This is no secret for you, search engine marketing is key to success for any market you are doing business in. And that is absolutely true for China even if agencies out there are focusing on the sexier side of communication in the country such as live-streaming and Chinese social media. The reality is that you can not hope to make it here without any SEO effort.
With that said, this article was not written to convince you to do SEO but to introduce you to China’s most popular search engines. There is a wide variety of Chinese search engines that one can use when marketing content in China but today, we will only focus on the Top 3.
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Here are some of the most popular Chinese Search Engine to this day:
- Baidu (often considered the Google of China),
- Sogou/Soso (a Yahoo!-like a portal),
- Shenma (designed for mobile search).
China’s Search Engines Reach is Huge
The number of search engine users in the world’s second-largest economy surpassed 750 million, meaning that nine out of ten netizens in China had used online search services. As of 2018, the market revenue generated by Chinese search engines reached 131.6 billion yuan and is expected to reach 203.7 billion yuan in 2021. Most of this revenue is produced through paid advertising.
- There were 750+ million Chinese search engine users as of 2020 (march)
- Search engine Mobile user base also grew. With almost 1 million more users between 2019 (662 million) and 2020 ( 745 million).
What are China’s top 3 Search Engines?
The No.1 Chinese Search Engine is Baidu
Baidu is the number one search engine in China. With 85+% of the total market share as of 2021, Baidu is the leading Chinese search engine, far exceeding its competitors.
However, if you look at desktop usage, then Baidu’s market share drops to 42%. Actually, for most of the past years (Nov 2020 – Nov 2021), Sogou was on top of Baidu when it came to desktop searches.
If you look at mobile search only, then Baidu largely dominates with more than 95% of the searches.
Baidu just like google has its own eco-system of sub-site or mini-programs such as Baidu map, several forums, Q&A, content sharing app, cloud platform, and so on.
Marketers will also be interested in the Baidu Paid ads program that offers a variety of formats and payment options.
SEO on Baidu is a great way to boost your company’s visibility in China, and it works similarly to the process you’d use for Google. You’ll need both search engine optimization (SEO) as well as pay-per-click marketing (PPC), but careful planning of keywords and analyzing results through analytics will help ensure success!
Although the process is similar, Baidu has its own particularities when it comes to SEO and PPC marketing. Don’t expect what is working on Google to work with Baidu. After all, their algorithm is not the same. For instance, Baidu will always favor the Chinese language as well as its own sub-site.
No. 2 Chinese Search engines: Sogou the contender
Sogou (搜狗), meaning “searching dog” in English, is a Chinese search engine launched in 2004 and is currently the second-largest search engine in China.
Sogou has lost a bit of popularity in 2021, mainly due to the success of Baidu on Mobile. However, Sogou has been doing well when it comes to desktops with 23+% market shares in Oct.2021. Let’s not be shy to mention that over the course of 2021, Sogou repeatedly represented between 50% and 60% of Desktop Search.
Tencent (who owns WeChat) is planning to purchase Sogou for some $3.5 billion. Sogou and Tencent have a history of collaboration, as for the longest time, Sougou was the only Chinese search engine where Wechat content could be found. This collaboration makes Sogou an important player in the market and we expect the buying out of Sogou by Tencent to create even closer ties between the two, especially in a context where Wechat is working on improving its own in-app search engine (WeChat discovery).
When we talk about Sogou, we think about the input method, search and Sogou browser, and Sogou’s recent layout of artificial intelligence. Sogou input method has always been appreciated by a huge population in China, with more than 480 million input method users, as of the time of writing.
Sogou’s main source of revenue just like Baidu is its paid ads program, with search and search-related contributions accounting for more than 90% of its revenue.
Just like Baidu and Google, Sougou offers several mini-programs to its users that will too be featured on top of Sogou’s SERP.
Chinese Search Engine “No.3”: Shenma designed for mobile usage
Shenma (神马搜索), ‘god horse search’ in English, is a “mobile-first” search engine in China. It was launched in April 2014 and now it becomes the third search engine in the Chinese market, with 4.45% of the market share. It is a joint venture between Alibaba Group and UC Web. As of October 2021, Shenma is the second mobile search engine, accounting for 1.9% of the mobile search market with a pic at almost 6% in the course of the past year.
Shenma has a large amount of reference information and buyer reviews collected from the entire Alibaba Group and UC Web network, which is very useful for Chinese buyers, as they want to search for enough information before the purchase.
Based on the Alibaba Cloud search technology for several years, Shenma has been tested by more than 500 million users of UC Browser. Shenma focuses on the mobile field and is determined to be an expert in mobile search.
Chinese search engine: competitive and uncertain
Since the end of the last century, more than a dozen search engines have appeared in China, but none of them has been able to shake Baidu’s position. Recently, the giant tech behemoth ByteDance has launched its own search engine to compete with other giants existing in the market. Will ByteDance’s entry change the market landscape? No one can say for now.
It seems the Chinese search engine market is a hotly contested spot among Chinese tech giants. Baidu, Tencent, Alibaba, and now the ByteDance, everyone is present in the market. No one wants to lose the chance. The competition among search giants is fierce.
As there are many choices in SEO, it is thus complicated to do SEO and SEM in China. It all depends on your target audience and your budget.
If you want to enter the Chinese market, you have to promote your brand awareness and brand e-reputation on the Internet. But how? Well, SEO and SEM are powerful tools for you to reach your objective.
If you don’t know the market, and you need help from professionals, feel free to contact GMA, an expert in Chinese digital marketing since 2012.