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ADVANCED TECHNIQUES FOR BAIDU SEO

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a cornerstone technique for your Chinese digital marketing strategy whether you are seeking to break into a new market and build your brand in this attractive market or cement your growing position amongst an increasingly competitive landscape. As the leading Chinese search engine, Baidu is the platform to focus your SEO efforts upon in China. But what advanced techniques for Baidu SEO should brands be considering to stay ahead of the game?

It’s important to remember that Baidu is not the same as Google, Yahoo or other common Western search engines, so the techniques that you use are likely to be different. Getting to grips with Chinese government censorship and ICP licence requirements are certainly a fresh learning curve of their own, so be prepared to do things in a new way!

Have local Chinese details on your website
You may already know that Baidu prefers sites hosted in Mainland China or Hong Kong (but not Taiwan) – however, it also prioritises sites with a physical presence in China. You don’t need to open a shop or outlet in the country but do aim to have local contact details for a Chinese address on your website.

Pay attention to language
You will already know that your site content should be in Chinese, but bear in mind that Baidu prefers Simplified Chinese characters. It won’t rank Traditional Chinese, dialects or foreign language sites highly on its SERPs. (Of course, the Baidu platform is entirely in Simplified Chinese too – so if you use a native Chinese digital marketing team, the language angle is far easier to handle from both a content and admin perspective!)

Invest in meta-tags
Western search engines don’t pay as much attention to meta-tags as they used to, but Baidu still values them. With title tags, include your keyword and add your brand and company name at the end of the title. Write your meta-descriptions too, and choose relevant alt-tags. Similarly, make sure every content page has a H1 tag, with H2 and H3 tags to organise content and repeat keywords carefully in each. If you a localising an existing brand website for your Chinese market, make sure you revisit all of these tags which are otherwise easy to overlook.

Focus on content
Baidu is similar to Western search engines in that it naturally favours fresh and original content, so brands must always be thinking carefully about a content strategy that incorporates a range of digital channels such as blogs, press releases, social media content, page updates and so forth. Baidu is notably strict on content duplication, so be mindful of bots and scrapers that capture your content and repurpose it elsewhere on Chinese websites. Look for plagiarism and address it quickly.

Check your anchor text
Baidu’s searchbots look closely at your anchor text, so align this carefully with your keywords for each page or blog post when you are adding internal links. Place your keywords in priority locations in your content and in headings, as Baidu’s crawlers are reportedly not as powerful as the ones used by Google and they don’t always san to the end of each content piece before ranking it.

Recognise the need for speed!
Baidu really ranks loading speeds highly, so page load times must be as rapid as possible – particularly for this highly mobile audience. Achieve this by stripping out any unnecessary code, large images, widgets and gizmos which don’t provide any value, and by hosting locally. Keep checking load times as your pages grow and carry out regular performance checks across your website so that you can make adjustments as needed.

Avoid using multiple Domains
Know that Baidu penalises websites which have sub-domains or multiple domains, so it is recommended to use a .cn Chinese site. If you have a Vietnamese, Taiwanese or Mongolian website as part of your Asian online business plan, don’t host them on the same server or create sub-domains. Build, serve and host them elsewhere to avoid any penalisation on your Chinese rankings.

Forget Flash!
Google has been indexing Flash elements and websites for some years, but Baidu doesn’t crawl or index it. So, don’t use it on your Chinese website, or you’ll be penalised.

Use Baidu’s webmaster tools
Yes, they are in Chinese, but you need to be using Baidu Webmaster Tools to see your user analytics, to check robots.txt files and assess your sitemaps. A Chinese marketing agency can help you with this by providing native online marketers with the skillsets to analyse your online performance and to keep refining your online assets for the best possible ranking performance.

Don’t be tempted by black-hat techniques
Baidu still ranks backlinks highly for SERP positioning, and this still tempts some brands to carry out black-hat SEO techniques such as link farming to boost their rankings. However, it’s a risky tactic and carries heavy penalties. At Market Me China, we always recommend that Western brands build their online presence in China using sustainable, ethical and white-hat SEO techniques for long-term benefits and accurate rankings that meet their target users’ needs. Backlinks will no doubt continue to be important for your rankings, but make sure you focus on quality as well as quantity.

Optimise for mobile
Baidu automatically transcodes websites which aren’t built for mobile phones, and this puts them at a disadvantage for search rankings. Ideally, build responsive websites and share URLs across mobile and desktop. Let Baidu know that you have a responsive website by adding applicable-device meta tags to pages and mobile type tags to sitemaps. Finally, go to Baidu webmaster tools and adjust your site properties to show how your site is configured; again to help its robots index it more accurately.

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