This post is for anybody that knows next-to-nothing about search engine optimization (SEO).
I’m going to introduce:
- Why SEO is important.
- Why you should be doing SEO on top of your other marketing efforts.
- How to get started with basic SEO for China’s biggest search engine, Baidu.
The post is also available in audio format:
Why do SEO?
Search engines, like Google and Baidu, are meant to help people find exactly what they are looking for. A user should be able to ask a question or enter a few keywords, then, like magic, find the answer.
Although search engines have a tremendous amount of data, they aren’t as smart as people. They can’t understand all the content on the Internet and choose the exact best page to share with a searcher.
By optimizing a webpage for search engines, it will make the search engine’s job easier. It will help Google or Baidu realize:
- What the content on your webpage is about.
- What types of search queries match your content.
- How many other people with similar search queries like your webpage.
Once Google or Baidu realizes that your webpages are the right ones to send searchers to, it will do so. And that means:
- Your webpages will show up when people are searching for what you offer.
- Those people will visit your website.
- You’ll make more sales.
Of course, the prerequisite for doing well on search engines is creating great content. This means you need to create content that satisfies the searcher, which usually means it should be something educational or entertaining, or it should lead to a transaction (online or offline). It all depends on what the searcher wants.
Google SEO has long been one of the core features of a successful digital marketing campaign across the world. It’s the first type I learned to do, and the low cost and recurring ROI still makes it my favourite type of marketing.
Why do BAIDU SEO?
Yet, I often hear Westerners say that they don’t think search engines will be a major source of customers for them in China.
This. Is. Crazy talk!
But let’s give the devil his due and list the most common objections to Baidu SEO.
- Baidu’s market share is lower than (insert newer platform here).
TRUE. But, SEO isn’t related to market share at all because we’re talking about traffic that Baidu gives out for free.
- Baidu places its own websites in the search results.
TRUE. But, even the #1 search result won’t be owned by Baidu 60% of the time, and there is plenty of room in the top ten.
Plus, Baidu’s users are accustomed to this so they’re willing to skip past Baidu’s own websites.
- It takes a long time to do SEO.
Also TRUE (when compared to advertising). But, once you start driving organic search traffic, you can keep getting it for free.
My favourite reason to do Baidu SEO is that it’s very low cost, especially when it’s integrated into a content marketing strategy. In other words, if you’re already creating content your customers like, you might as well be putting in an extra 5% of effort to get Baidu SEO working for you.
How To Start Baidu SEO in four Steps
First, let me recap the prerequisites for success:
- You must be able to provide value to your customers.
- You must have content they will want to seek out.
- You must have a website on which to place the content.
Step One: Set Your Keywords
Imagine what your customers will search for when they’re looking for whatever it is you sell.
Typically, people search using short phrases or questions. SEOs call these “keywords”. Make a list of these keywords, then order them in relation to your webpage.
For example, you might sell flux capacitor technology to Chinese manufacturers. That’s the device used for time travel in Back to The Future. (Because people are disappointed with 2020, and have decided to travel back-in-time.)
Your website might have a few related topics:
- Flux capacitor software.
- Flux capacitor production machines.
- Guide to flux capacitor manufacturing.
- Flux capacitor components:
The point is simply to create content your customers will want, organize it logically on the website, and then make sure search engines can find it.
Your homepage should target the broadest keyword that represents your business. In this case, it should probably be “flux capacitor”.
Step Two: Begin Content Creation
Begin content creation for your website, either by creating fresh content for the Chinese market or by localizing English content to Chinese.
While that’s underway, you can do the following steps at the same time.
Step Three: Create a Website (or Adapt Your Current Website for China)
For small businesses, this can sometimes be the trickiest step. If you do not have a website yet, the best thing you can do is:
- Create a new website. Use a CMS such as WordPress.
- Get an ICP License.
- Host the website in China.
If you already have a website and want to add Chinese content to it, I recommend you do this instead:
- Add the Chinese content into a separate section, such as fluxcapacitors.com/zh or zh.fluxcapacitors.com.
- Make sure your website in China loads promptly. I’d advise four seconds or less. This might require a coder (sorry), but you can send them to this page to teach them how.
Step Four: Optimize Your Content
Once you’re ready to place content on your website, you should tweak it a little to make it tastier for search engines.
For each page, do this:
Put the keyword in the title.
The “title” is the part of the page that will show up in the search results and the Internet browser. I advise putting the keyword and your company name in the title. For example, if a page is about “Flux capacitor production machines”, simply make the title “Flux Capacitor Production Machines | Flux Pros USA”.
A good length is 20–32 Chinese characters long. Keep in mind that you can fit a lot in Chinese characters.
I’m using English here, but you can use the equivalent keywords in Chinese. If you don’t have a Chinese company name, your English name is fine too.
Add a “meta description”.
There will be a field for this in your CMS. The meta description is the content that shows up in the search results under the title (usually). The description should be written in a sentence format and it should flow naturally. Write it for people, not search engines, and avoid sounding too “salesy”.
For this case, a good one would be “With 35 years in the business, our FC machines are the highest-rated and longest-lasting in the business. We offer three varieties, including…”
You can make the meta description about 75 Chinese characters long, but feel free to make it a bit longer or shorter—it won’t hurt. If it’s longer than 80 Chinese characters, it will be truncated, leaving a “…” at the end.
Add at least one image.
Baidu will often choose an image from your page and show it in the search results.
It’s best to use images that are about 121 pixels wide by 75 pixels high. If not, Baidu still might choose to use the image though.
This is how it looks in Baidu’s search results:
How to Ramp Up Results – Post Frequently
I hope that everything above can be done without adding too much to your current schedule. In fact, if you are creating content for your customers, the whole aforementioned SEO process should not add more than 5% to what you’re already doing.
Once you are ready to apply more effort to try to attain higher rankings, one of the best things you can do is post content to your website at least three times per week.
Make sure that the content is listed on your homepage too.
If you don’t have that much Chinese content of your own, you can even start with English content, or content sourced from your current partners.
What to Expect & How to Monitor Progress
If you follow the above steps, you can expect some organic search traffic from Baidu. It might be a lot, or it might be very little.
Here’s what makes the difference:
- How competitive your niche is. Are there three companies selling flux capacitors or 300?
- How good your content is.
- How many quality links there are from other websites to yours.
- How long you wait. It can take days or months for Baidu to index your site.
You can monitor progress by watching the traffic in your Google Analytics or Baidu Tongji account.
You should also periodically go on to Baidu and do some searches. Look through a few pages and see how high your website is ranking.
Once you want to progress to a more advanced stage, you can check out:
- China Digital Marketing 101 – This is the homepage for all our guides. It explains more about hosting, content creation, social marketing, etc, etc.
- Dragon Metrics – This is our favourite tool for monitoring SEO campaigns on Baidu. If you use the code “NANJING”, you’ll get 5% off your subscription forever.
- Our newsletter, where we release the newest marketing tips every week. Subscribe below.