The Dos and Don’ts of SEO for Baidu: Navigating Baidu’s Algorithm Updates

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Baidu, the leading search engine in China, has its own set of unique guidelines for search engine optimization (SEO). With rising competition in the Chinese market, adherence to these guidelines can make the difference between success and failure. Keeping up with the latest Baidu algorithm updates can be a daunting task, but by understanding the dos and don’ts of Baidu SEO, you can stay ahead of the curve. In this article, we’ll provide a condensed list of the key takeaways from past algorithm updates, covering the most important dos and don’ts for optimizing your website for Baidu. We’ll give you everything you need to know to optimize your online presence in China. So, let’s dive in and get started!

Baidu SEO Dos and Donts
DOs and DON’Ts in Baidu SEO learned from Baidu Algorithm Updates

1. Technical SEO

1.1 Mobile Website versus Mobile App

In the Chinese internet world, it is considered state of the art for a business to have not only a website, but also its own mobile app or at least a WeChat mini-program. However, Baidu’s algorithm doesn’t favor websites that redirect their users to an app or force them to download an app instead of consuming the content on the website. This type of behavior can result in a lower ranking or even penalties from Baidu. To avoid any negative consequences, it’s crucial for businesses to ensure their website’s content is easily accessible and consumable without pushing for app downloads or redirections – even visited from mobile phones.

Learned from Ice Bucket Algorithm Updates.

1.2 Increase Page Speed

In today’s fast-paced digital world, page speed has become a critical factor for search engine optimization (SEO). A website that loads quickly not only provides a better user experience but also has a higher chance of appearing higher in search engine rankings. As internet users demand near-instantaneous results, ensuring that your website has optimal loading speed is crucial for maintaining high traffic levels and retaining potential customers.

On the other hand, slow website loading speeds can lead to a poor user experience, distrust in your brand, and ultimately, a decline in online sales.

Therefore, businesses should focus on optimizing their website’s loading speed to ensure a successful online presence.

Learned from Lightning Algorithm Update.

1.3 Implement Https

In today’s digital landscape, online security is more important than ever. Both Google and Baidu have introduced SSL secured websites as a ranking advantage over pure HTTP websites. Baidu’s algorithm began using HTTPS as a ranking signal in 2016, which was a long-awaited move by many in the industry. To maintain a high ranking on Baidu, it’s essential for businesses to prioritize online security and transition to HTTPS as soon as possible. Not only does it protect valuable user data, but it also signals to search engines that your website is trustworthy and deserves a higher ranking.

2. Mobile SEO

2.1 Avoid Collapsed Content

Collapsing long-form content is a common practice on many mobile websites, where accordion elements are used to display headlines. Users must click on these headlines to expand the content to its full length. However, not all mobile users are familiar with this practice, or they may struggle to successfully access the content due to issues such as clumsy fingers.

As a result, Baidu has concluded that leaving content un-collapsed is the better practice. Mobile websites that follow this practice are more likely to rank higher in Baidu search results.

Therefore, it is essential for businesses to carefully consider mobile website design practices and ensure that their content is readily available to users without the need for additional clicks or navigation.

Learned from Updated Landing Page Standard.

3. Content

3.1 Clear Topical Website Focus

Websites that cover a wide range of topics or cater to multiple search intents are unlikely to hold the attention of users for long periods. While an article on a particular subject might offer excellent content, users who navigate to the next page may be faced with unrelated materials, such as tips for cleaning a sink. Though the content may be of high quality on its own, it is not what users are looking for, and ultimately detracts from the overall user experience.

To create a great website, the key is to establish and maintain clear topical focus. If for any reason, webmasters are required to cover multiple topics on the same site, they should ensure that the information is presented in a clear and logical manner, with divisions clearly delineated through the website’s structure and internal linking system.

One strategy that can be effective is the use of subdomains dedicated to different search intents, such as one for a shop, another for a forum, and yet another for a blog or magazine. By streamlining website topics in this way, webmasters can better appeal to users and create more cohesive, user-friendly sites that promote engagement and win recommendations.

The subdomain strategy is widely used in the Chinese internet and especially the big players show how they divide different content types to different subdomains.

This lesson is learned from Baidu Hurricane Algorithm Update 3.0.

3.2 Write High Quality Content with clear Keyword Focus

For any dedicated SEO practitioner, creating high-quality content with a clear keyword focus for each page should be a fundamental aspect of their strategy.

This wasn’t always the case, and Baidu has faced significant challenges with low-quality content in past years – much like the internet as a whole, as is evidenced by Google’s numerous Panda, Core-Update, and E.E.A.T. initiatives.

As a result, Baidu has implemented several updates that aim to punish both B2B and B2C websites with inadequate, poorly-focused content.

By encouraging website owners to prioritize substance and quality over quantity, Baidu’s policies have helped to weed out the spammy and irrelevant content that once plagued the search engine, and have made it a more reliable source of information for users.

Learned from Unnamed 2012 Update, Hurricane 3.0, Drizzle 2.0, Forceful Wind, and Ice Bucket 6.0 (among many others targeting like spinned or artificial content.

3.3 Avoid Artificially Created Content

With the advent of ChatGPT, the conversation surrounding AI-generated content has gained newfound relevance, even though Baidu first addressed this issue back in 2012 – just a year after Google tackled website content quality with their Panda Update.

Baidu strictly prohibits the use of copied or spun content, as well as any text produced through artificial techniques rather than human intellect. In addition, content plagiarism and blatant copying are expressly forbidden in Baidu’s Webmaster Guidelines. To enforce these standards, numerous Baidu Algorithm Updates have been implemented to penalize non-compliant websites.

Learned from the following Baidu Updates: Unnamed 2012 Update, Hurricane 1.0

3.4 Avoid Illegal Topics

Promoting content that covers topics illegal in China such as Gambling and Porn should be avoided as well as including illegal ads into your website for earning money. Not only will the Great Chinese Firewall come to action and filter your website from being available in Mainland China (if you are hosted outside of China) or your ICP license will be revoked, if you have one, also Baidu is not allowed to promote such contents and therefor will ban you from their search results.

Learned from the Baidu Illegal Content Enforcement Update, Ice Bucket 4.5.

3.5 Avoid Click-Baity Title tags

One common pitfall in content creation is the use of click-bait titles, which frequently misrepresent the content they are supposedly promoting. Baidu’s strict guidelines for content creators prohibit such practices and they should therefore be eschewed by any responsible creator. In order to maintain credibility and retain their audience’s trust, content creators are urged to prioritize accurately representing the content of their articles over resorting to cheap tactics like click-baiting.

Doing so will not only benefit the content creator, but also the overall information ecosystem by promoting quality content instead of manipulative click-bait, and prevent from being banned from Baidu search results.

Learned from Breeze 1+4 Updates, Drizzle 1.

3.6 Avoid Excessive Ads Inclusion

Ads are an inevitable part of our online experience, and while most users begrudgingly accept their presence on websites that don’t sell anything, others can’t help feeling that ads are simply a nuisance. Nonetheless, ads are critical to the survival of many web-based businesses, providing vital revenue streams that keep these businesses afloat.

Some websites take ad placement to levels that border on the obnoxious, using intrusive tactics that are difficult to escape from and detract from the overall user experience. Baidu’s Anti-Spam Team has identified and is taking steps to address these practices. Through various techniques implemented over the years, the team has been able to detect and target websites that insert too many ads in their content, create ads that are too large, or utilize other annoying ad placement strategies.

As a webmaster, you should try to find a good balance of advertisements. If you have the feeling, that even just a few visitors could be annoyed by a new ads implementation technique that you are thinking about – skip it. If you visit other websites, and you feel annoyed by a certain ads implementation technique – check your websites, if they show similar behavior and correct it before Baidu “corrects it”.

Learned from Baidu Pomegranate Update 1.0, Ice Bucket Update 2.0.

4. Backlinks

Backlinks are crucial for SEO. Backlinks are essential for Baidu because they serve as a measure of a website’s authority, credibility, and popularity. When a website links to another site, it sends a signal to Baidu that the linked site has valuable and relevant content. This endorsement from other sites can potentially help improve the ranking of the linked site in Baidu’s search results. No wonder that “SEO”s started buying (and selling) backlinks.

4.1 Avoid Selling Backlinks

One practice that webmasters should avoid at all costs is the selling of backlinks. This involves the placement of hyperlinks to other websites on one’s own site solely for the purpose of earning money or other forms of payment, such as receiving a backlink in return. Violating the guidelines of major search engines like Google, Bing, Yandex, and most notably, China’s largest search engine, Baidu, carries severe consequences not only for the buyer but also the seller of such backlinks.

Selling backlinks in any form, including “friendly links” placed in the “our partners” section of a website’s footer, as well as “advertorials,” or paid content pieces marketed as guest blogs or similar, is a breach of these guidelines.

Given the importance of maintaining fair and transparent practices within the SEO domain, Baidu’s stance is not only reasonable but essential to keep the entire industry trustworthy. Any webmasters seeking higher search rankings through manipulative measures risk being penalized by Baidu’s algorithms, damaging their website’s visibility and reputation in the process.

Learned from Baidu’s Money Plant Updates and Blue Sky Updates.

4.2 Avoid Buying Backlinks

Buying backlinks is a violation of Baidu’s guidelines and falls under the category of “Black Hat” techniques. It doesn’t matter if you paid money for the backlinks or not; Baidu likely cannot detect if a payment was made, but if it becomes apparent that the sole reason for the link was monetary gain, then Baidu will interpret it as a bought link. Such actions can result in a penalty or other adverse consequences to your site’s ranking.

To stay on Baidu’s good side, it is recommended that website owners focus on generating organic and high-quality backlinks by creating valuable content and building connections with other sites in their industry. By doing so, website owners can improve their visibility and rankings on Baidu’s search results page and build trust and authority with their audience.

We learned for example from the Money Plant Algorithm Update.

5. Black Hat Techniques to avoid

It’s important to remember that while some techniques may seem clever, they are not always ethical or advisable. In the realm of Chinese websites, there has been a widespread pattern of manipulating visitors in various ways.

5.1 “History Back” Button manipulation

One of the most egregious practices involves manipulating the browser’s back-button.

By doing so, website owners aim to lower the Back-to-SERP (search engine results page) rate, which signals to Baidu that users are not leaving the website in great numbers and thus, must be satisfied with the results.

There are also scammers who have used fake Baidu search results pages to lure users into malicious websites where they may drop cookies, install malware, or trigger downloads of software and viruses.

These practices are a clear violation of Baidu’s guidelines and could result in a lower ranking or even a ban from the search engine.

As a result, Baidu has taken steps through several algorithm updates to tackle this issue. However, it remains difficult for the search engine to effectively detect and stop these bad actors. In the end, the good webmaster is always advised to steer clear of such tactics entirely.

Trying to manipulate user signals or create fake search engine results pages could ultimately harm the website’s reputation and rankings, resulting in a significant loss of potential traffic from Baidu.

Learned from the following Baidu Algorithm Updates: Beacon Fire1+3+4, Thunder1-3

5.2 Abuse of the Next-Button

When we talk about the “Next Button,” we’re not referring to a typical browser interface element, but instead, a type of link used to facilitate pagination within a website’s content. By distributing lengthy articles over multiple pages, webmasters can reduce loading times and thereby improve the user experience. Additionally, usage of this feature often results in an increase in page views, making it an attractive tactic for many high-traffic sites.

However, not all implementations of the “Next Button” are created equal. Some less scrupulous webmasters have attempted to manipulate users by using these buttons to deceive instead of providing added value. Users who click on such links may be redirected to unwanted pages, served advertisements, or lured into downloading malicious software.

Though it may seem like a far-fetched scenario, these manipulations are unfortunately all too real and frequent. To combat this behavior, Baidu has implemented algorithm changes that specifically target websites that employ such deceptive tactics, helping ensure a safer and more trustworthy browsing environment for their users.

At the same time, it’s a reminder to all website owners to use the “Next Button” responsibly and with the best interests of their site visitors in mind.

Learned from Baidu Trade Wind Update.

5.3 Stealing User Information

One of the most valuable assets for businesses looking to expand their reach and engage with potential customers are contact details like users’ QQ numbers. However, unscrupulous website owners have resorted to stealing users’ contact information through illicit means, a practice that is both unethical and illegal. Engaging in such activities is not only morally wrong, but it can also result in serious consequences – including losing the trust of customers and being penalized by Baidu.

Given the importance of safeguarding user privacy, it’s recommended that website owners minimize the amount of information requested from users when collecting contact details through forms. By requesting only what is essential, website owners can reduce the likelihood of triggering Baidu Algorithm Updates and demonstrating their commitment to user privacy.

Learned from Baidu Updates Skynet and Beacon Fire 2.

5.4 Fake Download Buttons

Fake download buttons can be a real pain for anyone who spends a lot of time on the internet. In addition to being frustrating, these deceptive buttons can also potentially expose users to significant risks, such as downloading unwanted software bundles, computer viruses, worms, or trojans. Even worse, some fake download buttons may take users to other deceptive sites or inundate them with unwanted advertisements.

At Baidu, developers are well aware of how these fake download buttons can negatively impact user experiences and therefore take a dim view of websites that employ them.

Learned from Breeze 2+3+4 Baidu Updates.

More Information on SEO for China in our book:

SEO for China / Baidu Book
That’s how our SEO for China book looks like

Where can you buy this SEO book?

Here are the links to the different Amazon websites, where you can buy the book. If your country is not listed, go to your Amazon website and simply search for “SEO for China” and it will show up 😉

Some information on the book:

Authors: Kun Tang, Marcus Pentzek
ASIN: B0B5MK9SBV
Publisher: Independently published (July 10, 2022)
Language: English
Paperback: 282 pages
ISBN-13: 979-8840196434

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