To gain a presence in the Chinese Search Market there is clearly one king: Baidu. If you are reading this you are creating a site that is aimed at the Chinese market and you have already made that decision. You are probably thinking that Baidu and Google are very similar in what they look for in a good website, while they do similar things they are aimed at different markets and use very different technologies to achieve that and so differ more than they share similarities.
How to Optimize for the Baidu Crawler:
Normally when taking into account SEO factors Baidu isn’t usually considered and every SEO Consultant can get a blinkered view and will only think of Google. This is the completely wrong approach when dealing with SEO, and Baidu in particular. To rank well in Baidu you have to do things you would not normally have to worry too much about when dealing with Google. To optimize for Baidu:
- Ensure good crawl ability (Use a flat website style, every page should be accessible within 2 clicks of the home page).
- Use an .xml sitemap not an .xml.gz sitemap
- Host your site inside China (Baidu gives search preference to sites on a Chinese IP).
- Use a .CN Domain name (.CN are given preference in rankings on Baidu).
- Optimize the Meta data in your code to be at the top of your site (Baidu sometimes only can see the first 100kb of your code, this is due to connectivity issues).
- Post in Chinese (this is a simple one people forget, Baidu does not like non-Chinese content it knows its users speak Chinese).
- Google Fonts
Website testing in China
Now that you are about as technically prepared as you can be you should do some on site tests, there are some factors we should think about when making a website for the Chinese market.
Speed: This is one factor you won’t get penalised by Baidu for it being too slow but your users sure will, so ensure that your website loads within a few seconds (3-4 seconds is pretty acceptable if testing them from servers outside of China).
Usability: This is more of a major issue as this can affect how not only the users will interact with your site but also just as importantly they Baidu website crawler, this can be test by using a crawler simulator that can also emulate the behaviour of Baidu and acts like a simulator of how your website is seen. You should also make sure that the majority for your site is accessible from the Home page within 2 clicks as this will make your site more discoverable to the Baidu Web Crawler and will result in more indexed pages.
Social Links: It obviously makes sense to use only Chinese social media and not Western ones as these are mostly inaccessible from China, and you should have your site optimized for their use on your site. Ensure your social accounts are set up correctly and linked on your site, ensuring they are accessible from all parts of your site. Place these as a widget that follows the users as they scroll, but also at the end of each post. This is key to having a good conversion rate.
Mobile: As the majority of searches take place from mobile in China, Baidu and other Chinese search engines will give you higher weighting if they can see that your site is optimised for mobile search. You are also more likely to get better conversion rates too.