Top 5 Chinese Search Engines You Need to Care About
There are a few powerful Chinese search engines that you should know about when entering the market. The Chinese search engine market can be a daunting prospect for those who don’t know anything about it.
Unlike most other countries, China’s Great Firewall means that engines like Google and Bing are rarely used. Instead, China has a few main companies that seem to dominate this market, and one key engine, Baidu.
The Chinese Internet Network Information Center has states that in 2015 there were 566 million people using search engines in China, and this number is only on the rise. While revenue is decreasing, this could possibly be because users have begun to focus on single search engines rather than switching between the biggest competitors.
Stats vary, but it looks like that in 2017 Baidu has around 80% of the market share (according to Chinainternetwatch.com), leading people to dub it ‘China’s Google’. This, however, is not the case, and there are several differences that you should know about, before entering the Chinese search engine market.
It is important to keep in mind that at one point, nearly all non-native Chinese businesses were new to Chinese search engines. No matter what your experience is, you can always learn more, so keep trying to update your knowledge.
1. Baidu – The Largest Market Player (76% Market Share)
Baidu is the most popular search engine in China. This is definitely the most useful engine if you want to improve your SEO’s, but it functions very differently from Google.
Key Differences Compared to Google
The main differences come down to how the sites operate. While on the surface they may look similar, different focuses and older systems mean that while Baidu’s technology is better at processing Chinese, they still place a high emphasis on Meta tags, meaning users are open to scams.
1. Only a Few Non-Chinese Websites will Rank on Baidu
One key difference that should be noted is that Baidu is a completely Chinese website, and there are very few non-Chinese sites that come up. While this is difficult for those who are trying to break into the market, it is one of the reasons why it has such a large user base.
2. Much Fewer Organic Results on Baidu First Page
Rich snippets and ads also function in a very different way to Google. The first page tends to be heavy ad content, with only a few organic search results showing up. You will also be directly in competition with Baidu’s own products, meaning first-page content is very hard to come by.
3. Baidu Doesn’t Support Schema.org
Baidu does not use schema.org to markup for Rich Snippets, but they have their own platform called Baidu open. This is a crucial factor in understanding how Baidu works. Only a small number of platforms can actually be applied to BaiduOpen, so it is important to know whether your company qualifies.
Extra Ways to Boost Your Organic Search Traffic
There is, however, a range of different ways that you can optimise your SEO’s using different Baidu products. Webmaster Tools allow you to alter the crawl rate through your site, and answering questions about your company on Teiba allows you to become more trusted.
However, ranking well on Baidu is not easy unless you have an experienced agency to optimize your website, as it’s hard for new companies to break into the top pages organically.
If you want to appear at a higher position on Baidu, you can try to leverage Baidu’s other products:
1. Create Your Company Profile on Baike
Baike is similar to Wikipedia, but companies do have the option to purchase the right to have control over what goes on their page. It is meant to be unbiased in theory, but in practice, many companies have a degree of control over what gets put on their pages.
2. Engage on Baidu’s Q&A Platform Zhidao
Zhidao is another essential part of Baidu’s infrastructure. This is a Q&A website which allows people to answer questions about their business. Since research is an essential part of the buyer’s journey, and research is a massive part Chinese buying culture, this is an excellent way to increase your reviews and create organic SEO’s.
3. Leverage the File Sharing Platform Wenku
Another website that Baidu runs is Wenku which is essentially a file sharing service that supports a wide range of different documents. This is an excellent way of maximising B2B solutions or if you have a high-value product.
4. Tap into Tieba and Baidu News
I have already mentioned Tieba, but Baidu also runs other websites that you should know about. Baidu News source is a very trusted and has a high number of visitors. If your content qualifies to be on this site, then you should really go for it as it will massively increase your chances of being recognised organically.
Baidu’s Potential Risk: Inadequate Regulation on Ads Content
While Baidu is the most popular, this may be changing. Since the recent Wei Zexi scandal, the search engine was under investigation in 2016, and there seems to be a decrease in trust from customers. The scandal involved a 21-year-old dying after receiving some incorrect cancer treatment information online.
There was a large amount of outcry from the public for Baidu to make advertisements more obvious. Baidu has responded to the scandals by making their advertisements easier to spot, with blue boxes marking which posts are paid for.
2. Sogou – Previoulsy Purchased by Tencent
While Baidu seems to dominate the market, there are other search engines which you should also know about, and Sogou is one of them. While this search engine has a relatively small percentage, 2.45% according to StatCounter, it is still an important part of the Chinese search engine dynamic.
Sogou is owned by Sohu, and they offer a range of internet services.
Established in 2004, it has its own unique algorithm, which makes it useful for companies who want to access residents of the lower tier locations. It has a similar dual-core to western companies, and the web application products are designed to classify online information.
Acquisition by the Largest Tech Giant Tencent
In September 2013, it was acquired by Tencent, one of the largest tech companies in China.
In January of this year, it was announced that they would be making about 10% shares available in the U.S. in order to become more competitive and chase Baidu, although they haven’t chosen the banks to run the listing.
One advantage that Sogou does have over other search engines, especially Baidu, is that they are the only engine that is formally allowed to trawl through public messages on Tencent’s WeChat platform. This platform has more than 800 million users, so this is a significant booster.
They have been in talks with smartphone makers so they can ship new phones with their software already installed on them.
In 2013, they merged with Tencent’s Soso search business in order to make them more competitive and carve up a larger part of the market.
3. QiHoo 360 – More Focus on Search Security
This is another very important search engine in the Chinese market. In 2016 they had around 29% (according to SEOagencychina.com) of the market share, however, in 2017 they seem to have around 10% of the market. This is a significant drop and can be accounted for by Baidu’s massive increase.
QiHoo 360’s flagship search engine is actually called Haosou, so it is important that while the company is called QiHoo 360, the search engine has a different name.
Haosou offers a wide range of services including news, websites, images, Q&A, videos, images and music, as well other services. As you can tell it runs a very similar service to Baidu.
Key Difference with Baidu
Launched in 2012, this is another important search engine, as it focuses on more security compared to other search engines. They are also important because in 2015 they partnered with an ad agency in Hong Kong in order to improve their search engine capabilities.
While this was tipped to give them the edge in 2015, Baidu’s ability to process information faster Haosou means that they are much more successful, despite the fact that many of their users are the same.
4. WeChat – A Powerful Mobile Search Engine
WeChat is one of the most important parts of online marketing in China. As Sogou is the only search engine that is formally allowed to crawl through the messages, it is also an essential part of learning about search engines.
WeChat is an app that many have compared to WhatsApp, but it is so much more important than that. WeChat runs a variety of different services that allow users to post moments, browse online shops, and even pay for products. This is just the beginning of what this app can do.
WeChat also allows business to directly communicate with customers, giving businesses who advertise on it a unique advantage over the competition.
Even though it is not connected to Baidu, it is just as important when understanding how Chinese consumers make purchase decisions.
Era of Chinese Mobile Search Engines
While it would follow that mobile search engine market would follow computer search engines, it seems that this market is a lot more competitive.
It is important to understand that the predominant platforms are either mobile or laptops, tablets don’t seem to be as popular as they are in other countries. So when designing your website you should keep in mind that it should be mobile friendly.
The top three search engines used are Baidu with 78.2%, Sogou at 7.9% and Easou at 4.9%, with other companies at 9.0% (first quarter of 2017, China Internet Watch).
Mobile search engines seem to have more scope for taking the market away from Baidu.
5. Easou – Another Mobile Search Engine
This is a specifically designed search engine for mobile phone devices, which uses natural language processing as well as information extraction and distributed computation.
Created in 2005, they began to expand in 2015 when they developed Yi Dian Tong, a phone based smart marketing platform. This allows users to accurately advertise to the right markets, and more than 46 million medium and small sized firms in China (according to Crunchbase.com).
This is a unique mobile platform that is quickly growing as they establish different angles compared to Baidu.
Conclusion on Top Chinese Search Engines
While the market seems to be dominated by Baidu, there is also room for growth. Lack of trust and recent scandals mean that customers may be turning to other search engines. There is also more growth in mobile phone searches, suggesting that it would be unwise to ignore the different search engines when researching the Chinese market.
If you would like to implement SEO in China, please contact our SEO experts in Dragon Social.