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The SEO rules for the Chinese Internet market (Baidu and Google China) are a bit different than that of any other country. The Internet market works differently due to various social, political and technological reasons. It’s quite remarkable that Google China has so far failed to take over the Chinese search engine market which is still dominated by Baidu – maybe the only company in the world still beating Google in their own niche.
Most of the websites’ incoming traffic comes from search engine queries, so Google is extremely important for any site out there that’s interested in getting traffic, and the Internet is full of SEO experts with advice on how to help Google better understand your site, hopefully resulting in higher Google rankings and increased incoming traffic.
Baidu’s dominance in the enormous Chinese online market holds a whole new world of challenges and opportunities for websites. Asking online-colleagues and browsing through the Internet it’s quite surprising how little information is available on the topic in English. Most western SEO professionals I know assume that Baidu’s behavior is just the same as Google’s, but I’ve always felt that’s just the easy response and probably quite far from the actual truth. I had a chance to rethink this subject while discussing “English Taiwan : The websphere, the blogosphere, traffic, SEO and the need for a profound change” and the lacking connection between the Chinese and English blogospheres in Taiwan and China. I was happy to see the wonderful Onemanbandwidth: An American Professor in China promising to discuss his SEO experiences in China on “SEO CHINA” :
As many of you know I have been doing search Engine Optimization and Search engine Marketing for about six years. [...] This will be the start of an Internet Marketing Tutorial for those doing general cyber-business or blogging in China.
SEO services in the U.S. and China are vastly different. Chinese companies usually charge by the keyword. A top ten listing for a “cool word” (one with low result returns in Google) might cost you 8,000 RMB a word per year; a “hot” word/term like English School China with 85,000,000 returns could cost you 20-30,000 RMB per year. If that were the case for me I would have someone ghost-writing this blog and I would be having my feet massaged in first-class on Singapore Air.
This could turn out to be a great project, starting a western discussion on China SEO technics and tips, but I’d like to see that focus more on what’s unique for the China market. So, although I’m not a big SEO expert, especially not when it comes to SEO in China, I thought I’ll share the little that I do know about China oriented SEO with special reference to Baidu’s search engine.
Baidu is extremely sensitive to some information, so totally avoid mentioning or writing adult content, pornography, or Chinese government forbidden keywords. Having any of those will not only affect the page the content is on but also the entire website.
Naturally, optimize your pagetitles, your headings and try to achieve optimal keyword density for important keywords in your website pages (5-8%), same as Google.
Anchor-texts for incoming links are, like in Google’s case, a very important SEO factor, but it seems Baidu attributes a little more importance to internal anchor-texts. Note that unlike Google, Baidu still doesn’t have a very advanced authority mechanism, so there’s less importance to where your anchor-text is coming from, and you can imagine the consequences of this problem.
Since we’re targeting China, it’s important that we have Chinese text, and to be more precise – Simplified Chinese text in the right encoding. Not many Chinese search in English (although I was getting quite a few Baidu hits in both English and Chinese for posts like “the story behind the Chinese zodiac”). It doesn’t have to be much, say a sub-heading of the title in Chinese.
Consider using automatic tools to translate your blog/website as those might give you a better first exposure in the Chinese market than you think. Some bloggers are using automatic translations with self-reported relative success, like quickonlinetips.com and it’s advisable to read his tips for automatic wordpress blog translation and the importance of caching to avoid being locked off by translation services. Some of the big blogs even have Chinese bloggers manually translate their content to target the Chinese audience.
If you are opening a Chinese website/mirror/translated-mirror, then you should know that it seems Baidu would love you more if you have a China domain, like .com.cn or .cn, or if you’re hosted in China. Domains and webhosting in China are amazingly cheap, though extremely slow for outside access.
Make sure it’s not only content and text that are written or translated in Chinese, but also other important SEO parameters like the image “alt” field that describes the images in your blog etc…
… That’s also true for metadata, namely metatags like keywords and description. While Google lowered the importance of this factor to almost nothing, Baidu still loves metadata.
Make sure your site is crawlable by using a text browser like Lynx.
Tweak your .htaccess and try to avoid 403/404/defected-links pages. Note that Baidu doesn’t care as much for robots.txt and content duplication.
Submit your site to Baidu through http://www.baidu.com/search/url_submit.html . Baidu is a bit slow to start crawling the site, so hang in there and wait patiently.
The “open Internet news” is equivalent to a website’s news search engine subscription. Through the world’s largest Chinese search engine Baidu, you can have greater exposure with a higher frequency of visits to your website’s news, thus increasing the potential for traffic to your web site.
So, you’ll have to adjust things a bit to fit their standard and submit it to : http://news.baidu.com/newsop.html . If you’re using WordPress then you might want to check out Hong Xiaowan’s Studio’s The WordPress Plug-in of Baidu News Protocol with the detailed instructions on how to set it up. I haven’t tried this, but I’ve heard it’s pretty straightforward.
Obviously, keyword research using Google’s tools won’t help you much, and you’ll need to use what Baidu has to offer. You can start off by checking Baidu trends on Baidu Index. Here’s an example for the keyword 以色列 (Israel)) :
Baidu also provides live updates for Baidu’s top keywords :
There used to be a keyword analysis tool for Baidu, but the links I once used don’t seem to work anymore. You can also use Overture’s Chinese keyword suggestions tool as well as SEOQuake Firefox extension that displays Baidu stats on search results.