China SEO strategies to boost brands

7 China SEO Strategies to Boost Your Brand This 2024

Last Updated on April 25, 2024

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 build organic traffic from Chinese internet users, you must ensure that your SEO strategy is aligned with the regulations and needs of the local audiences.

In this post, we’ll explain the steps for ranking your content in Chinese search engines and share other factors that may affect your website’s 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 the metrics set by 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.

 

China SEO Baidu, Shenma, Sogou

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.

Chinese consumers are often wary of new brands they haven’t heard of, so you’ll need enough visibility in top search results if you want the local audience to trust your products and services.

As long as you execute proper search engine marketing and optimization techniques, this cost-effective long-term strategy can generate solid brand awareness. Unlike paid ads or KOL campaigns, it’ll yield consistent results for your business even long after it has been executed.

 

7 Effective Strategies to Execute SEO in China

1.   Utilize the Baidu Search Engine & related tools

Baidu is undoubtedly the most popular search engine in China, garnering over 667 million daily active users in 2024. It’s the first thing most locals access when searching for information related to their online purchases and activities.

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

 

\"China

Baidu search results page

 

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 locally hosted website, it’ll help Baidu index your content faster. Getting a domain name from a Chinese registrar will also make your web content appear more credible and trustworthy when crawled by the platform’s system.

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 SEO strategy can do for you.

 

However, it’s worth noting that translating your website content into Simplified Chinese will not magically improve brand visibility and local awareness.

 

You must find the most effective keywords for your brand to rank the highest in the organic search results. This will allow your targeted audience to 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. Incorporating 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 China SEO agency, we did our due diligence and executed keyword analysis to establish brand visibility.

 

China SEO keywords analysis Sugiyama

Keywords analysis for Sugiyama Hospital

 

Although ranking on Baidu is a top priority because of its massive user base. It’s worth noting that you can use other ranking tools to discover more industry-related terms. Here are some options you can consider:

 

5118.com Keywords Tool

 

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.

China has a highly dynamic and competitive environment, with over 169 million business entities actively operating in the country. Because of this, looking at what your competitors are doing can provide insights into what’s working and what’s not.

If  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 to optimize for local search engines. You can use SEO tools to assess their keyword targeting strategy and determine which terms you should target for your next campaign or content.

 

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.

 

China SEO web localization VIRPIL Controls

Web localization for China for VIRPIL Controls

 

If you’re unfamiliar with these critical factors, it’s always wise to conduct an in-depth market study and competitor analysis to piece out an effective China SEO strategy.

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 optimization in China. It’s how Baidu can determine if you’re producing valuable and well-written content for your target audience.

Getting quoted by Chinese websites with local domains and popular internet personalities 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 Baidu’s rankings. Fortunately, you can achieve enough backlinks by partnering with other sites through link exchanges and procurement.

 

China SEO Backlinks for GIM and MSD

Examples of backlinks articles on Baidu for our clients GIM and Merck

 

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 them 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 any China SEO strategies. Search engines use these terms to establish connections and relevance, ultimately influencing how a page is ranked.

 

China SEO metatags implementation

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 your chosen local search engine, it’s best to avoid sensitive subjects or include restricted keywords that may put your website at risk.

Some of the severe punishments that websites not abiding by these regulations may face are being digitally blacklisted and shadowbanning.

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 adheres to local guidelines and resonates with the changing trends and consumer behaviors within 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.

 

China SEO ICP number in website's footer

Chinese ICP license for our client RIOJAWINE

 

Other Ranking Factors for Your China SEO Strategy

While it’s true that high-quality content is a major factor in ranking on Baidu,

several technical elements can also affect standing in local search engines. 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, local search engines filter out websites with poor performance. Long loading times automatically lead Baidu to categorize them as empty web pages.

Furthermore, websites hosted overseas may take longer to return data than ones registered on a local server. As a result, the site speed can be affected when a site visitor tries to access your content. For search engines like Baidu, this delay is an indication of a poor-performing website.

 

●     Mobile-friendly Interface

Western companies launching digital marketing campaigns in China must understand that this country is a “Mobile First” market. In early 2024, over 1.76 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.

 

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 advanced algorithm as Baidu.

 

●     Sogou

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.

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.

In addition, Sogou has a strategic partnership with Tencent. Through this, advertisers can access WeChat’s valuable user data to gather insights for targeted advertising and content optimization.

WeChat articles in Sogou search results

Sogou search with WeChat results

 

●     Shenma

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.

Foreign companies can leverage this platform for mobile marketing or targeting specific users. Since this search engine is connected to Alibaba’s ecosystem, it can also help brands find business opportunities on e-commerce platforms like Taobao and Tmall.

 

Shenma search results with Tmall, Taobao and 1688.com

Shenma search results linking to Tmall and Taobao e-commerce platforms

 

●     Bing

Bing is the second-largest search engine in China, holding about 15% of the industry’s market share. Despite falling behind Baidu, approximately 32.9 million local users are utilizing this platform for their daily digital queries and needs.

This platform also focuses more on innovating other ways to serve its audiences, like visuals and voice searches. On top of that, it’s also an alternative for new brands seeking a space for less competition.

 

China SEO with Bing search engine

 

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
  • URLs
  • Friendly backlinks
  • Bounce rate
  • Time-on-page

 

 

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 analytical 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.

 

Baidu seo content marketing Macom

 

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 to attract 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.

 

 

Quick Q&A

Does Google work in China?

No, Google does not work in China. In 2014, the platform and its services were banned in the Chinese market for not following the country’s strict digital censorship laws.

 What is the most used search engine in China?

Baidu is the most used search engine in China, covering approximately 68.65% of the local market. Despite its similarity with Google, the platform operates with distinct algorithms, ranking factors, and indexing systems that website owners must follow to gain higher SERP rankings and local visibility.

 

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.

 

Sekkei Digital Group Services

 

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!

 

 

References:

China SEO Tips to Boost Your Ranking in 2023
How to optimise for Baidu & SEO in China in 2023
SEO in China

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