Last Updated on July 28, 2023
In today’s highly competitive business scene, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) remains an effective method to attract potential consumers in China. With many Chinese companies vying for the most efficient way to promote their brand, international advertisers should remember that the country has a distinct digital landscape.
China has over one billion internet users in 2023, so understanding this dynamic landscape is essential for marketing your product or service. Chinese users have unique search behavior, often bypassing general search engines for specialized platforms.
We’ve curated a list of relevant search engines to help your brand gain traction in the Chinese market. Learn how to leverage these platforms and cater to user preferences to establish a strong online presence.
The Current State of the Chinese Search Engine Market
It’s no secret that Chinese internet users have overwhelming access to the digital space, with 99.6% of them using mobile phones and tablets to search the web for products and services they want to avail. Because of this, most Chinese search engines in China chose to become app-based to cater to the needs of the market.
While the Chinese market has one of the biggest internet usage demographics, it’s worth noting that it has a fragmented landscape. Every Chinese technology company in the country restricts its content exclusively within its ecosystem. Because of this, popular search engines like Baidu lack access to content from platforms such as WeChat or Xiaohongshu.
Internet users in China still rely on default search engine options to look for general information and content from traditional websites. While search engines may not dominate internet usage in China, they are still an important part of the online landscape.
If you look at the graph below, Baidu’s market share is 61.47%, making it China’s largest search engine. Other popular Chinese search engines include Sogou, Shenma, and Haosou.
In the following sections, we’ll discuss the importance of these respective search engines and how they can improve your brand’s SEO strategy.
Can you still use Google in China?
While Google is the default search engine choice of many people worldwide, China is one of the few exceptions to this. Since 2014, the company has been banned from the Chinese search engine market, restricting local internet users from accessing the said search engine. It was China’s answer to the company’s unwillingness to follow the country’s censorship regulations.
If you want to search for something on Google, check your Gmail, or use other Google services in China, you will only be able to succeed with the help of a VPN.
Most Popular Chinese Search Engines In China
1. Baidu – China’s King of Search
Baidu’s popularity compared to other popular search engines mainly stems from its superior ability to comprehend Chinese text. Since its results only prioritize simplified Chinese characters, Baidu focuses on and favors websites or web pages in the local language.
This Chinese search engine also sets itself apart with various unique features integrated into its search engine results page. These features, including various rich snippets, significantly enhance the user experience and pose challenges for achieving high rankings on Baidu.
If you want to use the most popular search engine in China for your SEO strategy, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of how to optimize for this search giant. Leveraging Baidu’s other products, such as Baidu Baike (an online encyclopedia), Baidu Zhidao (a question-and-answer platform), Wenku (a document-sharing platform), and Baidu Tieba (an online community forum), can be an effective strategy to establish a strong presence and enhance visibility on the search engine. By harnessing these supplementary platforms, businesses can effectively increase their chances of success within the Baidu ecosystem and navigate the intricacies of optimizing an effective marketing strategy for the Chinese market.
How big is Baidu compared to Google?
While Baidu holds a substantial market share in the Chinese search engine landscape, Google remains the dominant force in search engines worldwide. Google’s reach extends beyond China and encompasses a vast user base across various countries. Its sophisticated search algorithms, an extensive index, and comprehensive global presence make it the go-to search engine for users outside of China.
However, since the Chinese government made Google inaccessible in China, Baidu had the opportunity to solidify its position and cater specifically to the needs of Chinese users.
How do I use the Baidu search engine?
Using the Baidu search engine is relatively straightforward, although the user interface and search experience may differ from what users are accustomed to with other top search engines.
To utilize the Baidu search engine in China, follow these steps:
- Open your preferred web browser and navigate to the Baidu homepage at www.baidu.com.
- On the Baidu homepage, you will find the search bar prominently displayed.
- Enter your search query or keywords into the search bar.
- Click on the “百度一下” (Baidu Search) button or press Enter to initiate the search.
- Baidu will display a list of search results relevant to your query.
- Search search results to find the most suitable information, Chinese websites, or resources.
- You can refine your search using advanced search filters or exploring specific categories on the Baidu search page.
- Additionally, Baidu offers specialized search services like images, news, video, and more. You can access these services by selecting the corresponding tabs or options on the Baidu homepage or results page.
2. Shenma – The Mobile Search Engine
While Shenma has a lower market share than China’s most popular search engine options, it has positioned itself as a prominent player in the mobile search landscape. It has established a strong connection through a joint venture with UC Browser and Alibaba Shopping Properties.
With its mobile-centric approach and strategic partnerships, Shenma taps into the growing trend of mobile internet usage in China.
By aligning with the booming e-commerce market and providing targeted advertising opportunities, Shenma offers businesses a valuable platform to reach and engage with their target audience. As it further refines its offerings and expands its user base, it is poised to play a significant role in the landscape and shape the future of search engine marketing in China.
How does Shema Mobile Search work?
Shenma’s strategy bridges the gap between traditional search engine marketing and e-commerce platforms. It has evolved into a search engine catering to users’ needs for shopping, apps, and books. The platform features advertisements, predominantly focused on promoting products and apps. As Shenma continues to develop rapidly, it holds great potential to become a reliable and effective marketing tool for businesses.
3. Sogou – Search Engine for Tencent’s QQ Web Browsers
As one of the top search engines in China, Sogou sets itself apart with its distinct algorithm that differs from its main competitor, Baidu. What truly distinguishes Sogou is its acquisition by Tencent. This strategic partnership grants Sogou exclusive access to WeChat’s vast user base of 1.3 billion individuals and a sizable market share. As a result, Sogou holds a unique position in the market, leveraging WeChat’s immense reach and user-generated content.
What sets the Sogou browser apart from other Chinese search engines?
Unlike the largest search engines in China, Sogou has positioned itself uniquely by venturing into artificial intelligence and voice recognition. Sogou launched these features with a high accuracy rate to translate Mandarin and English, enabling seamless communication and comprehension between users speaking different languages. This breakthrough has broad implications for cross-cultural communication and convenience in search interactions.
Moreover, the Sogou Pinyin feature of this engine allows users to type Chinese characters using Roman letters. Because of this, the platform indexes websites and search results with more relevance and accuracy. It ensures that users are presented with search results that match their intent and expectations.
4. WeChat Search – Bringing Search to Social
In 2017, this tech giant introduced a game-changing feature, WeChat Search. It provides an alternative approach to traditional methods utilized by different search engines tailored specifically for social media search results.
Leveraging its partnership with Sogou, WeChat harnesses significant traffic to enhance its built-in search function. It offers users a seamless way to search public accounts, moments, mini-programs, stickers, Tencent videos, and QQ music.
Since WeChat mainly operates as a super app with different capabilities, it’s worth noting that it connects with its audience in a more direct and accessible manner than other search engine options in China.
How does WeChat Search work?
Although WeChat has the biggest online market share in the social media scene, its search functions aren’t as easy to navigate as other local search engines. Here’s an overview of how WeChat Search works:
- Upon submitting the search query, WeChat presents a list of search results, including official accounts, moments (posts shared by users), mini-programs, stickers, Tencent videos, QQ music, and more.
- Users can further refine their search results by using additional filters. You may narrow down results based on content type, date, popularity, or relevance.
- Users can search for and use mini-programs that provide specific functionalities, such as e-commerce, gaming, utility services, and more, without leaving the WeChat app.
5. Qihoo 360/Haosou – Highly Secure Chinese Search Engine
You may not know, but most Chinese computers available in the local market have Qihoo 360 (Haosou) as the only search engine installed in its system. It has a unique meta-search engine allows users to utilize multiple search engines simultaneously through a unified user interface.
The key feature of Qihoo 360 Search+ lies in its advanced machine-learning technology, making it a full-text, third-generation search engine in China. This technology enables the search engine to continuously learn and evolve, ensuring it delivers the most relevant and tailored search results that users need.
While it’s not the most used search engine, Qihoo 360 Search encompasses a wide range of search functionalities, including news search, web search, microblog search, video search, MP3 search, image search, map search, question and answer search, shopping search, and real-time information acquisition.
Your Trusted Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Partner In The Chinese Market!
Navigating the intricacies of the Chinese market requires a tailored approach to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaigns. To truly captivate the interest of Chinese consumers, it is essential to understand their unique preferences and avoid common pitfalls that could hinder the success of your campaign.
Don’t let the complexities of the search engine market hold you back! Our experienced team is here to guide you through every twist and turn, unlocking your brand’s full potential and ensuring resounding success in this dynamic landscape.
We offer comprehensive services to empower your SEO & SEM strategies in China. From crafting compelling marketing campaigns to harnessing the power of SEO and social media, we provide the digital solutions you need to thrive.
Contact us now to embark on an exciting journey toward remarkable growth for your brand. The possibilities are endless – let’s make them a reality!