Over the past three months I have been working as a consultant for a company in Chicago that targets Chinese investors coming to America. The job focuses on website marketing with a strong emphasis on search engine optimization. Optimizing your website for Google seems to be a daunting task in and of itself. But I didn’t expect to run into as many problems as I did optimizing our website for Chinese visitors. There is a HUGE cultural gap between Chinese and American searchers. For example, mainland China has Google, Facebook and Youtube BANNED. You cannot access these websites unless you are in Hong Kong. The Chinese government replaced Google with Baidu, which has grown exponentially over the passed few years due to the increase in Chinese internet users.
Whether you believe in what the Chinese government is justified or not, you have to accept it and move forward. Baidu, for all intensive purposes, is Google for China. But you can’t immediately jump to the conclusion that Baidu’s ranking algorithm is the same as Google’s. It is not. In fact, Baidu still recognizes META tags! (…I know!)
After I spent a little time researching Baidu’s algorithm, I came up with 3 small rules to follow in order to rank decently in Baidu:
- Translate your English content to Simplified Chinese, not traditional. The majority of Chinese-speaking Baidu visitors search in Simplified Chinese. Although you can rank in Baidu with English content, you are short-changing yourself by not speaking your visitor’s native tongue. Create Chinese content and Chinese-speaking visitors will come.
- Register a .cn or .com.cn domain name AND use a Chinese web host. This is important. If you need to, create a second “Chinese” version of your website and host it in China. This will give you a huge advantage in the Baidu search results over your competitors. An American-hosted server will not rank as highly as a Chinese-hosted server (at least in Baidu).
- Rearrange and re-optimize your Chinese site for Baidu. Baidu uses a different algorithm than Google. Baidu’s spiders crawl your page and prioritize the content from top-down. So, make sure you integrate your more important keywords AT THE TOP of your website instead of the middle or bottom. Additionally, you need to optimize your page titles and inner-links, just as you would for Google.
There is not a huge difference between optimizing for Google and Baidu. However, the small things are what make your website ultimately rank #1. Follow those 3 heuristics and you should begin ranking almost immediately.
Tip: Don’t forget to submit your Chinese website to Baidu’s index and create a new sitemap!