Baidu Search Engine Optimization Guide

Thinking about doing business in China? Then you’d better start thinking about optimizing for Baidu. This China-based search engine is as dominant in that country as Google is in the US, and its ambitions stretch beyond its country’s borders. You can’t approach SEO in the same way for Baidu that you do for Google, however, as this two-part article series reveals.

Baidu is a Chinese search engine; in fact, it is the leading search engine in China and has been starting to increase its market share globally.

If this trend continues, Baidu in the future may become one of the biggest search engines, along with Google, its rival. This increase in market share also increases the importance of getting good rankings in the Baidu search engine, particularly if you are targeting customers coming from China.

Getting good rankings in Baidu requires understanding the search engine optimization guide that works with the Baidu search engine.

The objective of this article is present the general guidelines for optimizing websites to get a better ranking in Baidu. This includes the onsite and offsite SEO guidelines. This is a two-part article series.

The official guide is available at the baidu.com domain in pure Chinese: http://wenku.baidu.com/view/6991a97931b765ce05081485.html

To understand the document, it has been translated into English. The main key points and suggestions will be discussed here.

Technical and Quality Guidelines for the Baidu Search Engine

Like Google, Baidu uses a search engine crawler. It’s called the “Baidu spider.” Its job is to fetch content from web pages and put it in their index. This is the same process that the Googlebot goes through.

According to the Baidu Search Engine Optimization Guide, there are a number of important categories you need to consider.

Category 1: Crawlability

1. It is recommended that you use text instead of flash, images, JavaScript, etc. to display important content or links. The Baidu spider cannot recognize text that is contained in those formats.

2. If you use Flash-based web technology to present content, you should present a pure text equivalent to be crawled and indexed by the Baidu spider. This can be done by putting a link on the home page to the text version.

3. Do not use iFrame when presenting web content. The content displayed by iFrame will be ignored by the Baidu spider.

Category 2: Site Structure

1. Your site should have a clear structure and clear navigation that makes it easy for users to find content.

2. This also makes it easy for search engines to understand the website’s content quickly, thus increasing the chances for better rankings.

3. Use a tree structure and breadcrumbs. Like a tree, the trunk is the home page, with branches made up of the website categories, and the leaves being the content pages. Breadcrumbs make it possible for users to know where they are in your website, so they can easily navigate back to the home page if they need to.

4. Ideally, the site structure should be flat. For example, going from the home page to a content page should force users to go through as few levels (clicks) as possible.  This makes it easy for users to find content by using only a very few clicks to reach the content page.

5. Maintain a good linking structure. For example, there should be a link from the home page going down to the category pages and then to the content pages.

6. Use plain HTML text links for navigation. Maintain link consistency; for example, on every page of the website, there should be a link back to the home page. Do not use complex JavaScript-based links or flash.

7. Place the more important content links prominently on the home page.

8. When using image links, use the alt text. This makes it easy for search engines to know what the target page is all about.

Category 3: Sub-domains and Directory

1. If you are using a category structure on your website, you can use a directory structure to present content if the categories are not large or rich enough to exist as independent websites.

2. If the category seems to be very broad and rich in content, you can use a sub-domain structure.

3. To have the strongest impact on rankings, make sure to maintain a strongly themed website. There should be a strong correlation of content from the main website to its categories/directories for search engines to get a better understanding of the website’s theme.

4. Prevent duplicate content in sub-domains and directories.

5. Do not abuse the sub-domain structure. Creating too many sub-domains without substantial content will be grounds for a search engine penalty.

1. Each piece of unique content on your website should be represented by a unique URL.

2. Having the same content accessible in two or more URLs can dilute the authority and ranking weight of the page. In this case, maintain proper URL assignments to unique content.

3. Do not use session IDs in the URL, to prevent duplicate content.

4. To solve duplicate content issues between URLs, use 301 redirection.

5. Use robots.txt to prevent the Baidu spider from crawling duplicate content URLs.

6. Use keywords in the URL. This makes easy for users and search engines to understand in advance what the content of that URL is all about.

7. Make the URL as short as possible. Long URLs are difficult for users to remember.

8. Baidu treats static and dynamic URLs the same. But it is recommended that you minimize the number of variables to be included in the dynamic URL for best results in the search engines.

9. Do not use characters in the URL which make it difficult for people to link to the page and generate a live link.
 
Category 5: Use Webmaster Tools

1. Baidu recommends the use of a sitemap and that you submit it to the Baidu webmaster platform.

2. Use Ping to notify Baidu of new content. Most blogging services support real time notification using the ping method. You can ping Baidu service address at http://ping.baidu.com/ping/RPC2

Category 6: Changing Domain Names

1. Changing domain names is common on the Internet. To avoid a massive loss of traffic and rankings in the Baidu search engine, it is recommended that you do a fully working 301 redirect from the old site to your new website.

2. When doing 301 redirection, it is important to direct users to the exact new version of the URL. So it would be:

Old version of URL 1 at Old domain==> 301 redirect ==> New version of URL 1 at New Domain

By using this method, the ranking of the old URL will be gone in the Baidu results, to be replaced with the new version of the URL at the new domain.

It is NOT recommended that you 301 redirect all of the old pages to just the new home page using the new domain.

3. Unless necessary, do not do a complete replacement of content on the new domain.

4. Check for broken links in the new domain. They should be properly directed to the new URLs using the new domain.

Onsite Optimization Guidelines for Baidu

Category 1: Title Tag

This is one of the most important onsite elements as far as relevance is concerned.  It is recommended:

1. For the home page title format, “Site Name | Description of Services | Main Product.”

2. For a category page title tag format, “Category Name | Domain Name.”

3. For a content page title format, “Content Page title | Category Name | Domain Name.”

4. Each page should have unique title tags.

5. These should be simple and concise, and should not list non-relevant information.

6. Since user browsing is usually left to right, put the more important keywords prominently in the title.

7. Do not create misleading title tags just to induce users to click or visit your website content.

8. Use familiar language to describe the page for the user. If it is intended for a foreign audience, use English.

9. Create title tags that will be appealing to users.

Category 2: Building Good Content

1. Create content that will surely help your visitor find what he is looking for.

2. Create a content that will support the theme of your website.

3. Your content must follow Chinese government censorship protocols.

4. If you use hyperlinks to link to other resources, use descriptive text in the anchor text.

5. If you use images in your content, use alt text so that users will still know what information is contained in the image in the event of slow connection speeds.

6. Allow users to vote and comment on your content. The quality of your content as determined by these resources may also be used by search engines to determine the quality of the content.

7. Manipulation of user-related comments and fake reviews/votes can affect the site’s ranking.

Category 3: Use of Meta Description

It is important for your website to generate a highly relevant meta description that will match the content of your page.

The Baidu search engine will judge your meta description; if it is not a match, Baidu will extract related snippets from your content.

The meta description does not have weight in the ranking algorithm, but it can affect the click through to your website in the Baidu search engine results.

The following are the recommendations for your meta description:

1. The meta description should be an accurate description of the page content, not just a pile of keywords.

2. The meta description should be unique to the page; avoid having all of your pages feature the same meta description.

3. The meta description should be a reasonable length, but not too short.

In the second part of this article, you will learn more tips to help you optimize your website for the Baidu search engine.

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