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Link Building Feng Shui for SEO in China

The internet is very alike all over the world. For many people the door opener to find interesting websites online is a search engine.

In most countries this is Google, sharing some real estate especially in the USA with Bing. Yandex is the native search engine for many Russian speakers, while Naver and Daum are used by Korean people a lot. Most of those countries also have Google playing along.

In China though there is no Google present leaving Baidu the ruling search engine with about 80% market share.

Seach Engines in in China

China is being ruled by Baidu. OK, there are some lower reach search engines as well (Sogou, 360search and Shenme only for mobile). But Google is nowhere around and Bing can be accessed, but is no big deal at all.

How does SEO for Baidu work?

For SEOs there is only one good news about this fact. That is that all big search engines rely on the same principles: they analyze content and rely heavily on backlinks to consider strength and authority. That is not different in China. That is not different for Baidu.

Baidu Algorithm Updates

Chinese SEOs know that Baidu can still easily be tricked by heavy loads of low quality (and easy to get) backlinks, while Google gets better and better fighting such link spam. One could get the impression Baidu isn’t fighting link spam.

But be aware that Baidu also doesn’t like being tricked, fooled and spammed. They also run many algorithm changes and even bigger updates all over the year. Some certainly targeting spam and backlink quality. One of those was officially named “Money Plant” Baidu Update.

While currently the quantity of backlinks still often outranks the quality when it comes to SEO link building for Baidu, you should still go the ethical way if you want long term success. Easy-peasy massive count link building can get you very high in your rankings fast, but Baidu is working on their anti spam algorithms as well. If you don’t want to risk penalties, go with relevant high quality links.

If you are targeting for a longterm safe SEO strategy, do not use spammy methods to trick your way up the Baidu SERPs. You should rather watch out for quality and topic related link building. Always keep in mind that only a link that is useful for the user and that makes sense for the user to follow is a good link. Don’t just drop a link because you can. Only leave a link if you potentially help people finding your website more easily.

Baidu has the intention to rank the best documents for the search terms people are looking for. Baidu is focusing on the Chinese market, so they intent to rank the best documents that are relevant for the Chinese market. The documents most relevant for the Chinese market are most likely recommended by other websites from the market itself. So backlinks from Chinese websites are a good indicator to Baidu that the linked to pages are relevant for Chinese users. Similar to Google, to Baidu links from websites that are themselves well linked to are more relevant than links from websites that barely have any references pointing to them.

A Chinese TLD (.cn, .com.cn, .net.cn, .org.cn, gov.cn) is a very strong hint, that the website owner is a company based in China as it is almost impossible to register Chinese TLD domains without at least having an office registered in China.

Backlinks from other Chinese country TLDs websites like .hk (belongs officially to China but its online culture more relates to the western world using Google not Baidu) or .tw (difficult from the Chinese-political perspective) or even .sg (with two official languages; Chinese and English) is probably still better than from non-Chinese websites.

A generic TLD website however could still be an original Chinese website (Baidu itself uses a .com such as the biggest Chinese ecommerce website taobao.com). A non-Chinese ccTLD such as .de or .co.uk however is most likely not that relevant as a backlink resource to boost Chinese websites on Baidu, as the TLD often shows that another language might be the main language of the website.

A Chinese page title of the linking page and a Chinese anchor text provide strong evidence that the linking page works with Chinese content.

The server location is further signal if the linking website is of (Chinese) relevance for the link target. Chinese companies often use gTLDs like .com, but host their websites in Mainland China (good for higher Page Speed within China). Server locations like Hongkong, Taiwan or Singapore at least represent Chinese language hosting (although not geographical Mainland Chinese hosting).

But before diving deep into the backlink profile details with the excel expert, looking at summarized KPIs from BLP report can already give good hints (especially when comparing with competitors backlink profiles):

With a simple filter in LRT Smart you can easily display the Link Detox Risk especially for the links from Chinese TLDs.

High quality and power of the linking domain on the one hand, quality of the surrounding content of the link and the link itself on the other hand – that makes a good link. If a powerful website links to you, you will benefit from it through the very basic Baidu algorithms. If the content surrounding your link is important, valuable and therefor strong for the user reading it, your link will be what a link shall be: a reference.

But what is a good link building strategy to start with? What are those backlink building gems that you should try to get – no matter which industry you are from?

First of all, let’s have a look at what are the main principles to follow when starting with link building for Baidu.

Like Google in the west, Baidu itself is one of the most powerful domains. But different to Google, Baidu takes up about 50% of the positions on first results pages for the most interesting keywords. These are the different verticals like Baidu image search inserts or Baidu video search inserts that lead the visitors to specific search results that might match their user intention better.

But that is also other Baidu owned services like their very own wikipage: Baidu Baike (baike.baidu.com). Just like Baidu Baike some of these services are open for user generated content and can be instrumentalized to build links to your website. But keep in mind again – just because you can drop a link doesn’t mean you should. It must be relevant for the users of Baidu Baike (or the other services).

Baidu Services open for User Generated Content

Let us have a look on the SERPs real estate Baidu takes over and if or if not you can try to benefit from these rankings in order to strengthen your very own backlink profile.

Baidu Baike (Open Wiki)

Service URL baike.baidu.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 99 %
Open for UGC link Yes

Almost every single page #1 SERP of Baidu shows one Baidu Baike ranking. Often there are even two Baike results on the first Baidu search results page (for almost every second search query).

They have a very strict and long process in reviewing your content. Articles or adjectives that seem exaggerating or can be suspected as advertisements are not allowed. A link will only be approved when the Baike content needs an external source to illustrate its point or emphasize its trustworthiness by linking to an authoritative site whether it’s company site if the Baike article is about a company. You can imagine you can only tie the link with branded terms.

However, when your company site is not well established, it may ask you to provide a link source to reputable media sites, where you can build the connection of the content and your company site. So you might want to gain some reputational trust before posting a link to your website on Baike. Paying for Baidu Ads, applying for Baidu V-Label, applying for “Official Website” label these points help you gaining some basic trust – then turn to some reputable media websites to write about you. Afterwards establishing a link on Baike is much more likely to get approved.

Baike Alternatives:

Baidu Baike is not the only website people turn to when seeking for information. There are some alternatives as well:

Baike.com

Service URL www.baike.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 18 %
Open for UGC link Yes
Service URL baike.sogou.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 0 %
Possibility of Sogou Page 1 Ranking 99 %
Open for UGC link Yes

360so Baike

Service URL baike.so.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 0 %
Possibility of 360so Page 1 Ranking 99 %
Open for UGC link Yes

Baidu Zhidao (Q&A portal) / Zhihu (“China’s Quora”)

Service URL zhidao.baidu.com and zhihu.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking (for Zhidao) 80 %
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking (for Zhihu) 62 %
Open for UGC link Yes, on Zhihu
Service URL image.baidu.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 70 %
Open for UGC link indirect

The Baidu Image result is just like the Google Image onebox, offering images corresponding to your search phrase. When hovered on the thumbnail or clicked through, the source link will be displayed and some of the links do root back to company page. So this can be a good method for gaining search results. However based on experience it is not easy to get a first page ranking. Top spots are often occupied by platform sites. So the idea is to instrumentalize a bigger platform website posting a picture, optimizing it for an interesting keyword and placing a link next to the image.

Baidu Tieba (open forums)

Service URL tieba.baidu.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 25 %
Open for UGC link Yes

Baidu Wenku (Document Sharing)

Service URL wenku.baidu.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 22 %
Open for UGC link No, but mentions

Baidu Video

Service URL v.baidu.comof
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 6 %
Open for UGC link No, but small chance landing a ranking in the video onebox.

However, if you have a list of video, work on the XML file in accordance to Baidu video’s protocol to improve video indexation on Baidu. It does have a recommend list on the sidebar for similar videos when the selected video (exclude paid movies) is playing. Also there is a sidebar with Like/Dislike, Share & Favorite functionalities on each video page.

Also you can use one of the other video portals that allow user generated content and that do allow links in their video descriptions. These videos might get listed in the video vertical search and this way become a second level link from the Baidu search results.

Baidu Maps (Maps service & business directory)

Service URL map.baidu.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 3 %
Open for UGC link Not any longer

With telephone numbers being unique to your business, you might still be able to give the learning Baidu AI a chance to connect a map entry to your website, if you display your phone number there as well. We recommend using the exact formatting (like spacing between numbers) as in the Baidu Map entry.

Baidu Hanyu (Chinese language information)

Service URL hanyu.baidu.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 2 %
Open for UGC link No

Baidu Hanyu especially gets shown when Baidu is not certain what exact intention you have with your search. You might simply want to know some information on the word itself.

Baidu Jingyan (Knowledge Transfer)

Service URL jingyan.baidu.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 2 %
Open for UGC link No, but mentions

While links are not allowed, mention of domains might be the best you can get from Jingyan and still driving new traffic and brand awareness to your website.

Service URL xueshu.baidu.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 2 %
Open for UGC link No

Baidu Zhaopin (Jobs portal)

Service URL zhaopin.baidu.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 1 %
Open for UGC link Yes

Baidu Yuedu (eBook sharing platform)

Service URL yuedu.baidu.com
Possibility of Baidu Page 1 Ranking 1 %
Open for UGC link Yes

Conclusion

If you intend to benefit from the big Chinese search power Baidu, you shall think about how it can benefit from you. That is what Fengshui is about. There are always two sides of the medal and they need to be in balance. If Baidu benefits from your input into their systems, it is more likely you will benefit from Baidu. But be aware that you do not spam (as everyone else using Baidu’s services shall not spam either) or Baidu one day might decide to not continue offering links (like they did with Baidu Maps and Baidu Zhidao).

Trying to gain traffic not only from Baidu search directly but through other (Baidu) services is a good strategy not only for link building purposes. Also the fact that Baidu itself and bigger websites claim most of the real estate on Baidu’s first search results pages for interesting keywords, not leaving many positions left for less reputable websites, makes seeding your website on the websites claiming this space a good idea.

Kun Tang is founder and head of the Chinese Online Marketing company Jadegital. His clients are mainly western companies entering the Chinese ecommerce market. His team includes specialists for all kinds of necessary services like Social Media Marketing, SEO and SEA for China.

Marcus Pentzek

Marcus Pentzek is Chief SEO Consultant at Searchmetrics. His responsibilities are especially international SEO analysis and strategies. Marcus spent two years living and working in China for an all Chinese company. Since then he has a special interest on SEO for China. Marcus is also certified by LRT as LRT Certified Xpert.

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