International marketing

Google vs. Baidu: The key SEO differences

Google vs. Baidu: The key SEO differences
Merve Alsan
Written by
Merve Alsan
Merve Alsan
Written by
Merve Alsan
Merve Alsan
Reviewed by
Updated on
September 15, 2023

Google and Baidu may both be search engines, but don’t expect to replicate your beautifully high Google rankings on Baidu without doing any extra work.

That’s because Baidu’s search crawlers operate differently from Google’s, as does its search advertising platform. You’ll have to play by its rules – not Google’s – if you want your website to rank well on Baidu.

One of these rules involves translating your website content into Simplified Chinese since Baidu caters to the Chinese market. But apart from this essential requirement, what else do you need to know?

That’s what we’ll discuss in this post, as we explain how Baidu and Google’s search engine optimization (SEO) requirements differ. And if you prefer not to wait for your web pages to naturally rise up Baidu’s organic listings, we’ll also share how Baidu’s search ad requirements compare to Google’s so you can place Baidu ads on your target keywords right away!

What is Baidu?

Baidu homepage

Baidu, pronounced “BY-doo,” is a search engine that specializes in returning Chinese-language search results. It is the brainchild of Robin Li, who first developed the RankDex search engine and later used its technology to build Baidu. (Li is now the co-founder and CEO of Baidu, Inc., the Chinese company that operates Baidu.)

Just like how the Google search engine dominates online search in the United States, Baidu has the largest search engine market share in China. Based on data by StatCounter, for example, Baidu cornered almost 60% of the Chinese search engine market in October 2022. Its closest competitor, Bing, trailed behind at a mere 16%.

And similar to Google, Baidu doesn’t offer only a search engine service. It also provides other services such as:

  • Web mapping service Baidu Maps
  • Cloud storage service Baidu Wangpan
  • A Wikipedia-style encyclopedia platform Baidu Baike

Advertisers can also pay to place ads on Baidu via its pay-per-click (PPC) ads platform. (We’ll share more info on buying Baidu ads in a bit!)

While you can access Baidu – and its related services – from anywhere in the world, it primarily serves the Chinese markets, such as mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau. Hence, if you are trying to grow your website traffic (organic or paid) from these markets, then optimizing your website for Baidu isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’. It is a must.

Baidu vs. Google: what’s the difference?

While Baidu and Google are both NASDAQ-listed search engines and offer similar web services, there are several key differences.

For one, their shares of the Chinese search market are very different. Baidu is the go-to search engine in China, while Google had a market share of only 3.7% in the same country in October 2022. (That’s even lower than Bing, despite Bing being less popular than Google in the United States!)

Google’s small market share in China isn’t for lack of trying. It had previously attempted to expand its user base in China, only to face roadblocks as it was unwilling to comply with the Chinese government’s requirements for censoring certain search results. (In contrast, being run by a Chinese company, Baidu readily and fully complies with China’s censorship laws.) Google currently operates a very limited search service in China.

Separately, while Baidu and Google both aim to serve quality content to internet users (more on Baidu’s SEO standards in the next section), Baidu’s search algorithms are generally less sophisticated than Google’s.

At this time, for example, Baidu’s crawlers can understand only text content and struggle to crawl content rendered in image or JavaScript form. This means that such content may not be indexed or ranked in Baidu’s search engine results pages (SERPs). Likewise, for content placed in iframes – Baidu may also disregard such content due to its inability to crawl it. On the other hand, Google’s search engine bots can generally crawl such non-text content with few issues.

What are Baidu’s SEO standards?

Baidu’s search engine results pages look similar to Google’s. There is a main left column with a mix of text, image, video, and ad results, and a right column with related searches (plus trending news, which is something Google doesn’t have).

For example, here’s the Baidu search engine results page for the keyword “奶茶” (milk tea):

Baidu search result page for the ‘奶茶’ keyword

Given the limited space in Baidu’s search engine results pages, many results tend to be ad-related or from Baidu-owned properties, such as Baidu Jingyan (a user review platform) or Baidu Tieba (an online forum platform). So what should your Baidu SEO strategy entail if you want to give your website the best shot of ranking on the first page of Baidu?

First off, make your website available in Simplified Chinese, as mentioned earlier. Baidu primarily serves Chinese-language content to users, and getting it to rank non-Chinese content will likely be difficult.

After that, work to have your website comply with Baidu’s search results quality standards. These include:

  • Standardizing your URLs and keeping them simple to help Baidu crawl your web pages more easily.
  • Providing detailed, quality content that satisfies user intent.
  • Using high-quality images relevant to your website text.
  • Ensuring that your web pages fulfill their main functions (such as embedding a Download button if you’re allowing users to download something from the page).

What are Baidu’s ad requirements?

Similar to Google Ads, Baidu’s search ads operate on a PPC basis. In other words, you’ll bid for ad space on your target keywords and pay only if a user clicks your ad.

You’ll also need to open an ad account. It’s free to do so, but there is a minimum deposit of 4,000 to 6,000 yuan – approximately $557 to $836 – to start placing Baidu ads. (The exact fee differs based on the location from which you’re opening the ad account.) Baidu also charges a minimum fee of 0.3 yuan – about $0.04 – on every ad click. In contrast, Google does not impose such a deposit or minimum fee requirement.

The ads you place on Baidu should not feature illegal content such as pornography, drugs, or content that infringes upon trademarks. Ads relating to vice activities like gambling, tobacco, and lotteries are also generally prohibited.

And just like how your website (and ad landing pages) should be in Simplified Chinese, your ads should also be in Chinese for higher click through rates.

What is the process of setting up a Baidu ad account like?

Setting up a Baidu ad account starts with filling out this registration form. (If needed, you can translate this and all subsequent web pages into English while you go through the registration process.)

You will need to provide a phone number when registering for your ad account. This phone number should ideally be a Chinese phone number, but you can also register for a Baidu ad account with an international phone number.

When creating your ad account, you’ll have to submit copies of documents such as:

  • Your valid business license (either a Chinese business license if you’ve incorporated a business in China, or an international business license)
  • Your legal identification card
  • Your ICP license, if applicable (this is a license that lets you host a website on Chinese servers)

Businesses that operate in an industry for which special qualifications are needed, such as the medical industry, will need to show proof of such qualifications as well.

If you have trouble registering for a Baidu ad account, you can engage English-speaking Baidu advertising agencies that will take care of the entire setup process for you. They will likely charge a management fee for their services, though, so factor their fees into your advertising budget accordingly.

Prepare your website for listing on Baidu with Weglot

While its search and advertising solutions are similar to Google’s, Baidu presents a learning curve for businesses new to the Chinese market. There are different rules to follow, such as toeing the “Great Firewall of China” censorship system and paying extra fees to run Baidu ads. But if you want to market to a Chinese audience, Baidu is the search engine for which you’ll need to optimize your website.

Chiefly, you will need to translate your website into Simplified Chinese as Baidu – and Chinese Internet users – will prioritize Chinese website content over content in another language. And while manual translation is possible here, you can speed up the translation process by investing in Weglot’s website translation solution.

Weglot uses a proprietary mix of machine-learning translations to translate over 110 source languages into Chinese instantly and with a high degree of accuracy. These translations are stored in a central Weglot Dashboard, where you can refine them in-house or order professional translations directly inside the dashboard before making your Chinese-language web pages live. A built-in media translation feature also lets you replace website images and videos with appropriate Chinese variants, so you provide the best user experience to Chinese users.

Once you’ve prepared your Chinese-language website and landing pages, you can look into submitting your sitemap to Baidu and opening your ad account (if you want to run Baidu ads). Weglot makes websites multilingual within minutes, so it’s a shortcut for breaking into the Baidu search engine results pages as soon as possible!

Start translating your website into Chinese – and listing on Baidu – by creating a free Weglot account here.

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