SEO in China: how to start ?

SEO in China: how to start ?

In 2019, over 850 millions Chinese have used the internet to search and browse content online. With their strong purchasing power and their addiction to digital, they have become a key target for online business. So, how do you attract Chinese customers on your website with SEO ? What are the rules to keep in mind before starting to develop your website ?

Here are the 5 steps to start with SEO in China :

  • Host your website in China 
  • Choose the right domain name
  • Respect Chinese language and culture
  • Understand how Baidu works
  • Apply some basic web development rules

Hosting your website in China

Having your website hosted on a Chinese server is probably the most important step to take to start doing SEO in China. Without a Chinese hosting, your website has little chance to perform on Chinese search engine like Baidu or Sogu.

How to host your website on Chinese server to do SEO in China ?

You will need to get an ICP (Internet Content Publishing) Licence from the Chinese Government to have access to reliable Chinese hosting company like Aliyun (Branch of Alibaba company). With a Chinese hosting, you will be inside the Chinese Great Firewall. As such, it will optimize your website loading time and better SEO in China.

Avoid shared hosting solutions. If one of the website on the server is targeted by the Chinese government, the whole server is likely to be impacted as well. 

Choose the right domain name

Electing a .cn domain name is a must when doing SEO in China. Like for local hosting, Baidu and Chinese search engines will always favor .cn domain name. As such, avoid using .com for your website in China.

Even if simplified Chinese characters must be used for your website content, make sure to use pinyin and western alphabet for your domain name and your URL in general.

Keep in mind not to use several domain names or create sub-domain names for your website. Baidu will penalize this practice and favor websites which are under a top level domain (TLD) name.

Respect Chinese language and culture

As in the West, the quality of your content will have a strong impact on your SEO ranking. To do SEO in China, you must use Chinese simplified languages. Simplified Chinese will be preferred by Baidu over traditional Chinese by Baidu.

Avoid using Google translate and make sure your content is done by a native Chinese writer. Using a Chinese native SEO copywriter is a must when you will decide on which keywords to focus on. 

Also, Baidu values fresh content. As such, you need to make sure to prepare a strong marketing content strategy. This effort will definitely have value for your social media strategy as well !

Be careful not to copy or duplicate existing content. You will get penalized by Baidu in a similar fashion as for Google.

Finally, make sure to respect Chinese culture and legislation. A content that would create outrage or does not respect Chinese rules will likely be down-ranked and even banned.  

Understand how Baidu works

In 2020, Baidu is still the most popular search engine platform in China with 65% market shares. It is followed by Sogou, 20% market shares and Shenma with 7% market shares.

With such domination of the market, understanding how Baidu works is a must to do SEO in China as it is for Google in the West.

Describing how Baidu works would take a couple of full books… So, we will share here only a few key insights:

  • Meta keywords are very important on Baidu. You should pay close attention to Title tag, meta description, Alt tag and H tags.
  • Internal Linking and backlinks on Chinese website have a positive impact on your website Baidu Ranking.
  • Add contents and links to your website on the Baidu ecosystem including platforms like Baike, Zhidao or Tieba.
  • Use Baidu Webmaster tools to get more insights and improve your SEO efforts.

Apply some basic web development rules

Optimizing your website at the stage of development is key when doing SEO in China.

Remember to avoid using Flash technology. Even if this technology is less and less popular, refrain from using it as Baidu can not crawl Flash websites.

JavaScript is also a technology to forget when it comes to doing SEO in China : Baidu can not crawl JavaScript as well.

In the meantime, keep it mind to have a mobile first approach when developing your website as a vast majority of users access internet on mobile devices.

Finally, keeping your website light to guarantee an optimal loading time will positively impact your SEO.

Next Ren Shanghai is a digital marketing agency, based in Shanghai and Paris, with a strong expertise in SEO. Follow us on LinkedIn to stay tune !

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