Marketers have long considered organic search a lost cause on Baidu due to the abundance of ads, but new laws in China are changing the game. Contributor Hermes Ma discusses the state of Baidu SEO and provides recommendations for marketers looking to break into the market.
Recently, I attended Baidu’s annual search conference for agency partners in Beijing. One of the premier search events in China for SEO professionals, the conference was hosted by engineers from Baidu’s core search and Webmaster Tools teams.
The agenda covered Baidu’s eco-empowerment strategy, its Mobile Instant Page (MIP) project and a wrap-up of the 2016 algorithm updates. The event made it clear to me that 2016 was the year Baidu SEO came into its own. If you aren’t already investing in Baidu SEO, 2017 is your year to start.
The concept of eco-empowerment was introduced by Dai Tan, Baidu’s Chief Architect of Search. With search, Baidu wants every practitioner in the internet ecosystem to have better efficiencies in production, execution and monetization. In order to fulfill eco-empowerment, Baidu needs to provide relevant technology and form a mechanism for the ecosystem, supported by two pillars: page load speed and HTTPS.
Every half-second delay in page loading will cost you 3 percent of user visits. This is why Baidu moved quickly to follow Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) feature with the MIP project (Chinese language). At the same time, security is a critical factor to an engine’s reputation in a market where site hijacks, spams and PII data leaks are rampant. In May 2015, Baidu launched Not Set, which is its own version of Not Provided.
The main accomplishment in the mechanism of Baidu Search is in the release of Spider 3.0 (Chinese language), which was launched in early 2016, dramatically increasing the speed of URL discovery and indexing. As a result, crawl speed has increased by 80 percent, and Baidu is now capable of indexing trillions of web pages in real time. The Divine Domain project planned for mid-2017 promises to further boost indexing speed.
The Baidu Mobile Instant Page (MIP) Project
Mobile Instant Page is a bold name. Even Google’s AMP only claims to be “accelerated.” The results speak for themselves. As reported in the Conference, more than 2,800 sites have implemented MIP, reducing load time by 30 to 80 percent and subsequently increasing landing page clicks from 5 to 30 percent.
The technology and structure of MIP are very similar to Google’s AMP; even the page code is virtually identical. And just as AMP has been a controversial idea in the SEO world since its launch, so is Baidu’s MIP within the Great Firewall of China. Convincing webmasters to adopt this new technology has been a challenge, given the sacrifice of page flexibility in favor of improved loading speed and ranking signals.
Baidu has been fighting its way through obstacles, having learned valuable lessons from AMP’s rollout. A channel has been added in Baidu Webmaster Tools for page submissions. An open-source project is now on GitHub. A tutorial provides quick training for programmers. An integrated development environment (IDE) and an online validator are published. Themes are available for popular content management system (CMS) platforms like WordPress. Most importantly, the “Flashy” icon is now attached to all MIP results on the Baidu mobile search engine results page (SERP).
By December 2016, three months after MIP’s release, Baidu had already indexed more than 900 million MIP pages.
Baidu’s localization and globalization
Since Google retreated from China in 2006, the only two G-products that remain functional in that market are Google Maps and Google Translate. Mobile internet users are unable to access the AMP in mainland China.
Many people believe that if Google hadn’t been expatriated, Baidu would not have its dominant power in the search market. However, even when Google search was still in China, its market share never exceeded Baidu’s. And Bing, which is still in China, isn’t challenging Baidu at all.
When it comes to other players like QQ and MSN Messenger, only those engines that are customized for local markets (or work with the government) will have the chance to win the battle against Baidu.