Cheng Chao has extensive expertise in China market entry, global translation & localization, cross-border business development, and global digital marketing.
Chao founded ChineseTrans, where he led a team of senior linguists to establish ChineseTrans as the market leader in professional Chinese translation services.
Since 2011, Chao has served as the managing director of SinoStep, a consulting agency helping foreign investment enter into the China market. Backed up with a strong team of China business consultants experienced in different sectors, Chao has successfully introduced dozens of overseas brands into the China market, established their operations in China on early stage and adapted their businesses to the China market.
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Latest posts by Chao Cheng (see all)
- Best VPNs for China - April 18, 2017
- Baidu’s 100 Ranking Factors-A Complete China SEO Guide - March 10, 2017
- Chao Startup Club: I Got 9 Chinese Paid Members in the First 24 Hours - March 9, 2017
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Rank Your Chinese Website Higher with China SEO
China SEO is full of challenges for foreign website owners and digital marketers.
If you’ve ever wondered:
“How do I rank higher in Baidu?”
“What’s the best way to optimize my website for China market?”
“Should I still target keywords? Or look for topics instead?”
This is a comprehensive China SEO guide that will show you EXACTLY how to rank your Chinese website higher in Baidu, the top search engine in China market.
- Improve Your Page
- Improve Your Chinese Content
- User Interactions
- Brand Signals
1. .cn Domain Does Not Rank Higher
Maybe you have been told to register a .cn domain.
There is no sign that a .cn ccTLD. domain will rank higher than domains with other extensions.
The .cn domain name is the international top level domain under the administration of China. Authorized by the Ministry of Information Industry, the CNNIC (Chinese Internet Network Information Center) registers all the .cn domain names.
Is it a must? No, it isn’t. You can use .com domain or any other domains, and it’s almost the same.
For me, nothing is different.
Why register .cn domains?
I mainly use .com names, and register some .cn names just because they are good.
- Register a .cn domain as a protection for your existing brand.
- You can find some good .cn names while the relevant .com is sold.
Many companies will register all the .cn or .com.cn domain names similar to their original .com domain name.
2. Domain Age
As we all can understand, a new domain takes more time.
Baidu uses domain age, but it’s not very important for existing sites.
3. Domain History
Has your domain been under the same person for a long time?
If your domain had been used for websites on other businesses, it will need longer time for your new site to rank higher.
Check the history and verify it before your official usage.
4. Hacked Domain
If a domain had been hacked for black hat purpose for a long time, it is risky to gain the trust of Baidu again.
The smart option is to drop it.
5. Domain Change
You should be very careful for a decision of domain change.
It takes time and heavy work for you to recover your existing ranks in Baidu.
A major work is 301 redirect.
For many small sites, it is almost like a fresh start.
6. Keywords in Domain
Most domains we are using are in English letters.
Having your keyword in the domain maybe helpful for English speakers to remember your domain.
However, it does not influence the Baidu rank at all.
7. China Local License for the Domain
Technically, it does not affect your rank in Baidu.
However, You need to use overseas web hosting without a Chinese website license.
Your rank might be affected by other factors.
8. Domain Registration Length
We are not sure whether Chinese domain registration length is a Baidu ranking factor or not.
However, we can predict the legitimacy of a domain from its expiry date.
This works for Google.
And it is actually a tiny investment.
9. Multiple Domains & Subdomains
While subdomains are an optimal solution for local target segmentation, they are not recommended for Baidu ranking.
Baidu generally dislikes subdomains, which is very common with multilingual websites.
Avoid setting up zh. mysite.com or cn.mysite.com for your Chinese website.
Baidu prefers to have different languages on completely separate domains.
I strongly recommend you to try two options
- use secondary directory like www.mysite.com/cn
- or us a separate domain dedicated for the China market
Many websites created only one poor quality single page under each subdomain and it is very risky.
10. Penalized WhoIs Owner
Please pay special attention to this.
Baidu tends to penalize all websites owned by the same person who is identified to be a spammer.
If you bought the name from other people, make sure you have checked other sites under this guy.
11. Private WhoIs Information
Avoid using “whois privacy protection service”.
Having whois privacy turned on increases your risk in the eyes of Baidu.
Improve Your Page
12. Keywords in the Title
Having right tags is the cornerstone of your China SEO success.
Baidu’s ranking algorithm pays close attention to the meta-tags, while western search engines place less importance upon.
Include focused keywords in your title tag.
Start with a keyword in the title tag of your articles, post, service, or product page.
It is the most important Baidu ranking factor just next to your great content.
13. Site Name in the Title – Your Brand
Always include your site name in title tags.
Your site name is your brand.
Baidu encourages you to do this in every page, preferably at the end of the title.
14. Title Length
Each Chinese character is equivalent to two letters.
The length limit defined for the title tag is 35 characters instead of 70 letters for Google.
15. Separator Character
Unlike other search engines, Baidu prefer using the underscore (_) to separate words in the title tag.
The use of the hyphen (-) is also acceptable.
16. Meta Description
It is not important now for Google and Bing, but still makes a big difference in Baidu.
Baidu ranks sites with relevant meta-descriptions that include the page or post’s keyword higher than those that ignore this.
Make sure each meta description has one or two keywords along with a branded term.
Also keep in mind that the meta description buffer limit for simplified Chinese characters is 78, half of the 156-letter limit for romanized languages.
17. Meta Keyword Tag
Unlike other search engines, Baidu still uses meta keyword tag as a ranking factor.
Include 3-5 keywords in every page on your site.
Please avoid keyword stuffing.
18. Image ALT Attribute
The ALT attribute is the most important Baidu ranking factor for images.
Baidu’s algorithm for image crawling is still quite basic.
Be sure to include a relevant alt-tag to every image on your site.
This is easy to be overlooked by many foreign websites.
19. Heading Tags
Just like other search engines, Baidu treats h-tags as an important ranking factor.
Incorporate keywords into heading tags, but avoid keyword stuffing.
Make sure each page has an h1 tag.
Use H2, H3 tags to break up content and follow a hierarchy.
Repeat your keywords in H-Tags.
20. Keywords in the Top
Beginning your page with important keywords help you rank higher in Baidu.
Baidu crawler is said to often run away before moving to the bottom of your pages.
21. Keyword Appears in H1 Tag
Pay special attention on H1 tags.
It can be considered as the second title tag and embed your focused keyword in it.
22. Keyword Appears in H2/H3 Tags
A good structure of your headings is the solid foundation of good content and easy for spiders to crawl.
23. Keyword Density
Keep keyword density in a reasonable rate.
The key is to make your web copy fluent without keyword stuffing.
24. Page Loading Speed
Page loading speed is a key ranking factor for China SEO.
Baidu spiders can estimate your page loading speed based on its code and file size.
Keep your page load times as low as possible.
Strip the site of extraneous code, heavy images, and unnecessary code will help.
Some useful tips:
- Monitor your page loading speed.
- Optimize your pages.
- Choose a better China web hosting.
25. Image Optimization
Optimize your images through file name, alt text, title, description and caption.
Include keywords to increase the relevancy.
You can get organic searches from image searches too.
Do not use iFrame pages.
Do not put important information in iframe, which is not friendly to Baidu spiders and robots.
Content in iframe will be discarded by either Baidu or Google.
Replace them with text, images or HTML5.
Use this tag to prevent Baidu from considering pages duplicate content.
We need this tag under following situations
- You did not do 301 redirects for old content after website redesign.
- Pages with similar content but with different parameters: esp. forum threads or product listings.
- Similar pages due to other causes.
29. URL Length
Long URLs may hurt search visibility.
30. URL Path
A page closer to the homepage may get a slight authority boost.
31. Outbound Link Quality
Some Chinese SEOers believe that linking out to authority sites is a Baidu ranking factor.
32. A Clean Page
A clean page with major content in the right place ranks higher than pages with a lot of noises.
33. Elements in the Page
Relevant, rich elements, such as text, images, videos, comments and relative posts are user friendly.
It is helpful for Baidu ranking.
Improve Your Chinese Content
34. Unique and Helpful Content
Duplicate content is punished by Baidu.
Insightful original content is the key to be unique.
Start with a Chinese Content Marketing Strategy to decide your content plan and online marketing channels.
Fighting against plagiarism helps you from Baidu’s penalty for duplicate content.
Monitor Chinese websites and be alerted of ‘scrapers’ and bots that steal your content and republish it elsewhere.
35. Content Length: Not Too Short
Content with more words can cover more points with specific details.
However, lengthy articles without any focus will be just wasting time.
Content quality is way more important than content length.
Each article shall be helpful for your readers.
A reference length for you is to write no less than 300 Chinese characters per page in most cases.
We provide our Chinese copywriting service based on this rule too.
36. Duplicate Content
Like other search engines, Baidu discourages identical content on the same site too.
Do not use same content blocks everywhere in your website.
37. Multiple Content Formats
PDF, Images, videos and other content elements may act as a content quality signal.
38. New Content
Baidu favors newer content over older content.
Building an internal bog a smart investment for China SEO.
It is easier to increase the refresh rate with scheduled postings on your blog.
Make sure your content is engaging and it is more natural to bring organic traffic to your main site.
39. Hire a Good Chinese Copywriter, Not Google Translate
Google Translate is great for getting a rough idea of a foreign text.
But it is not suitable for creating your web copies.
Website content generated by Google Translate is poor in quality and often makes no sense.
People won’t trust low quality content website.
Hire a Good copywriter and start creating quality Chinese web copies.
Improve Your Site, Usability
40. Simplified Chinese Rules
Baidu has a strong preference for Simplified Chinese characters, although it can index the pages in traditional Chinese, English, French, and Japanese, etc.
People here are searching in simplified Chinese.
If you want to rank higher, use Simplified Chinese.
Remember to use simplified Chinese to create your content, pages and meta tags.
41. Site Structure
A good site structure helps Baidu spider crawl your pages and organize your content.
Most people made their Chinese sites too complicated.
42. Site Update Frequency
Updating your website often is a freshness factor and stimulates Baidu spiders to analyze new pages and links.
43. Duplicate Meta Information
Duplicate meta information across your site brings internal competition and decrease the visibility of all of your pages.
44. Website Usability
A site that’s difficult to use can hurt ranking significantly by reducing time on site, and page views.
45. Breadcrumb Navigation
The breadcrumb helps users know where they are on a site.
It allows Baidu to easily understand the site structure.
The Ideal design of breadcrumb is to reach the lowest level in no more than three clicks.
46. Server Location: Make A Smart Hosting Choice
Geographical location of the server affects website speed.
A China local hosting will be faster and easy to get a high rank at Baidu.
However, getting an ICP number is always a challen
Making a wise decision on this according to your China market entry strategy.
Check China web hosting for more details.
47. ICP License
All websites hosted in China should apply for an Internet Content Publishing (ICP) license.
Generally it takes around a month to secure when documents are all in order.
It is a trouble for many foreign companies since only China local legal entities or Chinese citizen can apply for the license.
Without an ICP license, you can only choose to host in overseas servers.
48. Baidu Webmaster Tools
Baidu has its own webmaster tools.
It i worth spending some time on Baidu’s Webmaster Tools to gather basic statistics and run website diagnostics
Find the Baidu Webmaster Tools here.
49. Contact Us
Baidu favors sites with appropriate amount of contact information, esp. a physical presence in China.
Make sure that you have local Chinese contact details on your site.
Having a China sales liaison office will be helpful for you to start.
The Chinese government enforces a strict censorship regime for all online activities in China.
Baidu indexes sites in line with this policy so anything that violates the censorship regime will see a site either refused listing or de-indexed from Baidu’s database.
51. Anchor Text
Anchor text is another important ranking factor.
Make sure you are using the right keywords as the anchor text when you are building your internal links.
This good SEO practice is also valid for other search engines, but it’s especially important for China SEO.
52. Number of Pages
Content is king.
More pages means you have more chances to appear on the top of Chinese search results.
However, thousands of pages of poor content won’t work.
You need many pages of quality content to rank high in Baidu.
A large and frequently update site will be considered trustworthy.
A sitemap helps Baidu index your pages easier and more thoroughly.
54. Website Uptime
A good hosting provider can keep your site running in a stable way.
Frequent server issues will absolutely hurt your ranking.
55. Online Reputation
Online reputation likely plays an important role in Baidu’s algorithm.
Good ratings at review sites, user sharing, comments are all taken into Baidu’s consideration.
56. Number of Internal Links Pointing to Page
The number of internal links to a page indicates its importance relative to other pages on the site.
57. Quality of Internal Links Pointing to Page
Internal links from authoritative pages on the site have a stronger effect than other pages.
58. Broken Links
Having too many broken links in a site hurt the Baidu ranking.
It is a sign of a abandoned website.
59. Links to blocked sites
Links to blocked sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google or YouTube will appear broken.
It also slows down the loading.
The same happens to blocked web services.
- Google fonts won’t load.
- Google map wouldn’t work.
- YouTube hosted video wouldn’t play.
60. Quantity of Backlink Pages
Unlike SEO in Google, the amount of links is a critical Baidu ranking factor.
Link farming and other black-hat SEO techniques some times can still work on Baidu.
But do not play tricks on serious sites.
You’d better still work with some safe methods.
61. Quantity of Linking Domains
The number of linking domains determines the importance of your web pages.
62. Quality of Backlinks
The quality of the backlinks pointing to your site is taking an increasingly important role for China SEO.
Building quality backlinks to your website and have a longterm plan for your link building.
63. Backlink Anchor Text
Be sure to optimize the anchor text keywords for your external links.
64. Backlinks in Social Network
The number of comments with backlinks of your page in Chinese social networks like QQ zone, Weibo etc.
It takes longer for positive results in Baidu than in Google.
Do not expect high rankings overnight.
Plan early for your China SEO and it may take several months.
66. Links from .edu.cn / .gov.cn Domains
Some Chinese SEOers believe .gov.cn and .edu.cn domains are easy to rank higher.
And backlinks from these websites often value more.
67. Authority of Linking Pages
The authority of linking pages is an extremely important ranking factor.
68. Authority of Linking Domains
The linking domain’s authority plays as an independent ranking factor in Chinese SEO.
69. Links From Competitors
Links from your competitors means you win more votes in the industry.
70. Nofollow Links
Having a certain percentage of nofollow links differentiate important pages from others.
71. Diversity of Link Types
Diversify your link sources if you find too many links from a single source.
A natural link profile wins the heart of Baidu.
72. Contextual Links
Your backlinks embedded in the content body are with higher value than pure links in the empty page, footer or side bar.
73. Link Location
Links in more noticeable places, like in the beginning of the content value more than links placed at the end of the content.
74. Linking Domain Relevancy
Obtaining relevant links is always the right strategy.
Powerful links are those in your similar niche, instead of completely unrelated ones.
75. Linking Page Relevancy
Likewise, better links are from pages with relevant content.
76. Age of Backlinks
Older links are most trusted than newly added backlinks.
77. Links from Real Sites
Backlinks on real running websites value more than those fake websites made for SEO.
Latter ones hurt your SEO results.
78. Number of Outbound Links on the Linking Page
A link on a page with hundreds of outbound links values not much.
79. Links in Forum Profiles and Signatures
There not much value on links from forum profiles and signatures
80. Linking Content Length
A link from a 2000-character article is more valuable than a link inside a 50-character post.
81. Linking Content Quality
A backlink in well-written popular content deliver more value than those in crappy articles.
82. Organic Click Through Rate for a Specific Keyword
Pages that get clicked more in CTR rank higher for a specific keyword.
83. Overall Organic CTR
Your website’s overall organic CTR for all keywords affects the authority rank.
84. Bounce Rate
In most cases, bounce rate can be used to rate the quality of your pages.
Pages with higher bounce rate are probably not that good.
85. Direct Traffic
Website with more direct traffic are likely rank higher than those with less ones.
86. Repeat Traffic
Repeat visitors always love your content.
Repeat traffic gets ranking boost from Baidu.
87. Time On Page
The longer time visitors are on your page, the more useful Baidu thinks your page is.
88. Baidu Bookmarks
Pages that get bookmarked in Baidu Bookmarks get a boost.
Baidu bookmarked backlinks are quite stable.
89. Brand Name
It is simple to add a site wide brand name and it is important.
First, make sure it is a unique one.
90. Brand in Baidu Baike
A Baidu Baidu Brand term will be a positive ranking factor.
However, it requires good Chinese copywriting skills and your patience for the approval.
91. Brand Mentions on News Sites
Your website gets a boost when your brand is mentioned in big news website.
Having popups and distracting ads is always a sign of a low-quality site.
93. Keywords Stuffing
Over optimization like keyword stuffing, header tag stuffing, and excessive keyword decoration will easily get punished by Baidu.
94. Meta Tag Spamming
Adding too many meta tags does not work.
Keep them in the right number.
95. Web Scraping
It was a common way that some Chinese site owners generate huge volumes of content overnight.
Baidu is not a fan of this.
It is risky and might results in de-indexing.
96. IP Flagged as Spam
If your server’s IP address is flagged as spam, it may hurt all of the sites on that server.
97. IP Blocked
If your server’s IP address is blocked in China, all the websites on the same IP will be blocked.
So the biggest risk to use a shared hosting is this.
If only any website on your shared hosting was blocked, there is a big possibility that the IP will be blocked.
How to Build a Chinese Website that Works in China
98. Unnatural Influx of Links
A sudden (and unnatural) influx of links is a sign of phony links.
99. Percentage of Low Quality Links
Lots of links from sources commonly used by black hat SEOs (like blog comments and forum profiles) may be a sign of gaming the system.
100. Selling Links
Selling links can definitely hurt your search visibility.
Quite Complicated, Huh?
Some Baidu ranking factors are similar as those of other search engines.
But many are quite different.
You can take it easy.
We are providing feasible Chinese SEO services to boost your website traffic.