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The Secret to Baidu’s Success in China

When people think search engine, they think Google—unless these people are from China, who’re probably thinking Baidu instead.

People might say that Baidu has “killed” Google in China, but there’s a horde of evidence that suggests that Google never stood a chance in China anyway. Google might try all the acrobatics it can afford but it’s still not getting anywhere near Baidu’s prompt and promise, which has always ruled China as its dominating search engine.

Why, then, you might ask, is Baidu so popular in China? Not for nothing, for starters.

It’s Everything Local

For a website to make it big on Baidu it has to be hosted locally so that its speed allows a great number of users and elevates their user experience. The biggest reason why Baidu continues to be so popular in China is because it is Chinese: it understands China better than Google ever could. It understands Chinese characters and it can produce results better suited for Chinese people. Cultural and language gaps pose a problem for Google as far as search engines in China are concerned, and it’s no wonder that Baidu comes out on top.

Baidu is also itself local so it doesn’t have to fear the GFW block. It’s not only easily accessible for the people of China but is also an engine that understands them better than Google ever could.

It’s Not Because of the Politics

Often when it comes to a Google versus Baidu debate, people think that Baidu dominates because of the Great Firewall of China. It’s easy—and sloppy—to blame the government for everything. While it is true that Google abandoned China because of political problems, it is nowhere near true that Baidu is built on political pillars. Instead, it climbed to the top of the ladder based solely on its strategy. In their book Red Wired, Sherman So and J. Christopher Westland have shed light on how strategy won the game for Baidu back in the 2000s, and it won the game so well that the Chinese population has never again looked at Google twice.

It All Started in Cafes

Most of the American population accessed the internet from their homes, but in China the story was a little different. Most people visited internet cafes to benefit from internet resources and it was here that Baidu saw its chance. Baidu, like other local web engines, cut deal with cafes and paid them to increase visibility. They kept appearing on all the desktops and soon became a sight embedded in the minds of users.

This is a strategy used by many web companies, as has also been explained by Steven Levy in the book In the Plex. Many of the people in China who were just being introduced to search engines thus became acquainted with Baidu and people usually will stick to their tried-and-trusted experiences. No wonder, then, that they keep returning to Biadu.

Mating with Music

No combination of youngsters hanging out in cafes to use the internet is ever complete without its fair share of music, and Baidu’s isn’t either. Before streaming entered the scene, mp3s were all the rage, and Baidu sensibly tapped into this. By allowing downloads, offering access to mp3 files and popular music, it increased in popularity with the public. In fact mp3.baidu.com was responsible for generating 20% of the total traffic on the site initially. That’s some smart thinking right there.

Offline Advertising

Getting consumers hooked on their search engine was a tedious process which eventually paid off: in order to convince people to buy ads on the site the workers had to walk potential clients through the process and explain everything in detail. Sales became a big part of it all and much of the work was done offline—such as through calls. But their winning strategy was hiring locals to work for them—3,855 as compared to Google’s meagre 800—which eventually won them more popularity since they could cater to local demands and convince locals more easily.

Online marketing has now come a long way from how it started with Baidu, and has a lucrative position in China. If you’re looking for a Chinese internet service you can drop a call at +86-13-7616-98467 or send an email at service@limpid-translations.com to get in touch with professionals today.

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