Localization through SEO in Asia – Episode 1: China

Nowadays, Google is like an online encyclopedia. You can look for anything and everything online with only a few clicks. Of course, all brands are competing to be on the first page in a Google search. We all want to be ‘seen’. But when it comes to Asian markets like China, Japan, and Korea, you might have to think twice about that! Because in those markets, Google isn’t the standard. They have their own search engines, and marketers need to be aware and understand how these local search engines work in order to drive the success of their brand.

In these episodes, we’ll share some background knowledge about each country’s main search engine, and offer business advice from a localization perspective – which should be useful for your business in one way or another. So stay tuned!

What is Baidu and why it is dominating Google in China?

China is a great country with a long history, complex language, and culture. There’s no surprise that there are many unique consumer behaviors. You may have heard of WeChat, the instant messaging application that’s widely used in China. As for search engines, it’s Baidu who’s ruling the market, with more than 80% of online searches being made through it.

  • The specific ecosystem – One of the key reasons why Baidu search engine is striving is because the ‘Great Fire Wall’ in China’s digital ecosystem is making it difficult for Western companies to enter. The Chinese government also has a stake in Baidu, because it’s providing data and information back to the state. At the same time, the search engine fully complies with the country’s laws and censorship.
  • The magnifying glass for Simplified Chinese – Since it’s created by Chinese and for the Chinese, Baidu search engine is meticulous in comprehensively scanning Simplified Chinese (mostly used in Mainland China) in websites that Google isn’t yet capable of. Baidu understands thousands of complex Simplified Chinese characters, as well as how people in China search in a different way than those in Hongkong or Taiwan, where Traditional Chinese is used instead.
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What you need to do in order to be searchable in Baidu

Baidu search engine

  • First and foremost, localize your website and marketing communication collaterals to be in Simplified Chinese. No exceptions!
  • You also need to work with a digital agency who understands Chinese, knows about Chinese online behaviors and has a thorough understanding of Baidu’s structure.
  • Study Baidu’s structure and prepare well, because Baidu will need to approve your website before you can advertise on their platform. Your website needs to be optimized and structured according to Baidu search engine’s distinctive search algorithm.
  • Consider hosting your website in China for faster loading. However, this is impossible without obtaining a special license for the purpose called an ICP Beian license.

In short:

As an expert in Asian translation and localization, it’s our opinion that SEO in local languages shouldn’t be taken for granted. To have a presence in the predominating search engines in giant market such as China, you’ll need to spend time and resources into localizing your communication material, using the right language and keywords and creating up-to-date, market-relevant articles.