Getting to Grips with Baidu: The Chinese Search Engine

In Russia, Google routinely faces bitter competition from native search engine Yandex, and in China, they are positively dwarfed by the main Chinese search engine, Baidu.

Let's focus on one of these search engines, Baidu, in an attempt to find out a little bit more about it.

An overview of China's Netizens

By June 2015, the number of Chinese netizens reached 667.69million, with a penetration rate of 48.8% according to China Network Information Centre (CNNIC). By that same month, the number of Chinese search engine users reached 536.15million, with mobile search users exceeding 454million.

The popularity of the iPhone in China has helped to propel the numbers of those using mobile search, despite recent concerns that iPhone sales are slowing in the region. In China, Baidu has the highest level of user loyalty, largely thanks to its early entry into the industry and successful brand building.

Main services provided by Baidu

Baidu Search Ranking

Baidu provides listings of search terms based on daily search queries entered on The listings are organised by categories and allow users to locate search terms on topics of interest, unlike Google's related searches option.

Baidu Index

This allows users to look up the search volume and trend for certain hot keywords and phrases. It can serve as a Baidu keyword research tool for those wishing to do market research in China. Comparing data from both Baidu and Google may be prudent, bearing in mind Google's smaller user base.

Baidu Statistics Search

This enables users to search statistics that have been published by the Government of China. The Chinese government has a particularly strong hold on Baidu, with critics arguing that extensive censorship (for example, censoring a large number of Black Friday results) is against human rights.

Baidu Advertisements

Baidu's primary advertising product is called Baidu Tuiguang (Baidu Promotion) and is similar to Google Adwords and Adsense. It is a pay per click advertising platform that allows advertisers to have their ads shown on Baidu search results pages and on other websites that are part of the Baidu Union. It covers more than 95% of Chinese mobile Internet users.

Some suggestions on Baidu SEO

For those wishing to optimise websites for the Chinese market, there are several suggestions that can be implemented.

Domain name

Try to keep the domain name as short as possible. It is usually better to use the company name in the domain in order to increase brand authority. Alhough the domain suffix does not influence Baidu web results, from a social perspective it is easier for users to remember either .com, .cn or .net.


Baidu crawls pages online with a programme called Baiduspider, which currently can only read text (it cannot read flash, images or other non-text content). Don't use the frame or iframe structure, because the content displayed by iframe may be discarded by Baidu.

Website structure

There should be a clear structure and clear navigation on any Chinese website. A 'Tree' structure is suggested, divided into the following three levels: Home, Channel and Articles. Like a tree, you would first have the trunk (Home), and then a tree branch (Channel, equivalent to 'categories' on European/American sites), and finally the leaves (the content pages).

Ideally, the levels from the Home to the Content page in the website structure should be as direct as possible, so Baiduspider can crawl them more easily. Meanwhile, the website should also be a network structure, with each page on the site containing links to related content. For example, links between Home and the Channel, the Channel and the general content page, links among the content and so on.

It would be wise to use the relatively common 'Breadcrumb' style of navigation when the website has more content, as this makes it easier for users to understand the current position: Home > Channels > current page.

More suggestions on Baidu SEO

Make sure each page can be reached by a minimum of one text link (to avoid problems associated with using links in images). Add a navigation bar to each page so users can easily return to Channel and Home. This allows the search engine to locate the webpage in the network structure. It's also worth using text links in the navigation instead of complex JavaScript or flash. When using the images in the navigation, Alt tags can be used to give them a text-based description.

The Baiduspider server is in China, so if the web content is restricted from access in China, the spider can't visit it.

Baidu supports two forms of nofollow, both at meta robots level and also at individual URL level. Baidu also supports nofollow and noarchive meta tags, which can be used to assist in website structuring and link juice control.

Baidu currently only includes a small number of secure (https) pages. Home and contents pages that are open to all users are recommended not to use the https protocol. Otherwise, try to make an http accessible version of the Home and important pages that can be convenient for Baidu to include.

It is also a good idea to minimise the variable parameters that a URL contains and to keep the URL as short as possible (so including fewer symbols and hashed URLs if possible).

Charlotte is chief whip when it comes to making sure words are in order at ICS-digital. You can get in touch with her directly at