Chinese search engines

Xisi Dai

Written by Xisi Dai

When we think about search engines, the first brand that comes to mind within the fraction of a second is, undoubtedly, Google. And, if we ask the name of other search engines to ordinary people, they will probably allude to Yahoo! or Bing, for example. We all just assume that these are the most common search engines, but… Is this a norm in other parts of the world?

What happens with the Chinese people, for example? Does their Google light bulb switch on when they need to find something on the Internet?

The answer to this question is: no. China is a very special case. The search engine used by most Chinese people to look things up online is Baidu.

According to Enfodesk (易观智库) reports, a leading Internet analytics company in China, Baidu is the top most-used search engine in the country (78,6% market share), followed, of course, by Google China (14,2%), headquarters of which are located in Hong Kong since 2010.

Other well-known search engines are Sogou (3,6%) and Soso (1,4%). Although their percentage of use might seem weak, we mustn’t ignore them, as there are more than 600 million Chinese internet users, thus their real number amounts to a considerably large audience. It’s also important to note that it’s not easy to compete with giants like Baidu or Google.

Alright, so what is Baidu, then?

As we’ve previously said, Baidu (百度), which translated to English literally means “one hundred degrees”, is the most-used Chinese search engine, so if we’re looking to carry out an international SEO campaign in this country, we probably should take this site very seriously.

baidu

Founded in 1999, its headquarters are located in Beijing. If we browse Baidu, we will see that its design is similar to Google, and it provides an infinite number of options and services (news, shopping, books, automatic translator, etc.). Through my personal experience as a user, I would also like to point out several differences:

  • Baidu is only available in the Chinese language. Its website doesn’t have any other version in any other language.
  • Baidu can look up audio files (mp3, wma, swf, etc.), and it allows you to download them within domestic territory.
  • Baidu has its own collaborative encyclopedia (Baidu Baike) with over 6.2 million articles in Chinese, being the “Wikipedia” that Chinese people check first.
  • The automatic translator of Baidu isn’t as powerful as Google’s, and it has fewer languages.
  • Baidu is going to launch soon an international tourism website (Baidu Luyou), which, as of now, is in BETA, with high-quality content in Chinese.
  • Baidu has its own input method software (to write in Chinese).
  • In China, Baidu loads much faster than Google.
  • Google AdWords and AdSense services are much more powerful and precise than Baidu’s own. Moreover, in Baidu you have to comply with certain requirements and licenses to start an AdWords campaign.

Why hasn’t Google succeeded in China?

It’s not that Google hasn’t succeeded in China, it’s just we need to put certain variables into perspective. Since Google China moved its headquarters to Hong Kong, for several different reasons, search queries made through Google’s search engine take a longer time to load in the Chinese territory. If we add to that the fact that Baidu has indexed more pages in Chinese than Google has, we see all the more reasons why the Chinese audience has chosen to use Baidu more. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that when Chinese Internet users want to find information about other parts of the world, they go to Google.

So, we shouldn’t adamantly say that “Google hasn’t succeeded in China”, because in reality, the Chinese audience uses one search engine or another at their convenience.

Talk to me about other search engines in China

We’ve previously mentioned that Sogou and Soso were trying to stand out amongst the most popular search engines in China. We can see that, in general, they have a more colourful design than Baidu, and one that is more similar to that of Google.

Soso and Sogou

Both are aimed at the Chinese market, same as Baidu, but they have fewer products. However, we can highlight the following:

  • Sogou can be used to find multimedia files, maps, its own collaborative encyclopedia, and native input method software.
  • Soso has its own webmasters tools.

There are other minority search engines too. Youdao only searches web pages, images, videos, news, and has its own dictionary. Sohu is mainly focussed on offering advertising and online games, so its design is rather different to that of other search engines.

Bing is also in China, but it’s not very popular, and as for Yahoo! China, it closed down this September, according to a ‘Good bye’ message posted on their website. It announced that according to an agreement signed in 2012 with Alibaba, Yahoo! China employees were going to move to work for that website.

Most-used browsers in China

The truth is, I was really curious, so I briefly researched what browsers Chinese users use the most, and the information I found reveals that neither Mozilla Firefox, nor Google Chrome are the most popular in China.

In the same way that Chinese people have their preferences in terms of search engines, when it comes to browsers, 24,46% use 360 安全浏览器, 18,41% use Interner Explorer, and 12,8% use Safari. Google Chrome, on the other hand, is the fifth most-used, with 6,44% of users who prefer it.

As for mobile browsers, the most popular one is UC浏览器 (46%) with a logo featuring the image of a squirrel, followed by Baidu browser (16,8%), and QQ browser (15,6%). As for Google Chrome, only 1% of Chinese Internet users use it, and then Opera, with 1,2% total users.

 

Xisi Dai
Autor: Xisi Dai

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