Google, Baidu and Search Engine Optimization in China

Search engine marketing is the main engine behind Google’s rise as a major online media player, and the product it is offered in is Google Adwords, which allows advertisers to directly target their online ads by selecting keywords, and then targeting them to relevant search results pages and to published pages (using Google’s publisher’s network, Adsense).

In China, the leading search engine company is Baidu, which started in the US, but came to China, and is now the most popular search engine among Chinese Internet users. It has been financially successful, and is listed on the US’s Nasdaq under the symbol BIDU

There are several reasons for Google Adword’s success, and the most important are two: PageRank, which measures the popularity of a web page by measuring inbound links which for the most part, are selected by humans and not computer algorithms, and introducing relevance into the keywords auction model. Under the Google model, paying the highest price for a keyword is not enough to insure clickthrus (for the most part, Google charges advertisers per click, or pay-per-click PPC), but it must be relevant. The more relevant it is, the more clickthrus it will get, and the less an advertiser will have to pay for a higher ranking.

As this excellent article makes clear, Google did not invent the keyword auction model, but it did perfect it. By perfecting the Google Adwords model, Google has become the hugely profitable online media machine it is.

As China becomes more important as a market, more advertisers are looking to sell directly into the Chinese market using Google and Baidu, the two leading search engine firms in the Chinese market. Baidu operates under a very different business model from Google, one which it has adapted to suit the Chinese market.

My understanding is that Baidu does not figure relevancy into its advertising fee structure, Chinese advertisers only pay for higher ranking. As far as I know, Baidu does not have anything like PageRank inbound linking algorithm to count inbound links either. Without these two elements, Baidu’s ad search looks a lot like the ad model. This makes it fundamentally different from the Google Adwords model.

I’m digging deeper into the search engine marketing business in China, and want to hear what you would like to know about. If you have questions, please post them in English or Chinese in the comments below.

6 Responses to “Google, Baidu and Search Engine Optimization in China”

  1. Gemme says:

    Always good to see articles about search marketing and China.

    It seems like you’re mixing up the Organic part and the Paid part.

    Pagerank (internal pagerank that is) is one of the many factors that plays a role in the organic part of Google.

    It does not play a role in the Adwords part.

    What does play a role for ads (Adwords), specifically their price and position, is how how high the ctr is, whether the visitor uses the back button to go back to the search page, etc. All factors that are used to gauge the quality, i.e. the relevancy from a user’s point of view

    Also, Baidu these days does factor in more than price for ads, like ctr, landing page etc.

  2. Paul Denlinger says:


    You are right, strictly speaking PageRank does not figure into the Adwords service offering.

    But, if I were a prospective advertiser wanting to target a certain group, PageRank would give me some information about how well this page is respected and trafficked to by its audience by counting inbound links, which are effectively votes on the page as an authority in the field. PageRank gives me this as an additional variable which I can then reference in planning my online ad campaign.

    Baidu’s current algorithms do not give me this information as to how the page is respected as an authority. Without this information, it is hard for the prospective advertiser to get insights into relevancy.


  3. Gemme says:


    How would you count links for a landing page that is specifically created for an ad campaign? It’s a new page.

    If you’re an advertiser on Adwords for the “Search network” it’s not about the relevancy of other pages but it’s about the relevancy of my own ad. If I want my ad to be displayed for a search like “Shanghai hotels” I like it to positioned at the top of the right hand column or even better on top of the “organic” search results. If my ad is not relevant, because it’s about “beijing hotels”, that’s my problem.

    Something else is, if I want do a campaign on China related websites. I can research which websites seem to have quality. Once could use Pagerank as a factor for this, but the only pagerank you have available to base your decisions on is the Pagerank shown to you if you use certain tools, also called toolbar pagerank. The toolbar pagerank is not the internal (real) pagerank used by Google and one can still argue the weight of this factor. More interestingly to know for this kind of campaigns are traffic (visitors), country of origin of traffic, etc. But this is not the kind of campaign I will run on the Adwords search properties.

    Gemmes last blog post..Is that water or alcohol?

  4. John Gorman says:

    Good timing on this topic! Would be interested to know or get clarification on these;

    – Does Baidu always still list the 10 paid links first before organic results? or are they mixing in organic and paid in this key first 10 link real estate? if so, is this all or some and if some what are the criteria? (so business keywords are still all paid etc)
    – If pagerank isnt in their organic algorithm, what are the key things a webmaster/blogger/startup should know for SEO? Or perhaps per above SEO isnt even on peoples radar and its all about RMB!
    – User Generated content scores very well in Googles organic algorithm (richer content and many links), is this the same for Baidu? So BBS is full of great info but I heard rarely found in search!
    – How effective is “Key Character” relevancy in Chinese vs Keyword? I understood much more difficult to deal with and less relevant. What will this mean for monetizing the mid and long tail Chinese web as it grows?


  5. Stefan says:

    For Adwords Google uses the quality score to define landing page and campaign quality which finally influences the CPC (besides other factors like CTR, account history, etc ). This quality score is for a big part similar to the one which is used for the organic search results. And of course, pagerank doesn’t count for Adwords as there are no incoming links.

    As far as I know Baidu also uses quality factors to define the CPC, which is e.g. relevance between keyword, ad and landing page content. But this quality factor only pays into the CPC to a small extent, so still the keyword bid is the most important position influence factor.

    Stefans last blog post..How copying web content can backfire

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    Eddy Tehs last blog post..Things we would like to see, aka dumb idea no.1 – yaskMicrohoo