Chinese search engines

SEO for Baidu, Sogou & Co.

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In Europe, Baidu is often perceived as "only" China's leading search engine. In fact, however, it is widespread throughout the entire Asian region. Developer Baidu Inc. is also pursuing global expansion plans and wants to challenge Google's market share with a similar business model. This has been successful in China, where Baidu had a market share of around 36% at the end of 2022, followed by Sogou with 27% (source: Statista). Google is far behind with less than 4% due to Chinese censorship policies. What does this mean for Europe and German companies that want to rank with Baidu and Co.

How the Chinese search engines operate

Baidu's business model is similar to that of Google or its parent company Alphabet - it is not limited to the search function. The Chinese Internet giant also provides services such as cartographic services and route planning, storage space in the cloud, a web browser, a video portal, a social network, FAQs, music downloads and a kind of wiki. Baidu offers its own travel booking service, a smartphone operating system, an e-commerce platform, games and much more. The company, founded in 2000, is also heavily involved in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Sogou is integrated by default as a search engine into China's leading media platforms, the instant messenger service "QQ" and the powerful app "WeChat". This automatically ensures access to millions of users who are much more interactive with the search engine than Google's users.

Ranking factors in Baidu and Sogou

The Baidu search engine differs from Google in terms of the weighting of ranking factors. Meta description, meta keywords, heading tags, alt tags and the number of inbound links are given greater consideration by Baidu. A high keyword density, up-to-date content, the creation of a sitemap, a high user and reader friendliness as well as the renunciation of JavaScript and Flash are further optimization measures for Baidu.

From a Western perspective, it is important to know that Baidu as well as Sogou focus on Chinese-language content. Baidu also prefers its own pages and services in the ranking. Sogou takes a different approach here and also enables third-party and new brands to achieve good rankings.

SEO for Chinese search engines is difficult

The hurdles for foreign companies to rank in Baidu or Sogou are very high. For a website to appear in the Chinese index at all, it usually has to be written in simple traditional Chinese. English-language pages only have a chance if they are very well known. UTF-8 should be used as character set. Furthermore, domains ending in .cn or .com.cn as well as hosting in China are promising, as they are weighted more heavily by search engines. Paid search is also a recommendable strategy, as Baidu does not differentiate the organic SERPs from the paid ones.

For the future, it can be expected that Baidu will follow a similar path as Google and further develop the ranking criteria. So for the long-term SEO strategy in the Chinese market, future adjustments should be taken into account.

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