We spoke with Shanghai based CLN advisor TR Harrington who runs Darwin Marketing on the ins and outs of search engine optimization on the Chinese web. SEO in China is unlike other markets due primarily to issues from the China Internet Firewall (aka “The Great Firewall”) and the different search algorithms and policies for China’s “google”, Baidu.
We discussed some high level “tips” for brands looking to improve their SEO in China, as well as some updates on recent developments in the China digital market.
Improving your SEO — Tips:
- Host within China, or you will be skipped by Baidu’s “impatient” crawler. Even minor latency or weak signal will literally obliterate your search results. Operationally, Baidu is all that matters in China: without a Baidu presence, your brand is invisible.
- Baidu Brandzone: yes, it drives results. Brands report up to 30% of traffic originating from Brandzone.
- Baidu’s platform content is free/open and gets top billing in results: curate your brand’s content on tieba, bake, zhidao. 10-20% of results, if done right.
- Code: simplify, add alt text, streamline, etc. Baidu’s crawler requires aggressive spoon-feeding.
- Legal ICP license is crucial. Without a certificate, your site may be omitted from search results.
- Backlinks can be tweaked: targeted efforts can significantly improve ROI
Some new developments in the industry:
- “We are seeing good results from brands who are integrating their Baidu Brandzone and Weibo account — it is producing strong results for building brand’s non-zombie Weibo following.”
- Baidu is focusing its 2012 revenue generation efforts on brands, particularly luxury brands. They are finding that many of their e-commerce clients are having trouble raising money and reaching profitability, and are thus focusing more of their efforts on online brands. This fits with other reports on the shakeout of China’s e-commerce and group buying sites.
- TR’s group has created a tool that shows both Baidu and Weibo keyword index, (womvalue.com) primarily for brands to monitor how these interact and let’s us analyze their follower behavior. Beta name is VIP Curator / Zombie Killer with the concept that if Brands stopped trying to reach 1M fans and focused on the 5K who are true influencers, their Word of Mouth reach and results will be much more effective.
Let us know if you would like more information on optimizing your China platform, and we are happy to discuss, or put you in touch with TR for more information.