Getting serious about setting up Chinese website for your business? There are a few important things to keep in mind before investing time and efforts into building your China web presence. Getting it right will enable your Chinese website to rank high with the main search engines. Get it wrong and your website may not show up high enough in searches to be found or, worse, will never be indexed by Baidu.
Here are the top 10 items on your China web presence check list:
#1: Subdomains or multiple domains
Baidu generally dislikes subdomains – something that is very common with multilingual websites. For example, you should avoid setting up en.mysite.com for English and zh. mysite.com for Chinese. Baidu prefers to have different languages on completely separate domains. For example, if www.mysite.com is your main site, www.mysite.cn could be its Chinese language equivalent. This makes it harder to maintain, however, if you want to rank high on Baidu – do not use subdomains.
#2: Using robot.txt file
Another Baidu quirk is disfavoring robot.txt file – Google’s standard way to communicate with search engine crawlers. This is the most common way to tell search engines which pages should not be crawled. For the purpose of your China web presence, those specific instructions should be set in .htaccess file or in server settings. This is another reason to use separate domain for your Chinese site (see #1).
#3: Domain names
Baidu ranks .CN domains higher than the equivalent .COM and.NET. As .CN domain registration is open to foreigners now, there is no excuse not to grab it. Also, once you have established you China web presence and your brand becomes well-known, chances are that .CN domain may become the target of internet squatters. So, if it is still available, register it now.
#4: Loading time optimization
Long loading time will not only ruin user experience of your Chinese visitors but also lower your Baidu ranking. The best solution is to host in China, however that requires ICP license issued by Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and is only available to China registered businesses. Hosting in Hong Kong may improve the loading speed but it still won’t be as fast as hosting in China. Signing up with a reliable CDN provider (content delivery network) service, such as CloudFlare, could be another alternative solution.
#5: Broken links to blocked sites
Links to blocked social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube will appear broken which will slow down the loading as well (see #4). Also, services like Google fonts wouldn’t load causing your fonts look not as intended. Google map wouldn’t work either and YouTube hosted video wouldn’t play. The only solution is to use the local equivalents for blocked services such as Weibo, YouKu and Baidu.
#6: Blacklisted keywords
If your site uses any of the blacklisted keywords, it will be deindexed by Baidu and probably blocked from access too. Wikipedia keeps updated list of blacklisted keywords that are mostly related to politics but keep in mind that the list may change quickly triggered by specific current events. In any case, staying away from politics in China is probably a good idea anyway.
#7: Keyword research
It is important to do a proper keyword research with the tools available from Baidu rather than Google. Also, the keywords should never be a straight forward translation from English – Google translate or similar tools are absolutely inadequate for this purpose. This is why it is important to enlist help of a professional translator or, at least, run it by a native Chinese speaker.
#9: Link building
At the moment, Baidu still values link quantity over quantity, which means that techniques and tricks that used to work with Google 2-3 years ago can still be quite effective for your China web presence purpose. It is quite likely that, eventually, Baidu will follow Google’s approach of putting more emphasis on link quality vs. quantity, after all they used to follow Google’s every step. In any case, for now, back links from anyone and everything would still bring SEO benefits to your site.
#10: Baidu site submission
Don’t count on Baidu finding your site quickly – it’s better to submit it manually. Since, Baidu doesn’t have an equivalent to Google webmaster tools, the website has to be re-submitted every time there is a major change. Here is the link to Baidu submission tool.