To increase the popularity of their Internet content in China, companies must be ranked as high as possible in the Baidu or Sogou search ranking, the country’s top search engines.
Baidu’s competitor ‘Sogou’ should be currently watched in particular, since the company recently announced that it will focus on artificial intelligence (AI) to build a next-generation search engine and plans to go public in the U.S.
Sogou literally means "search-dog" and the browser is China's second-largest mobile search engine. It adopts "dual-core" techniques from Google Chrome’s WebKit and Internet Explorer's Trident layout engines, and connects to the cloud to recognize malicious websites and software.
Controlled by Sohu.com and 45%-owned by Tencent Holdings, Sogou has been launched around 13 years ago. Content-sharing with Tencent's social media app WeChat contributed clearly to Sogou's search traffic growth, which jumped 50% in mobile in the past few months.
According to Sogou’s CEO, Wang Xiaochuan, the company plans to leverage its strength in natural language processing and will move from search to question-answering by increasing investment into AI, big data and IoT.
Companies in China are nevertheless still struggling with specific performance challenges and not even a website hosting in China is enough for an effective SEO ranking. Beneficial might be, however, knowing the following facts:
- Ensure crawl rate: The loading times have a direct impact on the so-called crawl rate of a website. But since the Internet is a universe on its own, only a temporary site indexing or ranking is allowed. Some content sometimes even falls completely through the grid. But for a search engine, to collect relevant information, a site must load fast and be always available.
- Display main content at a glance: Due to the restricted scans of the crawlers, which means usually only the first 100 KB of a website, the placement of the content is of great importance, meaning the most important information and keywords should be positioned at the top of the website. The search with Google is designed in such a way that the search engine exactly "knows" what’s important information and therefore lists it on top. In Baidu, on the other hand, the positioning can determine whether the data is indexed at all. In addition, Chinese websites are generally much more textual than Western ones, therefore users are more likely to scroll on long sites rather than clicking through different layers. Probably that’s also due to the slower loading times with which even the local sites are struggling.
- Check bounce rates: Not only search engine crawlers with their time-limited scans can have a negative impact on the SEO, but also the visitors of a website. In case of a high bounce rate, Baidu assumes that the respective page has only a low quality and corrects the ranking accordingly down. However, the reason for the short duration of visitors often isn’t the quality of the content at all, but due to a bad website's performance. Like everybody, Chinese Internet users quickly lose their patience when content does not load fast enough. After 24 seconds, most Chinese leave a website, according to studies, but search engines cannot distinguish between these features. For a site with low performance, the content is therefore automatically classified as inferior.
- Consider mobile usage: Mobile availability is generally seen as very important for SEO today, but that’s particularly true for Baidu, as there have been more mobile than desktop users in China for years. Around 90% of all Internet users in China use mobile devices for their searches. And what is already slow on the desktop, loads on the smartphone even slower. As a result, rather than using "responsive designs", China experts use independent mobile sites that are specifically optimized for mobile access and "light apps." This supports the conversion rates and contributes to a good ranking in the Chinese search engines, thanks to fast loading times.
By Daniela La Marca