Having previously discussed Russia, an emerging market where Google has had difficulty adapting to the needs and desires of the Russian marketplace, we now turn our attention to, perhaps, the largest prize in the search engine marketplace: China. In a country that currently has almost as many internet users as North America and the EU combined (772 million to 783 million), Google finds itself in – believe it or not – 5th place. That’s worth repeating: the search engine that, in March of 2018, controls 91.25% of the worldwide search engine market share, currently only accounts for 1.9% of searches in China, behind Baidu (72.73%), Shenma (11.15%), Haosou (7.91%), and Sogou (4.45%). So, what has made China so different that it produces a result like this and what do these differences mean for a business wanting to access the Chinese market?
First and foremost, China’s strict internet security apparatus plays a role in this: after all, companies like Google thrive and improve based on the free flow of information, and, by not having this, Google is somewhat hamstrung in what services they can offer and the quality of those services. Second, Google voluntarily left the Mainland Chinese market for a period of 6 years due to the aforementioned internet restrictions, thus giving its competitors time to develop and establish a near-monopoly in the marketplace. Third, Baidu arguably operates with a substantial amount of funding and consent of the Chinese government.
While all of these reasons may give Baidu slight advantages over Google, they mask the fact that, for the vast majority of Chinese internet users, Baidu offers a better and more distinctly “Chinese” experience. As has been discussed previously, when native speakers talk or write among themselves, it’s often using a colloquial/informal language that can differ from formal language, thus potentially skewing search terms and results in favour of services that have a deep knowledge of the local language and culture. Additionally, whereas Google has succeeded in offering a broad series of products and allowing user to customize it to their own regional/cultural needs, Baidu has been able to develop services that better meet the needs of the Chinese marketplace.
Though it may be easy to think of Baidu as the “Chinese Google”, there are a few inherent differences worth considering in order to prevent a costly SEO error.
With Baidu, location is very important. Unlike Google, which will give a slight advantage to domestically-hosted search results while offering a more comprehensive search, Baidu will give significant preference to China-hosted results, which can also improve page load times.
Indexing isn’t as simple as setting up a website and telling Google to index it – for Baidu, it requires an Internet Content Provider (ICP) as well as obtaining a Chinese business license.
Meta Matters. Baidu, in this area, isn’t quite as broad as Google when it comes to analysing content, so more attention needs to be paid to the usage and placement of meta tags and keywords.
Though it can be a touchy subject, censorship does need to be considered: just because Google will allow a search result, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Baidu or the Chinese government will.
Overall, China’s sheer size and growth potential make it almost irresistible as a target market. That being said, its unique environment requires anyone wanting to grow their presence in China in the near-term to work with Baidu and to work in a way that shows an understanding of Chinese language, culture, and search engine habits. To make sure that your investment in growing your presence in China is successful, it’s important to partner with a Language Services Provider when building your search engine strategy.
The in-house teams of Chinese translations, Chinese SEO and localisation experts, and IT engineers at EVS Translations are here to assist you.
Read our article -> SEA, SEO and Keyword Planning for Expanding SMEs and contact EVS Translation today to discuss your SEO and SEA needs.