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It is an undeniable fact that Google has the largest search market footprint in the world. There are unlimited resources and information about search engine optimization for Google. As such, I understand how important it is for website owners to make sure that the site is optimized and performs well in Google’s search results.
However, by optimizing a site solely based on Google’s algorithm changes and abilities, you may actually be de-optimizing a site for other search engines. This de-optimization could devastate your site’s performance in some critical markets.
If a market like China is important to your business, you need to ensure that the changes you are making to improve Google performance also work well for a search engine like Baidu.
There are many differences in SEO best practices among search engines including local regulations, domain, and hosting location. Below are some items that you may have optimized more for Google, which could hold you back from performing well with Baidu.
Meta keywords, meta description and header tags
Content entered in the meta keywords and meta description might not be the ranking factors for Google, but still plays a role in SEO for Baidu. Therefore, place meta keywords and meta description tags in the <Head> section on all pages. You can leave them blank for another country/language sites, but be sure to fill them out on Chinese pages. Also optimize the use <H1> ~ <H6> tags on pages. It’s best to use them in your webpage templates to help your Chinese pages.
Subdomain vs. sub-directory
While most performance tests show that segmenting the country or language using a subdirectory performs better for a site without a country code top-level domain, some international SEO experts still advocate the use of subdomains. Google’s Webmaster Help Guide allows businesses to use either method. However, Baidu specifically suggests using subdirectories.
If you wish your Chinese site to perform well in Baidu’s search results, you need to set your Chinese site as a sub-directory such as, “Yourdomain.com/cn/,” or “Yourdomain.com/zh-cn/and not as a subdomain such as, “cn.yourdomain.com.”
There are many other algorithmic differences between Google and other search engines like Baidu. If China is a very important market for your business, make sure that you take balanced SEO strategies that work for all of your target search engines.
(This is an updated version of my article originally posted on ClickZ website in 2016.)