Author: Alex Nam, Managing Director, CDNetworks
And just like Google, Baidu is a verb - users are asked to enter what they want to search for and click a button marked “Baidu it”.
So in order for a website to have visibility in China, it needs to score well in Baidu’s search rankings.
Loading speed and its influence on Baidu
Unfortunately, it’s incredibly challenging to get web performance right in China. A number of factors create long loading times, including the distance between Europe and China, the filtering process of the Great Firewall, and the infrastructure issues of China’s network.
Loading times affect the ‘crawl rate’ of a website. The internet is a big place and search engines only have limited resources, so only a certain amount of time is dedicated to indexing each site - some content will remain unindexed and unranked.
This limited scan of websites means the location of content on the page is very important. The crawler will often only scan the first 100 or so kb of a page, so the most relevant information and the most vital keywords must be near the top of the page.
It’s not only search engine crawlers leaving your site quickly that can have a negative effect - real people visiting and immediately leaving will also affect SEO. High bounce rates will mean Baidu will assume a website is of low quality, and will adjust a site’s ranking accordingly.
With the majority of searches in China taking place on mobile, Baidu places a lot of importance on it - especially as they have had more mobile users than desktop users for the last couple of years. A mobile-optimised site will help conversion rates anyway, but it’s a necessity to make sure it will appear near the top of search results.
The Great Firewall, censorship, and regulations
Baidu does not index content that is blocked to users in China. It also actively censors its content, using a mix of automatic algorithms and manual processes. It’s important to ensure that there is no content that could be construed as being anti-government, adult or related to gambling.
Even if your website does not provide adult material, it doesn’t mean that you will be protected from being censored as a ‘false positive’ and risk your website being blocked or de-indexed. Images of people sunbathing or even of piglets have led to censorship of websites by the Great Firewall in the past, as the algorithm has picked up a lot of ‘skin colour’ in images and labelled them as adult in nature.
Subdomains and website licences
It’s important to have a .cn domain for SEO purposes but in order to apply for this you must have an ICP license. Baidu requires you to have the necessary government-issued licenses for internet content providers. The ICP Bei’An license, or simply “Bei’An”, is a mandatory license required for all websites in China. Also, any company that “makes money” through their website is required to have an ICP license. To qualify for an ICP License, a company must be legally registered in China and in good standing financially.