, you have to host your website. In China you have to register a license with local government. That process might be difficult for a foreign person. Plus, if you have a local company invested in China, then you can do that. [inaudible 00:08:30] for people, foreign people. Maybe it’s possible, but I tried that and take a long time and a lot of work. You have to take a photo of yourself, [inaudible 00:08:46] certain background. For your company, if you’re serious to enter China market, you have to go through that.

If you host your website in another country, it’s okay but you still can crawl your website index your website and the speed of crawling and indexing, it’s okay. It won’t slow the indexing speed. But the problem is sometimes the so-called “great firewall” may block your IP address. If they block your IP address, [inaudible 00:09:17]. And it happens almost randomly you can [inaudible 00:09:25]. So it’s very difficult. Also, your website doesn’t have to be anything political related, no. Maybe because another website on the same server, if you use shared hosting, or maybe it’s something very random that happened, the firewall will just block…

In China, I don’t see a lot of webmasters tracking their ranking in Baidu. Of course, the big companies, they have their own internal tools. They have programmer, they [inaudible 00:09:57] internal tool to track their ranking. For personal website or small company, they don’t really track the ranking, mass by mass. All they need is the link profile. They want to know where their competitors are getting the links so that they can have their links on the same place. If you want to build a tool as your tool for China market, that function, the link profile function is the most important thing. Or the graphs, it’s good to have, but it’s not really pretty.

In China a lot of people are doing a lot of things manually. For example, if they want to do keyword research, they don’t really need a tool to do that. They just log into Baidu ad platform, they also provide the keywords. That’s enough for them. In Baidu, there also Chinese version of search console, Google Search Console, it’s called Baidu [inaudible 00:10:59]. You can see links, also your index status and also mobile-related issues. You can check other [inaudible 00:11:11] Baidu [inaudible 00:11:12], something like that.

Also, in China, we use some other tools to check the weblinks because, although we know about tools to check the links, but it’s not very popular in China. For example, like a website is [inaudible 00:11:35]. Although it’s well known in China, but I don’t think they have lot of customers right now. Mainly because of price, I think. But in China, actually-

That’s right.

There’s no other official way to check your competitor’s links. So in Baidu search console or [inaudible 00:11:59] you cannot check the links of your own website. We cannot check the competitors. So there’s no [inaudible 00:12:07] tools in China. I’ve got a few tools available, for example, [inaudible 00:12:14] in Chinese. It’s a public tool in China, but actually the link data from that website is not real link data. I guess they just use search command or link command to check Google or Baidu to get the number. So there’s no real tools to check the competitors link profile. So I think there’s potential for tools from other countries to maybe focus the China market. There’s a lot of [inaudible 00:12:50] but there’s no very good resources or tools.