China’s eCommerce landscape is quite different from the western world. Regardless of the Chinese purchase behaviour, big giant marketplace players and eCommerce platforms are trying to set up a wall garden. It’s for avoiding traffic going toward other platforms and brands websites. Additional bonus to reduce the pricing, and gamification to make more fun in the purchase journey is common in China eCommerce platforms. So to eCommerce website sellers, less channels to drive traffic to websites and challenging of purchase behaviour are the primary barriers to drive sales. And in this area, Baidu must be the key checkpoint you have to occupy. And SEO is the unbeatable weapon to increase overall profit margin.
In this article, I would attempt to compare Baidu SEO and Google SEO, for the purpose to present a more visual picture on the differences and opportunities. By the end of this piece, you can learn how to leverage Baidu SEO for eCommerce marketing in China cross-border eCommerce.
- Baidu SEO Webmaster vs Google Search Console
- Product and Collection with Simplified Chinese URL vs English URLs
- Baidu Off-page SEO vs Google Off-page SEO
- Baidu Shopping vs Google Shopping SEO
- Why Is Baidu Important to Brand eCommerce Store?
Baidu SEO Webmaster vs Google Search Console
Basically SEO is a way to communicate with the search engine systems that your website content is easily crawled, trustable, and optimised original content. Creating the search engine webmaster account must be the 1st step, otherwise your content might be difficult to find due to crawlability cost. In China, it’s almost impossible to be crawled unless your brand is a big one with plenty of business-wise presence online, and endorsed by thousands of news portals.
Baidu SEO Webmaster, that is as well as Google search console, is a platform to notify Baidu your website’s existence. And based on the requirements, you tell Baidu your website complies with the mainland China regulations and Baidu SEO policies. So even though it’s a similar platform with Google Search Console, the on-ground application procedure and features are different though.
1. Baidu SEO webmaster account creation requires China Phone Number
To sign up for a Baidu SEO webmaster account, you need to go to Baidu Ziyun. But it’s different with Google search console where you can use your country phone number with an email address to sign up. Baidu requires a Chinese mobile number. It’s very common in China when signing up accounts in different channels.
2. Baidu SEO webmaster does not allow .com subfolder path submission, and site verification with .com redirect 301
In Google search console, it accepts the brand to submit a subfolder directory in the new property creation. You can specifically monitor the subfolder directory performance, for example, the traffic and indexed pages are from Mexico.
However, Baidu SEO webmaster doesn’t accept subfolder directory domain submission. It would be put as an illegal submission. What’s more, some interesting and weird .com domains might be set redirected to .com/index. Baidu also bans strictly any .com redirect in the submission and verification process.
3. Site verification
Baidu SEO webmasters provides 3 methods to verify your site, which are the txt put in the root directory, header site verification and DNS CNAME configuration.
On the other hand, Google search console provides more alternative ways to verify except for those mentioned. You can also use Google tag manager, or Google analytics to verify your GSC account.
4. Business Registration & ICP
Speeding up the pages indexed by Baidu can’t only rely on optimization. Before execution, you need to prove your legal entity so that Baidu has no concern to index your pages. Adding your business registration and website ICP can help you prove to Baidu. What’s more, your legal entity information can show in SERP as well.
On the other hand, Google search console doesn’t require this sort of information. With the recent updates regarding core web experiences, SSL certification is becoming a must if you expect pages can be indexed by Google faster.
Baidu SEO doesn’t directly require a site that must have an ICP, but you believe or not that having an ICP must be indirectly speeding up the page indexing and affecting the rankings. There are two main reasons:
- You must have an ICP license if you want to host sites on a server in China or host sites through China CDN like Alibabacloud in China. Locally hosted websites are typically much faster and stable domestically, which contributes to direct ranking factors such as crawlability, site speed and user experience.
- Many advanced site verification procedures in China, such as Baidu SEO webmaster, Baidu Trust, etc, require an ICP license. These verifications unlock additional badges or widgets that display on the SERP for the site. Besides building authority and trust, these badges can improve click-through rate, which many believe indirectly contributes to higher rankings.
5. Baidu Sitemap vs Google Sitemap Submission
In this section, both platforms are offering the similar methods. You can submit the /post-sitemap.xml, /page-sitemap.xml on the platform. Or you can feed the sitemap data via API using Python and so on programming language.
The difference is Baidu only allows you to submit one XML sitemap a day on the platform, meanwhile GSC doesn’t have any daily limitation.
Simplified Chinese Naming URLs vs English Naming URLs
Baidu supports using Chinese characters in URLs, it’s arguable if using Chinese characters is better or not. It depends on which standing point you are on. From a consumer experience perspective, I might not recommend using Chinese characters because they may be difficult to type, read, or pronounce for many users. They will often be displayed as percent encoded, which is not human-readable.
From a context that online censorship is getting more strict for foreign languages, Baidu gives more credits and weight to a site with Chinese characters in URLs as the content is more clear and direct. And URL naming is the first touch point for crawlers to know about the landing page content.
I would recommend setting the always-on website URLs with as many Chinese characters as possible, particularly in the level of product page or post page naming. In terms of category and domain name, it’s better to keep it in English or Pinyin, as it can be better for users to bookmark or type in the browser.
For any tactical or promotional campaign landing pages, as it needs sharing in a viral way, we can consider creating a Pinyin or English naming URL with a canonical tag pointing to the same content page written in Chinese characters.
Baidu Off-page SEO vs Google Off-page SEO
Google off-page SEO in a way is more flexible based on the business needs. For example, if you are selling cross-border eCommerce solutions, you can invest more on Linkedin and Twitter, rather than the consumer end nature of Instagram, Facebook. It’s aiming to get more presence in SERP from related keywords.
However, Baidu basically dominates the 1st and 2nd page in SERP by their own channel products. Baidu Baike, Baidu map, Zhidao Q&A, Tieba forum are the primary channels shown in the SERP. From a purchase journey, it makes sense because search engines often gather lots of audiences with consideration and interest. They are seeking to learn more about the product from KOLs, KOCs, and Q&A community. Naturally those channels in the Baidu ecosystem can show in SERP.
Apart from that, other channels like Zhihu, Weibo, Douban are also the often top ranking channels. It’s what it’s. So in a way, Baidu off-page SEO is more important than Google off-page SEO. It’s not only for link buildings, but also it has a higher chance to stand out in SERP. Particularly it’s efficient to rank better from those difficult and competitive keywords.
And most important, Baidu Zhidao and Tieba has lots of KOLs and KOCs resources helping Brands and eCommerce sellers to distribute the products in the video, livestream and advertorial post format. The program often charges by commission, so brands can create a commission scheme to recruit and collaborate with KOLs there as well. It’s not only just for brand awareness and customer education.
Baidu Shopping vs Google Shopping SEO
As I shared an article before regarding Google Shopping and Google commission, Google merchant centers have a free resource for eCommerce sellers. It’s called Surface across Google. Basically it’s Google shopping SEO. Brands and sellers can sign up to a Google merchant center and integrate its CMS with it. Then, you can set up a synchronizing product data feed between CMS and Google merchant center. In the product data, you need to fill in the must-have information such as barcode, SKU, item shipping fees, and also you can try optimising the meta title, meta description, customer review, photos, etc based on Google shopping SEO guideline. For more details, you can check out my other article.
On the other hand, the Baidu merchant center doesn’t provide free resources. Instead, Baidu merchant center is a sort of product feed data management like Facebook commerce manager. You can feed your eCommerce store product data there. The purpose is for easily setting up Baidu product-driven advertising, which is similar to Google shopping ads.
Why Is Baidu Important to Brand eCommerce Store in China?
Many Chinese online consumer end platforms and marketplaces are working hard to dominate the population in China and avoid losing inhouse traffic to other websites. Less platforms like Baidu allow brands to drive traffic into their Brand own stores. For example, a little red book last quarter announced they banned all external hyperlink added to any posts. In fact, so many channels implement this approach to reduce organic traffic lost to other websites in China.
Baidu is a demand and keyword-driven channel naturally. So to Brands and eCommerce sellers, it’s one of the best channels to generate traffic and sales, although the funnel might be more sitting in the middle because people are more on consideration and interest stage.
Having said that, as we know, customer review, IWOM, comparison in eCommerce marketing are the critical elements to increase conversion rate. Baidu has many own product resources to support Brands and eCommerce sellers to educate target customers. Meanwhile, Baidu product ads can integrate your store product data and reach out to the most relevant customer group based on keyword behaviours. No double that Baidu is a must-have channel in China eCommerce strategy.