For many companies from different areas, China is the future and we can’t deny it. And it’s a market so unknown to most people that whoever wants to enter it through the internet (websites, social networks, etc.) has to forget -almost- everything they already know about Google, Facebook, and Whatsapp and start to get to know Baidu, Weibo, and WeChat.

Those who work in the online world stick to Google’s SEO rules but if you want to enter the Chinese market, it’s interesting to know the differences between the West’s biggest search engine and Baidu, the Asian Google.

Search engines war: Google vs. Baidu

92% of global searches are made through Google, but the giant of Silicon Valley left China in 2010 so over there, Baidu is the king of search engines. No less than 76% of searches from China are made through it.

Optimizing for Baidu is not the same as optimizing for Google.

We might think that basic rules are the same but there are some key differences. We still have to include keywords in our content and the latter has to be original, relevant, and authoritative if we want to reach the highest rankings.

So far, so good. However, according to research, while Google gives more importance to domain authority and keywords, Baidu apparently focuses more on CTR and content freshness. Metadata would also be more relevant for Baidu than for Google.

Server location is a game-changing factor: for the Chinese market, it’s essential for your domain to be hosted in Chinese territory and this includes Hong Kong.

And it’s not as easy as it sounds: in the West, it’s not hard to get a .com, .net, etc. and be indexed by Google; all Chinese sites must have an Internet Content Provider, which also requires having a Chinese business license.

Lastly, the most important piece of information regarding content: Google has certain rules or guidelines, advice we must take in order to avoid being penalized in the rankings. Baidu, on the other hand, and the Chinese internet/media as a whole, has plain censorship, so we must be more careful.

Chinese social networks

How do you get in touch with a Chinese person? Which are the tools most youngsters, business men and potential customers use?

In the West, if we’ve got a question, we go to Google; if we want to watch a video, to Youtube; and to communicate with each other, we use Twitter, Facebook, or Whatsapp. In China, each of these have an equivalent and they’re much more common than our Western counterparts.

  • The aforementioned WeChat, a mix of Facebook and Whatsapp, is surely the first thing a Chinese person will suggest if you want to keep in touch. Almost one billion users!
  • Sina Weibo has more than 500 million registered users. It’s a microblogging network with a market share similar to Twitter’s.
  • iQiyi, which belongs to Baidu, has surpassed big competitors such as Youku and it’s the most visited video provider in China (the Chinese Youtube).

Website design and localization

What if we want to expand our audience and enter the Chinese market with our website? Undoubtedly, we’ll have to adapt it -perhaps even start from scratch.

Firstly, we’ve got the language issue: a Chinese translation inserted in a Western design probably won’t work, so the new design will have to be developed with the target language in mind.

Localizing for China: Translation & localization + good design

Also related to culture, Asian websites have nothing to do with the ones we see everyday in the West; there’s a very different conception of what is attractive, functional design, so two recommendations: market research and professionals handling the project.

We hope you found this glimpse into the world of Chinese internet helpful and you decide to share it, and if you’ve got any questions, doubts, or comments, you’re also welcome to share those.