Adobe Digital Dialogue

Gearing up for Baidu SEO

This post is all about prepa­ra­tion for con­duct­ing Baidu-spe­cif­ic SEO, which is a key step that need not be intim­i­dat­ing. It is a sim­ply dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ment with its own spe­cial con­sid­er­a­tions, and in some cas­es, dif­fer­ent meth­ods, and tools. This post will attempt to tack­le these larg­er issues head-on (begin­ning where the last post in this series left off) before we roll up our sleeves and address the groups of indi­vid­ual tac­tics. As in all things, begin­ning on the right foot­ing is cru­cial. Let us dive in!

Understanding Baidu’s backstory

With a grow­ing empha­sis on mobile-based rev­enue, and a cor­re­spond­ing boom in younger mobile Baidu users cur­rent­ly push­ing Baidu’s glob­al mar­ket share above and beyond 1% of the total, Baidu con­tin­ues to learn from the leader of glob­al search (Google) on the one hand, and sub­tly merge that under­stand­ing with their own more unique nation­al cus­tomer behav­ior on the oth­er hand.

Dif­fer­ences are bound to devel­op, many of which can seem like a time warp to most long-term Google users and mar­keters alike as Baidu devel­ops its user base and nat­u­ral­ly con­forms to the Chi­nese mar­ket.

For instance, Baidu and Google SERPs dif­fer in how search results are dis­played. The dif­fer­ences typ­i­cal­ly favor the adver­tis­er. For exam­ple, they dif­fer in how the ads look on the SERPs page, includ­ing how many organ­ic results are shown, as Baidu’s ads are often per­ceived as blend­ing in with the free results more so than is the case on Google SERPs. This is espe­cial­ly rel­e­vant for SEO as we will see.

Spotting the organic results on Baidu

SERPs page results are cur­rent­ly marked by a text indi­ca­tor next to the dis­play URL, which is the most uni­ver­sal­ly-used way Baidu has uti­lized dis­tin­guish the paid from the organ­ic result. Did you not see it? Look again. The text indi­ca­tor, “推广链接,” for exam­ple, indi­cates a “Tuiguang Lian­jie” type paid search ad, while “Baidu Zhi­dao” (百度知道), indi­cates a question/answer forum search result, while oth­ers typ­i­cal­ly are not marked as an ad or a Baidu search prop­er­ty.

With­out going into the fast-pro­lif­er­at­ing world of Baidu’s PPC ad plat­forms and types, BaiduBaidu (百度) organic listingorgan­ic results are blend­ed into the search results page (to some, almost imper­cep­ti­bly) with the paid results to some degree at times. Out­side of Tuiguang Lian­jie ads (推广链接), which are notice­ably block-high­light­ed in gray as in the above fig­ure, the Baidu Dis­play ad for­mat has also been one of the more dis­tin­guish­able (and more recent­ly, manda­to­ry) sec­ondary ad for­mat in the past.

The most typ­i­cal SERPs pages should look like the fol­low­ing, these days, con­sist­ing most­ly of organ­ic search results con­sist­ing both of ordi­nary web­sites, as well as often includ­ing Baidu’s own search­able web prop­er­ties, such as the above-men­tioned user question/answer site, Baidu Zhi­dao (百度知道 , lit­er­al­ly “Baidu Knows”) and many oth­er spe­cial­ty search­able web prop­er­ties which some­what resem­ble sim­i­lar ser­vices as on Google (though not always owned by Google). The link to the last cached page is called Baidu Kuaizhao, (百度快照), which also appears on each search result.

Organ­ic results are most often cat­e­go­rized by the type of Baidu prop­er­ty (if the result is a Baidu prop­er­ty), or as a paid result, or not at all (as in the case of most organ­ic results). To “do and learn”,

Baidu SERP

mouse over the link to see if the query string indi­cat­ing an ad is there. Even­tu­al­ly it will become more easy to see the dif­fer­ence, and then to under­stand the dif­fer­ence.

Since this is an Eng­lish lan­guage blog, an Eng­lish term is used to help mit­i­gate the lan­guage bar­ri­er. In addi­tion, since each indus­try search pro­duces dif­fer­ing pro­por­tions of the ad types, it can be a very dif­fer­ent SERP expe­ri­ence with each search, with Chi­nese-lan­guage search terms, nat­u­ral­ly, see­ing more paid results slip­ping into the mix, at times.

So be sure to look for the Chi­nese char­ac­ters that indi­cate paid ads when try­ing to dis­cern the organ­ic results on Baidu SERP. You’ll, also want to get famil­iar with Baidu’s own search­able web prop­er­ties, as they take up a con­sid­er­able amount of SERPs at times.

Notice the dis­play ads on the right that resem­ble the sim­i­lar “Google Prod­ucts” ads for­mat.  Also note that Baidu is not always as keen on trans­paren­cy of algo­rithm updates as Google seems to have become in lat­er years.

How does Baidu adapt to the search user?

It adopts an adver­tis­er-friend­ly focus on user behav­ior and makes Chi­na its pri­ma­ry focus, among sev­er­al oth­er things. For exam­ple, Chi­nese con­sumers are known to trust big­ger com­pa­nies and pol­ished brands more than small­er com­pa­nies offer­ing the same prod­uct or ser­vice. Trust/authority fac­tors do play into search vis­i­bil­i­ty from all sides, as a result.

Sites that are linked to by pop­u­lar sites, for exam­ple, are going to have an eas­i­er time, just as on Google, even though using the same SEO prin­ci­ples as those less pow­er­ful­ly net­worked. The way the trust fac­tor is not­ed is typ­i­cal­ly via the ranked lev­el not­ed on the search result.  By mov­ing the cur­sor over the blue V1, V2, or V3 link on the SERPs page, one can see the score explained: “V1” for 0–40 trust score, “V2” for 41–90 score, and “V3” for a 91 or high­er score.

How­ev­er, unlike on Google, cre­at­ing raw num­bers of inbound links have his­tor­i­cal­ly been thought to be a work-around when high trust rat­ing is not with­in reach, some­thing that is not like­ly to be a “for­ev­er” tac­tic as the search mar­ket fur­ther devel­ops with­in Chi­na.

“Top dog” pays to blend into, or trump, organic 

While Baidu does dis­tin­guish paid from organ­ic, his­tor­i­cal­ly, Baidu’s search results have thus far allowed brands to blend into organ­ic results a bit more than on Google, seem­ing­ly unlike Google’s slight­ly more dis­tinct dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion.

The tiny dif­fer­ences cre­ate a blur­ring effect that is obvi­ous­ly to the advertiser’s advan­tage in cer­tain stages of the shop­ping cycle, and in no way stops the adver­tis­er from scor­ing top posi­tions as on Google when it serves their objec­tives on more lucra­tive key­word strings.

Mean­while, the cost of paid ads has also his­tor­i­cal­ly tend­ed to fac­tor in the mar­ket price to get on top of the organ­ic results for the same key­word, instead of mere­ly by how much oth­er adver­tis­ers are bid­ding alone, mak­ing organ­ic results a strong indi­rect impact on paid search, and caus­ing many to lean hard­er toward SEO to help their own pric­ing base per indus­try or product/service. That said, Baidu is evolv­ing, and thus will prob­a­bly con­tin­ue to morph in this regard.

Sponsored listings 

To be brief, these ads could trump your organ­ic result in some cas­es, depend­ing upon what pol­i­cy Baidu has adopt­ed and the cur­rent lev­el of pri­or­i­ty these ads have as a con­tin­ued ad plat­form.

Get your Mandarin on!

That is to say, make sure that Man­darin native-speak­ers (and writ­ers!) are on your con­tent and SEO staff. You will need Man­darin flu­en­cy on your side to nav­i­gate these waters. Baidu is high­ly Man­darin-cen­tric, and so web­sites that rank best are those that are, quite pre­dictably, in sim­pli­fied Chi­nese, as well as host­ed on a Chi­nese serv­er (…that is, in Chi­na). This applies both to paid and organ­ic results.

Competing with paid ads

Often, big adver­tis­ers win local­ly. Why? Because local­iza­tion of paid ad dis­plays is pos­si­ble by the province (a region con­tain­ing many cities). This allows larg­er or hun­gri­er com­pa­nies to eas­i­ly steal mar­ket share from small­er or more bud­get-con­ser­v­a­tive “local” ones, since province-wide ads with ade­quate bud­gets can eas­i­ly trump city­wide cam­paigns with low­er bud­gets and less com­pet­i­tive ad bids. This fits the gen­er­al style of Chi­nese com­merce, at least in recent years, allow­ing major mar­ket play­ers to emerge on the wider world mar­ket faster, which has been a pri­or­i­ty of state-guid­ed com­mer­cial poli­cies. Focus SEO key­words as much as pos­si­ble for best effect in such sit­u­a­tions.

Baidu SEO subtleties  

With all the above items in mind, adopt­ing a mode some­thing more like “Chi­nese SEO with a Google time machine” becomes all the more impor­tant. For exam­ple, Chi­nese stop­words will not match the typ­i­cal Eng­lish stop­words, while raw inbound link vol­ume and more link tol­er­ance is gen­er­al­ly some­what high­er and on a par with a more dat­ed Google approach.

How to create a Baidu SEO function

SEO func­tions (teams) should gen­er­al­ly grav­i­tate toward a some­what flat mod­el that is ready to adopt new infor­ma­tion from any source with­in the team. On Baidu, that means one set of spe­cial­ized rules, and mul­ti­ple inputs to those ground-rules via reg­u­lar team meet­ings that can take in all this new info and eval­u­ate it crit­i­cal­ly while giv­ing ear to what oth­ers are say­ing.

For more on next steps, read the upcom­ing Baidu SEO Prep List, as you pre­pare to get tech­ni­cal, down and dirty with your Baidu SEO!

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  • By Sunny Zhang - 11:56 PM on September 18, 2015   Reply

    Even though I am in Chi­na, even I can’t under­stand Baidu or Baidu SEO. Great post! I will keep watch­ing for more!

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