What is Baidu? Tapping into the Baidu search engine for sales

One of the most important rules of advertising in marketing is to go where your customers are, use the channels they use and get your products in front of them. Western companies looking to break into the Chinese market often run into the issue of how to reach consumers, and a great place to start is one of the biggest avenues of all – Baidu. But what is Badiu, and how can businesses effectively use the Baidu search engine?

What is Baidu?

Sometimes called the ‘Chinese Google’, Baidu fulfills a similar function. But of the two, Baidu started offering advertising first and turned its first profit in only four years. With 80% of the internet search market in China, Baidu is by far the largest search engine around in the country. While internet searches are its primary function, it also operates a music service (Baidu Music), Baidu Space (a social network), Baidu Games,  Baidu Yi (an OS), Qunar (a bookings service), a maps service (Baidu Map) and an online encyclopedia (Baidu Baike). It was founded in 2000 by two entrepreneurs in Beijing, and its name literally means “countless”.

What is its reach?

As the primary search engine in China, its audience is massive – with over 600 million users. It has a similarly massive advertising roster as a result, with over 650,000 paying companies signed up. While Baidu’s online penetration worldwide is only 7.4% (in comparison to Google’s massive 80%) its dominance of the Chinese market means that if you want to reach China, you have to use Baidu. It is a massive business concern. When it went public in 2005 its first day of trading saw its shares increase in value by 354% – making CEO Robin Li a multi-billionaire and the wealthiest man in China by 2013.

What about analytics?

The best method of collecting accurate analytics from a Baidu campaign is to use online analytics software, but the bad news is that Google Analytics code is incompatible with local sites and would cause them to run slowly. Luckily, there is a Baidu version called Baidu Tongji that does much the same thing. While it is only available in Mandarin and lacks some of the features you might recognise, but it’s integrated with Baidu Tuiguang (Baidu pay-per-click advertising) – and can be upgraded with features for a fee.

What are the main platforms?

Like most search engines, the main market is primarily desktop – but Baidu now earns 30% of its revenue from mobile searches – making it a significant area of the business. Western companies should remember this, and make sure that any advertising designed for the Chinese market is mobile friendly.

What about content?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular searches on Baido in 2014 read very similarly to those in just about any other country. TV and Film, the Weather, gaming, education and travel. A surprise entry in this list is the search that took second place with 10% of searches about commodity prices (when other markets feature sports prominently in the top 10) – which suggests a high percentage of business users on the search engine. This is a good sign for marketers and a promising area for advertising.

For advice about cracking the Chinese market through advertising, or for more information about Baidu or any other tool, don’t hesitate to get in touch.