Last Updated on September 13, 2023
Boosting your brand’s search visibility in Mainland China isn’t the same as improving your website’s ranking in Google. If you want to gain organic traffic from Chinese internet users, you must ensure that your SEO strategy is aligned with the regulations and needs of the local market.
Through this post, we’ll walk you through the steps on how your content can rank in Chinese search engines and other factors that may affect your website ranking.
How does SEO work in the Chinese Market?
The Great Firewall policy regulates the websites local users can access in the Chinese digital landscape. Because of this, international brands can’t conduct SEO in China using Western search engines like Google.
Fortunately, you can opt for local counterparts such as Baidu, Sogou, Shenma, and other Chinese search engines that are not blocked in the local internet landscape.
Baidu, Sogou & Shenma logos
As you may already know, the Chinese market has an affinity for online shopping and staying connected through social media platforms.
In fact, according to surveys, most Chinese users often scan through the top search engine results page to get as much information as possible about the product or service they’re purchasing.
So, if you want to attract these savvy consumers into patronizing your brand, your content must rank on the first page of top search engines in the Chinese market.
The higher your spot is, the more likely your website’s traffic and clicks will increase.
You’ll need enough visibility in top search results if you want the local audience to trust your products and services, mainly because Chinese consumers are often wary of new brands they haven’t heard of.
As long as you execute proper search engine marketing and optimization techniques, this tool can be a cost-effective long-term strategy to generate solid brand awareness. Unlike paid ads or KOL campaigns, it’ll yield your brand consistent results even long after it has been executed.
7 Effective Strategies to Execute SEO in China
1. Utilize the Baidu Search Engine & related tools
With over 677 million daily active users, there’s no denying that Baidu is the most popular search engine in China. It’s the first thing most locals will access when searching for specific information about their purchasing decisions.
Baidu’s algorithm manages around 5 billion internet queries daily. This statistic alone signifies how powerful this search engine is compared to local alternatives.
It also has a complete ecosystem. Marketers can take advantage of a full range of marketing tools to ensure the success of their Baidu SEO strategy. Here are some options we suggest you consider for your optimization efforts:
- Baidu Keyword Planner
- Baidu Zhidao
- Baidu PPC (Phoenix Nest manager)
- Baidu Webmaster Tools
Unlike Google, Baidu’s interface can only be accessed in Simplified Chinese. It also prioritizes Chinese websites over pages in other languages, making it hard for foreign brands to rank higher without localizing their content. If you have a Chinese website domain name, it’ll help Baidu index your content faster.
Baidu search results page
Most local users also access search engines via their phones, so foreign brands must not skip mobile optimization efforts for their site’s user interface.
2. Research relevant keywords for your China SEO Strategy
Digital marketing is all about reaching the right audience, and that’s what a good Baidu SEO strategy can do for you.
Translating your website content into Simplified Chinese won’t magically give you better brand visibility and awareness.
You must find the most effective keywords for your brand to rank the highest in the organic search results. Through this, your targeted audience can find your website faster, giving you an edge over your industry competitors.
Foreign marketers must also thoroughly research keywords related to the latest industry trends and consumer behaviors. Including terms with high search volume and low competition in your content marketing strategy is the best way for your brand to top the search results.
SDG did the same work with Sugiyama Hospital when they asked our team to help increase organic traffic in their Chinese online store. As an experienced Baidu SEO agency in China, we did our due diligence and executed keyword analysis to establish visibility for the brand.
Keywords analysis for Sugiyama Hospital
Although ranking on Baidu is the priority because of its massive user base. It’s worth noting that you can use other effective tools for researching industry-related terms besides its keyword planner. Here are some options you can consider:
3. Observe how competitors are ranking on Baidu & other search engines
If you’re a new brand entering the local business scene, understanding the local competition is crucial in gaining a foothold in the Chinese market. It has a highly dynamic and competitive environment, so looking at what your competitors are doing can give marketers insights into what’s working and what’s not.
Since your competitors have been in the market longer than you, you must communicate why Chinese consumers should choose your product or service over theirs.
You must pay attention to the kind of digital marketing campaign they’re producing and find a unique angle that sets you apart from your rivals.
Observing your competitors will also give your brand an idea of how they’re optimizing for search engines. You can assess their keyword targeting strategy in Baidu SEO and how effectively they rank these terms in your niche.
4. Localize and plan your website content carefully
Regardless if you’re optimizing a blog post or a service page, all these strategies won’t work if your content is irrelevant to your industry.
Resonating with your brand’s target audience is more than communicating in their language or using the right keywords to gain more visibility. The reality is these consumers are looking for original and consistent content that aligns with their preferences, interests, and behaviors.
You should also ensure that your site’s structure is in a logical order. Each page must have a specific purpose and target particular keywords. Besides enhancing user experience, a well-structured website is much easier to crawl and index for any search engine.
Web localization for China for VIRPIL Controls
Posting new content weekly or monthly is also the kind of consistency the Chinese market expects from new brands. If you deem these tasks too time-consuming, we recommend seeking assistance from a local SEO marketing agency to plan and localize your website.
5. Get backlinks from credible Chinese websites
Obtaining relevant backlinks from Chinese websites is more than half of the work you must do when conducting search engine optimisation in China. It’s how Baidu can determine if you’re producing valuable and well-written content for your target audience.
Examples of backlinks articles on Baidu for our clients GIM and Merck
Getting quoted by Chinese websites with local domains and famous people establishes your content as a reliable source. It’s more valuable than getting external links from foreign sites.
Besides the website quality, the number of inbound links can affect rankings on Baidu. Fortunately, you can achieve enough backlinks by partnering with other sites through link exchanges and procurement.
6. Make use of keyword tags to appear in top search engine results
Although tags for meta descriptions are not important in Google, Baidu highly values these tags as a ranking factor.
Foreign marketers can easily manipulate these tags by adding industry-specific terms to your content’s meta description. They can also determine whether a page can rank for its target keywords.
Here’s how you can categorize these tags:
- Title Tags
Your page title must be attention-grabbing to hook the readers into clicking your content. It’ll work well, especially if you’re repurposing them for social media marketing campaigns.
- Description Tags
From an SEO perspective, every webpage should include a concise description that accurately reflects its content. Besides acting as a content preview for users, this tag helps search engines understand the page’s relevance to specific queries.
- The Keyword Tags
As previously stated, keywords are integral to Baidu SEO strategies. Search engines use these terms to establish connections and relevance, ultimately influencing how a page is ranked.
Metatags for our client Global Inspection Managing
7. Comply with censorship rules & obtain required licenses
The Chinese government implements strict censorship regulations on online media. So, regardless of what local search engines you’ll be targeting, it’s best to avoid sensitive subjects or include restricted keywords that may put your website to undesirable consequences.
While severe punishments include being blacklisted, websites not abiding by these regulations may also experience shadowban. If you’re unsure how to avoid these issues, a Chinese SEO company can review your website content meticulously. They can ensure that your website aligns with the parameters set by Baidu or other search engine alternatives. Typically, a China SEO agency can help brands establish an editorial calendar that not only adheres to local guidelines but also resonates with the needs of the Chinese market.
Before you can get your domain hosted in China, you’ll also be required to obtain an ICP license. It’s an authorization international brands must have to operate a business website legally in the Chinese market. Not only is it a legal requirement, but it also helps local consumers to trust you.
Chinese ICP license for our client RIOJAWINE
Baidu SEO: Other Ranking Factors
While it’s true that high-quality content is a major factor in ranking on Baidu, technical elements can also affect your SEO strategies. Here are other things you must remember when optimizing content for the Chinese market:
● Site Speed
There are many reasons why your website is loading slowly in China. However, most of the time, it’s because of unreliable third-party resources or because you’re using a site infrastructure that’s incompatible or not allowed in the Chinese digital landscape.
Now, how does website speed affect Baidu ranking factors? Typically, websites with poor performance are filtered out by local search engines. The long loading times automatically lead Baidu to categorize them as empty web pages.
● Mobile-friendly Interface
Western companies launching digital marketing campaigns in China must understand that this country is a “Mobile First” market. In 2023, over 1.69 billion active mobile internet connections were recorded in the Chinese digital landscape.
Baidu is aware of this demand, and they also know that their users will access content through their mobile devices most of the time. Because of this, the search engine performs transcoding to contents that are not detected as mobile friendly. If that happens, expect it’ll affect your website’s UI/UX.
What are other Chinese Search Engine Alternatives Besides Baidu?
Although Baidu is the holy grail of Chinese search engine optimization, it’s worth noting that there are other options in the market. However, you must remember that these alternatives do not have the same user base size or algorithm as Baidu.
As the second-largest search engine in China, Sogou is a solid choice if foreign companies want to expand their reach outside Baidu. While not as massive as its rival, it has developed advanced language processing functions over the years.
Sogou general search results, WeChat search results and Zhihu search results
In fact, marketers can rely on Sogou to handle complex queries, from voice searches to even ones with dialects. Brands can utilize this feature, especially when targeting potential audiences with diverse linguistic preferences or dialect variations.
On top of that, Sogou has a strategic partnership with Tencent. Through this, advertisers can access WeChat’s valuable user data to gather valuable insights for targeted advertising and content optimization.
Unlike other options, Shenma is highly focused on mobile search functions. It’s a search engine that recognizes the country’s growing market of mobile users.
Shenma search results linking to Taobao e-commerce platform
Foreign companies can leverage this platform for mobile marketing or targeting specific users. And since this search engine is connected to Alibaba’s ecosystem, it can also help brands find business opportunities in e-commerce platforms like Taobao and Tmall.
Recommended SEO Services For Foreign Brands
1. On-page optimization
This SEO service is essential for new brands, especially ensuring that their content attracts the correct audience and improves visibility in the market. If you’re hiring an SEO agency in China, here is the list of elements you can expect them to optimize:
- *Keyword density
- Friendly backlinks
- Bounce rate
2. Off-page optimization
After properly structuring your website through on-page optimization, you’ll need to go off-page to improve your website authority. It consists of everything that doesn’t happen directly on your website.
You can use Baidu SEO tools to monitor your campaign constantly. Other than that, you can seek the professional help of marketing agencies to execute the following methods:
- Link Building
This process requires brands to strategically acquire external links to enhance their website’s digital authority. More often than not, you can execute this through content creation and promotion to maximize backlink acquisition.
- Content Marketing
As previously stated, relevant backlinks constitute a significant element of a successful SEO strategy. You can only acquire it by crafting high-quality content and other factors like post frequency, length, keyword research, and competitor analysis.
3. Paid Search Advertising
At the early stage of the consumer journey, Chinese customers tend to search for product reviews, style guides and other information on Baidu.
Paid search advertising can boost your overall SEO efforts for attracting new users, but setting up your account can be a much more complex process than working with Google Ads. The entire process takes about four weeks and is carried out in Chinese.
Implementing quality and well-planned SEO on your website and digital properties will always benefit your marketing efforts. You should see SEO as a required investment.
As you begin to understand the value and importance of SEO for your brand, it should become much easier to take the first steps toward SEO planning for digital success in China.
Your Search Engine Optimization Partner in China!
SEO can position your brand for greater visibility, engagement, and success in the dynamic Chinese market. However, this method is a long-term strategy that requires understanding the technicalities surrounding local search engines.
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 today to learn more!