Baidu SEO Ranking Factors Study
I had a chance to talk to Marcus Pentzek of Searchmetrics about their new Baidu ranking factors study. To an SEO nerd like me, it’s exciting to discuss how the data applies to real-world SEO campaigns.
As far as I know, as of now, this is the only Baidu-based correlation study out there.
I’ll share the study’s findings with you.
If you have 1.5 hours to read the study, download it on Searchmetrics’ site.
If you have 55 minutes, catch the full interview on YouTube.
If you only have 10 minutes, check out the tips below. :)
First, I should mention that the data does require some intuition to interpret correctly, and I’d advise against focusing too much on the correlation scores. I found that this study is more useful for understanding which factors are common for webpages that rank in the top 10 search results on Baidu.
1- A Chinese top-level domain (such as .cn) is not required.
Seventy-five percent of results in the top 10 are on Baidu are .com websites. You don’t need a domain name that ends in .cn or .com.cn to please Baidu.
There’s also nothing wrong with using a .cn domain name. It can still be useful if you want to signal to users that your site is specifically tailored to the Chinese market.
2- Language tags are not necessary for Baidu.
Missing or erroneous language tags don’t seem to make a difference.
Still, Bing (and perhaps other search engines) may use language tags, so it’s still useful to include them if you can.
3- Put exact-match keywords in titles and headers, BUT you don’t need them in the body or meta description.
When SEOers say “keyword” they are actually referring to a series of words together, such as “上海室内滑雪” (Shanghai indoor skiing). Notice that in Chinese, there’s no space between the words.
In the image below, you can see a search result with parts of the keyword coloured red. Sometimes the full keyword appears, and sometimes just individual words.
Using that exact keyword too many times will probably hurt the results. If you want a page to rank well for “Shanghai indoor skiing,” you should
include “Shanghai indoor skiing” in the title and header;
include the individual words within the body content, such as “Shanghai”, “indoor “and “skiing”, or even “indoor skiing,” and
DO NOT put “Shanghai indoor skiing” over and over again across the page.
4- Use images!
Over 90% of pages in Baidu’s top 10 search results include images.
Plus, images will show up in the search results, such as in the skiing image above.
Ideally, use images with a ratio of 121px to 75px.
5- Long, complex pages do well.
Baidu likes pages that have thousands of characters of content, unordered lists, lots of images, and jump links.
6- It’s OK to list blocked social media platforms on your Chinese website.
Surprisingly, websites that have non-Chinese social media elements (like Facebook or YouTube) don’t seem to be penalized.
As long as it doesn’t users when the social element doesn’t show up (because it’s blocked in China), it shouldn’t hurt your Baidu SEO.
7- https not required…yet.
Although Baidu said the secure https protocol is a factor, it still isn’t affecting results in 2020.
It will likely become a factor soon though, so you’re still better off using https if you can.
8- Title tags don’t need to use the full length.
Many title tags are 22–23 characters in length, even though Baidu will show up to 32 characters.
Make your title short and sweet, and don’t try to rank many different keywords with one page.
9- Don’t bother with AMP — build responsive sites.
Very few websites in Baidu’s top 10 search engine results pages (SERPs) use the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format, and it seems like Baidu might not even support it for much longer either.
So, if you’re like us and prefer to build responsive websites, just go ahead and do so.
10- If you have an ICP license, show it on your website.
It’s common practice for high-ranking websites to display their Internet Content Provider (ICP) licenses. Ideally, you get an ICP license, host your website in China, and show the license in your footer.
That being said, if you don’t have one, it isn’t a death sentence for your website on Baidu. If your website loads well in China, that’s good enough.
11- Backlinks are important.
No surprise here, higher-ranking websites tend to have more backlinks (links pointing from other websites to their website).
What’s Baidu SEO Going to be Like in 2022? 2023?
The trends point towards a Baidu that is better and better at returning useful results to searchers...although with plenty of Baidu’s own platforms showing up in the top spots as well.
This rank factors study showed that various technical issues aren’t really issues anymore at all, or at least they aren’t such major issues that they prevent websites from ranking in the top 10.
As somebody that runs several small marketing teams, each with several client projects, I expect that we won’t need to spend time getting all the technical on-site SEO perfect. Which is great, because it frees up more of our time for creating great content.
Plus, acquiring links will remain a high priority, but we can usually get those as part of our content distribution process. That’s a topic for another blog post!