Today, I’m going to take you on a tour of the “Google of China”—Baidu.
An incredible one billion searches are done daily on Baidu.
If you’re studying Chinese, learning about China, or intending to do any kind of business there, you need to know about Baidu and how it works.
You can view this “tour” as a video for better visuals. Or, read on below for the more concisely-stated written blog post.
In this post, I’ll
- walk you through a few searches,
- explain some of the different features,
- show you how it looks on a phone,
- examine some of the other platforms that are part of the Baidu family, and
- give you a Baidu Maps demonstration.
In the end, I hope you have a better understanding of how to navigate Baidu as a regular user.
Let’s begin with a basic search.
Basic Baidu Search
You’ll start your search on Baidu’s homepage.
Looks very clean, simple, and straightforward enough, right?
I’m going to search for a skiing exercise machine by typing the Chinese word in the search box.
Baidu displays the search results information in different formats: images, text, video, products, etc.
There are several images at the top of the results, which means Baidu feels that these images are relevant to the query.
This doesn’t always happen. The majority of the time, Baidu will place advertisements at the top, side, or bottom (as you can see in the image below).
Clicking on the images allows you to scroll through them individually. From here, you can also click the forwarding link to the product/image’s original website.
Back on the search results page, the second result is a group of product listings. These come from a part of Baidu called b2b.baidu.com, which normally handles B2B sales.
Next, we have eCommerce.
Clicking on this forwards me to JD.com, one of the biggest eCommerce platforms in China.
When it comes to purchasing or searching for products, Chinese consumers will usually go directly to the eCommerce platform (JD, Taobao, TMall, Pinduoduo, etc.) rather than searching for the item on Baidu.
However, that’s only if they already have a good idea of what they want to buy.
If the consumer is unsure or still in the research stage, they search Baidu to learn about the different products or services available.
For anything that involves expensive or large financial/time commitments (buying a house or studying abroad), Baidu helps users weigh up the options and make informed decisions.
The next result is for China’s premier Q&A platform—Zhihu, which is comparable to Quora. (Baidu owns part of this site.)
Baidu Baike is China’s Wikipedia equivalent, and these sites usually have a lot of information about your search item.
Baidu Baike is big enough and important enough to be worthy of its own blog post.
Which is exactly what we did.
Check out our recent blog post if you want an in-depth introduction to Baidu Baike, how it works, and how to get your entries listed.
The videos towards the bottom of the page come from different platforms. The skiing machine demonstration video in the image below comes from HaoKan and is part of the Baidu network.
Baidu Tieba is a forum and another platform in the Baidu sphere.
Users search for keywords/topics, which direct them to the related forum.
Baidu loves Baidu
Have you noticed any patterns forming?
The majority of the sites of platforms listed in the search results are either owned or partly owned by Baidu.
This is something that happens across (almost) all verticals.
Note: No two search results are (really) ever the same. You’re going to see different results depending on the vertical.
In the image below, I searched for “Housing in the UK,” and within those results, I have a separate search box for filtering through and refining the search.
Baidu’s Mobile App
Baidu has its own mobile app, and while it doesn’t get as many visitors as the main Baidu website, it still has 220 million daily active users.
Again, like the main website, search is the most important feature; however, there’s a little more to it. Besides the search function, all of Baidu’s other products (Tieba, Baidu Zhidao, etc.) are easily accessible.
If I perform a basic search for “bubble tea,” I get these results.
(Remember: The results change frequently, so they won’t always appear in this order.)
The first thing we have in the search results is an advertisement for the app Xiaohongshu.
Next, we have a Baike (Wikipedia-type) entry, followed by images, another advertisement for the app Kuaishou, and then Baidu’s own maps.
I like the presentation of the search results in the mobile version: everything looks clean, there are lots of images, and it’s easy to use.
Baidu prioritizes local search results, which is great if you’re in China and searching for local products, news, services, etc.
Personally, I use Google when I’m outside of China and Baidu when I’m inside. However, if I’m searching for a sensitive topic or nothing’s really showing up on Baidu, it’s time to activate the VPN and switch to Google.
The app also has a newsfeed.
This does not make the app unique as many other Chinese apps have this feature.
These different apps tend to copy each other so their newsfeeds can feel very similar; although, they all have different strengths and weaknesses.
What’s Baidu’s strength?
(I hope) You guessed it.
Baidu’s strength is definitely its search capabilities.
The newsfeed contains videos, but of many different platforms in China that support video, it’s not our go-to for marketing purposes. We’re currently having the best results with Bilibili, Xiaohongshu, and Zhihu.
All the usual things that you can find on other apps are also here:
- News categorized by topics.
- Hot searches.
- Customizable profiles.
- And more.
For those who can speak (or are learning) Mandarin, turn on the mic for a voice-activated search (and see how good your pronunciation really is).
Baidu Maps is accessible through the mobile app or the standalone map app.
Personally, I think the latter looks better in terms of appearance, and it’s also really handy if you’re driving or walking anywhere.
Let’s search for xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) in Shanghai.
Just like in Google Maps (or any other type of map application), the search will reveal multiple locations for xiaolongbao restaurants in Shanghai.
Remember: If you’re traveling around China, then it’s always best to use a Chinese app. You can use Google Maps with a VPN, but it won’t contain the same level of information or accuracy as a Chinese app.
As you can see in the right-hand map (Google), there are fewer search results and less information.
Baidu Maps also contains user reviews and comments. These are extremely useful when it comes to choosing, let’s say, a restaurant to eat at or which business to use for a particular service.
If you ever find yourself in China, I highly recommend using Baidu Maps.
Baidu From a Marketing Perspective
I’ve said it numerous times, but Baidu’s greatest asset is its search.
And, from a marketing point of view, this is what we focus on.
When we push content out to other areas of the internet, we want to ensure it’s optimized so there’s a greater chance of it appearing on Baidu as well.
And that’s the end of today’s tour of Baidu; I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful.
For those of you who would like to know more, we have a lot more Baidu-related information:
Plus, our China Digital Marketing 101 guide covers most of the other platforms mentioned in this post.
Regardless of whether you’re a complete newbie or a seasoned Baidu SEOer, we’d love to hear about any questions you have or your experiences with anything Baidu-related.