International Search: Optimising your website for Baidu

Written by Candice Underwood on 4th October 2018

(Last updated 5th July 2023)

When I say name a ‘search engine’ what comes to mind? Google? Bing? Yahoo? Now why this might be the top three for a large percentage of countries in the world, this is not the case for many others. Take China for example, their number one search engine is Baidu with approximately 61.6% of the market - ever heard of it? 

When you’re creating multinational websites these different search engines and their expectations are simply something than cannot be overlooked. Today we’re going to focus on one of the most popular alternative international search engines and take a look at how you can optimise your website to perform well in Baidu.

Baidu is the number one search engine in China and, as I said before, holds over 60% of the market for both desktop and mobile searches. Now the first question we ask is ‘why is that?’, and the second is ‘where is Google?!’

Remember a lot of Google services are banned in China and even those that are not, such as Google Maps, are restricted. This is known as the ‘Great Firewall of China’ which means cleared services like Baidu can thrive. Makes sense right? So here’s our top tips on how to optimise your site for Baidu:

Domains & Hosting: Keep it local

Overall Baidu loves to keep things local and is deterred by international services. Let’s look at that in more detail:

  • Baidu prefers domains that are specific: .cn or are naturally ranked higher than those that are not. If you are expanding into the Chinese market you’ll want to buy a specific domain name for that region.
  • Hosting in China is vital. If you host outside of China it can be slow and unreachable for people in China - not a great user experience!
  • You’ll need an ICP (Internet Content Provider) license, a permit for websites to operate in China, otherwise ranking is impacted. You get it from the Chinese Ministry of Industry & IT.
  • It’s also recommended you use local CDN. Again it’s not only preferred but it means your content should load more quickly and provide a better experience for your site visitors.

Languages: Keep it simple

Not only are there several human languages it does not support but it also has a preference on your coding language also:

  • Baidu only indexes simplified Chinese, so English, Traditional Chinese and others won’t be accepted. 
  • For developers, Baidu favours HTML so no flash or Javascript here please! It’s preferred coding platform is UTF-8.
  • It also doesn’t like iframes so minimise your use of frames.
  • Baidu does not support <href lang> tag for international marketing. This is more of a Google speciality and Baidu uses its own signals to work out country and language target.
  • Avoid using URL parameters. Again Baidu doesn’t support this and likes to keep things simple.
  • That might be a long list of ‘nos’ but here’s one thing it does like and that’s HTTPS. It gives HTTPS sites a small boost.

Content: Keep it unique

Content is king and Baidu is no exception. It still wants to provide the best results for its users but again there’s a few quirks to watch out for: 

  • Baidu likes good informative content so every page needs to be at least 300 words with the top priority information at the top. This is its way of ensuring the page has enough words to be useful to the user.
  • It’s also particularly hot on duplicated content. Yes no search engine likes it but Baidu is particularly harsh so make sure the content on your site is unique and nothing is republished.
  • Remember the great firewall of China? It back again! Don’t use social sharing buttons from blocked sites - Facebook, Youtube, Twitter. All of these cannot be accessed in China so you will be penalised.
  • It’s not just websites, China blacklists certain words so avoid using these in your content. Words such as ‘politics’ and ‘superstar’ are banned, and recently even ‘I disagree’ was banned.
  • We already know it likes to keep things local, so when you’re linking to sources try to use trusted sites who are based in China.
  • Finally, Baidu prefers a link back to the main page with anchor text and, like all search engines, loves a clear internal links so be sure to use these throughout your content.

SEO: Keep it informative

In this aspect Baidu is very similar to Google but with its own unique tools:

  • It’s proven that Baidu loves meta information - meta description, title tags, alt tags and keywords - so make sure these are accurately filled out. Even more so - it’s rumoured that the description isn’t just for SERPs but also might affect a site’s ranking...
  • It doesn’t support meta robots ‘no index’ and you have to use .txt to specify this
  • Just like Google Search Console, Baidu has its own Webmaster and Keyword Tools but be aware they are in Chinese so you will need a speaker to understand this.
  • Lastly, just like Google has AMP Baidu has MIP. This is nearly identical to AMP, still on the rise and looking like it will start affecting organic rankings so make sure you or your Webmaster is aware of this.

So there’s a few tips for how to optimise your website for Baidu. This search engine really is like no other - with its own rules and algorithms - it can all get very confusing very quickly. However, although it’s behind Google now it will catch up pretty soon so my advice: be informed and follow Google guidelines. This will point you in the right direction to start with and you can go from there.

So that’s Baidu ticked off, but what about the rest of the world? Is it all dominated by Google? Find out more in our next article coming soon...

This article was posted in SEO by Candice Underwood