The search community seems to have quite a few negative perceptions towards Baidu, the largest Chinese search engine, throughout the years. This happens whenever you have a dominant product in the market. Interestingly, after Google left China and more people in the country adopted Baidu, it’s been evolving a lot and I would like to share some of the changes with you here.
I have no intention to write a “best practice” type of article this time. I just want to bring you some new perspectives on the largest search engine in China.
First, I want to show you a partial screenshot of Baidu’s social content. I’ve added black bubbles to reference each of the features with the Google equivalent (they’re not identical, but share high similarities) to assist those who don’t read Chinese.
It’s commonly known that search engines today pick up semantic signal from user-generated content. At SES Shanghai conference last year, I asked a Baidu representative on stage whether the engine would preferentially consider its own social content before other social media. Baidu answered that its content ecosystem has evolved a lot, which would help the engine to deliver the right results for the search queries. Although his answer wasn’t a straightforward “Yes,” I believe Baidu has hinted its intent. In order to see if this is the right direction, I tried Baidu’s own travel media - Baidu Lvyou.
A screenshot of Baidu Lvyou home page below.
First I picked Hong Kong and Harbin as two destination keywords in Baidu Lvyou. Then I went to Baidu.com and made search queries with these two keywords. I received these two results.
Baidu Lvyou SERP (search engine results page) for Harbin
Baidu Lvyou SERP for Hong Kong
I continued to try more destination keywords listed on Baidu Lvyou. I got similar search results.
Will you call this monopolization? I suggest you try not to be hasty in concluding the findings. My test shows how Baidu would possibly use its own social content for ranking consideration. While it’s clear that Baidu weighs its own content over other websites, I realize that when Google ranks China’s websites, it also ranks Baidu content high. Moreover, if you look at Baidu’s media content, at least for its travel media and inspect them carefully, you’ll find the link architecture and content structure are very proper.
However, one thing surprised me. Baidu hasn’t added the meta description and meta keyword in its SERP. I’ve been asked several times whether Baidu processed meta keyword for its ranking consideration. Now I can say even Baidu doesn’t care, so why bother?
You’ve probably read many articles on the best practice for content marketing such as how to compose search friendly content to boost search results visibility. In fact, I foresee content-driven SEO will become a standard practice (you may refer to my previous article). Content is indeed important to your marketing as well as how these content should be architected.
Assuming there’s no human intervention to Baidu’s search results, then it’s wise to study the engine’s media content and take reference from how these content are created. Furthermore, if Baidu ranks its own user-generated content preferentially, then you have to be there. Don’t develop content just for your own website.
What other content marketing lessons can we learn from Baidu? Despite that Baidu has implemented the schema markup for its own content, it unexpectedly hasn’t commonly support it.
Google currently renders the rdf tags properly for its rich search result snippet and I look forward to seeing Baidu follow suit to give its search results a nice tweak.
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Eddie is the founding partner of Frontiers Digital and the Executive Director of Milton Exhibits Group. Although Eddie studied classical theory of sociology in college and has a MBA, technology always has been a passion with him. He believes that a combination of technology and communication is what the modern marketing is heading towards in the future. Eddie is a member of Search Engine Strategies Global Advisory Board.
March 19, 2014