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SEO for Baidu: Ten Tips to Dominate the Chinese Internet

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It's no secret that many international companies target the Chinese internet market. However, they soon come to realize that the generally accepted Google-related SEO practices do not work in the Celestial Empire.

In your endeavor to win the Chinese internet you should know how to optimize for Baidu. This local search engine has an amazing 99% following of the whole bulk of 420 million internet users in China. With Google having left for Hong-Kong in March 2010, Baidu became the major player in the Chinese search.

Here comes some practical guidance based on the latest experience of optimization for Baidu. We'd like to thank Andrew Molloy, an experienced internet consultant in the China and Hong Kong markets and a loyal Link-Assistant.Com's customer, for his help in writing this article.

Tip 1. Host in China or Hong Kong

The rule is the same as for other countries, i.e. the country-code top level domain of .cn can get picked up and included in Baidu even if hosted outside of China. However it is less likely that .com/.net sites hosted abroad will be observed. So better host in either Hong Kong or China. If you can't do that, get a local domain like a .com.cn. That should do the trick.

Hong Kong is a grey area at the moment, as data centers based in Hong Kong can get fast access into China and are indexed well by Baidu. Besides, hosting in Hong Kong has the advantage that one does not need to apply for an ICP certificate - a permit for websites to operate in China.

Tip 2. Write your content in Simplified Chinese

Content should be written in Simplified Chinese - people in China on the whole do not widely use English or Traditional Chinese.

Tip 3. Pay attention to meta tags

In theory ignored by Google, description meta tags and keyword meta tags are definitely read and used by Baidu. So make sure you optimize description and keyword meta tags, as well as the title meta tag to improve your site's Baidu rankings.

Alt parameters for image tags are more important for the major Chinese search engine than for Google, so include them as well. Generally most websites listed on Baidu do not have keywords within the URL, so alt descriptions are crucial.

Tip 4.Rely on quantity rather than quality of links

The general understanding of many SEOs is that Baidu doesn't care much about the relevancy of links, while the more links you have – the better. To say nothing of backlinks, try to have as much internal links and links from sub-domains as you can – they all carry more weight for Baidu than for Google. And don't forget to optimize the anchor text of internal links. Most sites in China do not use keywords (or even Chinese text) within the URL, so the only way Baidu can tell what a link is about is the anchor text

Tip 5.Get important content to the top

Put the most important content on the top of the page. Due to poor connectivity, Baidu's crawlers want to get as much content as they can and will often simply crawl only the first 100 to 120k of content on a page.

Tip 6. Avoid flash

Steer clear of flash, since Baidu is not sophisticated enough to handle it for websites' ranking.

Tip 7. Use more keywords

The keyword density in the content optimized for Baidu should be higher than for Google – up to 12% in some cases.

Tip 8. Submit your site to Baidu

Make sure you submit your website to Baidu. This will make the search engine crawl and index your website and boost your site's ranking to attract more visitors.

Tip 9. Forget about robots.txt and duplicate content

Baidu ignores robots.txt at large and doesn't worry too much about duplicate content at all. Sub-domains mirror sites with basically the same content can frequently be seen ranking one after another in the SERPS for Baidu.

Tip 10. Spend on Baidu PPC

Prior to introduction of Baidu's Phoenix Nest algorithm in April 2009, organic and paid search results were mixed and came along in a single listing. Essentially, Phoenix Nest moved paid search listings from the left side to the right side and the top three listings, making Baidu SERPs look more like western search engines.

Still, many SEOs believe that the new algorithm does not ensure proper separation of organic and paid results. Website owners who spend on Baidu PPC would find their websites in the top rankings of organic listing.

As you see, to rank high in Baidu you should take into account all the points listed above. Each one of them will contribute to the success of your SEO campaigns in the Chinese Internet. Still, most SEOs having some experience with Baidu would recommend Baidu PPC and shady tactics of adding as much anchor text, internal links and alt text links as possible.

Some of the observations are also that more educated and well-off Chinese use Google more. That's the reason why some western companies split their expenditures on Chinese SEO campaigns equally between Baidu and Google.com.hk to reach their target audience efficiently. Still, the Baidu component is very important.

Andrew, thank you again for your expert guidance in writing this article!



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