Until recently one of the missing pieces in my experience as an SEO was global search engine optimization. Sure, I have toyed around with other search engines popular in other countries and even spent a little time reviewing optimization for Baidu, but until attending this years International Search Summit workshop at SMX, I really only got bits and pieces of what all is needed to make an impact in markets that are not dominated by Google. In a way it was kind of refreshing to focus on another search engine other than Google and Bing. The to main search engines covered were Baidu and Yandex, but for me I’m currently focused on emerging into the Asian market. Perhaps I will tackle Russia next year. Below are some of highlights of this event as it related to marketing in countries such as China.
Entering into global markets
When entering into a global market one of the biggest hindrances typically faced is lack of research. Different markets have different buying behaviors, payment methods and cultural barriers that must be factored into any company’s entry plan. This is certainly the case in China and other Asian markets. Unlike much of the world in China Google is a far second place behind China’s Baidu search engine. Baidu has 83.6% of the Chinese market share where as Google has only 11.1%. Google’s market share has continued to drop in China and this reduction in marketing share can be attributed to a licensing standoff it had with China. This move by Google prompted the company to redirect the google.cn to googel.hg as apposed to censoring its search results and this is still the case as of this writing.
Search Engine Optimization for Baidu
In general Baidu’s search engine algorithms are not as evolved as compared to Google’s
When dealing with page rankings however many of the on page factors that we have come to associate with good SEO are still relevant when optimizing pages. These include the following.
Good Link Count
Although these factors are pretty familiar to most SEO’s there, are extraneous factors that have to be considered when optimizing a page marketed for an Asian audience. Since page load is one of the key factors in optimizing page results for Baidu its recommend that your host reside in China. Having a server outside of China will affect page load which intern can impact ranking negatively. Additionally it’s important that you thoroughly test your language detection scripts either with a proxy or by someone actually residing in the region. It’s thought that about 80% of the detection scripts in place do not work properly and lack of testing can render your site useless if your text is not properly rendered. An additional measure that will help is modifying the Robot.txt setting up the Robo.txt parameter to be excluded from being crawled outside of China is thought to improve SEO in Baidu.
Link Building for Baidu
When acquiring links it’s important that a majority of your links are coming from other .cn domains as apposed to non region specific domains. Additionally having a region specific URL is a must. In some cases a .cn domain with little or no link count will perform better in the rankings then the .com equivalent with a high link count.
Pay Per Click in Baidu
Much like Google Baidu has its own pay per click service called Phoenix Nest. This program much like Google’s adwords allows advertisers to create and modify their own pay per click campaigns. If you don’t understand Chinese but still want to advertise on Baidu you can go through a service provider such as internationalsearchengines.com or you can look try to create a relationship with an independent Baidu SEO using a website like alibaba.com. Unlike Google adwords there is no quality score. The click through rate is a more determinate factor of ad placement and the cost per click for ads ran on Baidu is significantly less then adds purchased through Google adwords.
When developing a keyword list for other geographic regions it’s important evaluate your keywords independently in each market. Many times keywords do not translate and time, effort and money spent developing keywords can be in vain if they are not cross referenced and research against the market they will be used in. A great example of such a case is the word casseroles. In the US the word casserole refers to the dish however the word casserole is actually French for saucepan. Google’s Insight for Search tool is a great tool for determining if a particular keyword translates into another region and if so how much interest there is in that region. Phoenix Nest’s built in keyword research tool is another powerful tool for keyword research in China and is similar to Google’s Adwords keyword tool.
In summary it’s important to research any market you may be entering into. Entering a market with little understanding of the various technical, geographical and cultural differences can have a negative impact on your overall ROI and may keep you from reaching your audience effectively.