image I am very excited to be able to bring you a guest blog today from our local site management team in China.  Charles Li has done some fantastic research in his region to get a better understanding of the local search engine and social networking market.  In the post below he has shared his analysis in to the local Chinese search engine Baidu, and provided some of his own thoughts on why the search engine is so popular in the region.

Since many of the valuable online discussions about Baidu are in Chinese, this is a rare opportunity for non Chinese speakers to get some insights on a very significant search topic for any websites aimed at internet users in China.

chali_24161104082009 (2) Guest Post
Author: Charles Li
Country: China (Shanghai)
Job: International Site Manager

Did you know that in China, in January, 71% of internet searches were made on Baidu.com and only 13% on Google? There are lots of discussions and researches around this interesting topic already. Recently Manshu Verma has a very good summary to talk about why, which got lots of echos in China. He listed 5 major reasons why Google trails Baidu in China. . .

  1. Google is not a natural word for the Chinese: Google is not a natural word for the Chinese and people had trouble remembering it. This played as a big negative, and eventually Google got hold of g.cn – which is its Chinese version. That may be the shortest web address ever, and it was bought to overcome the problem of introducing a product that the locals can’t remember.
  2. Search results in traditional characters: I read this interesting comparison between Google and Baidu, and one of the things it mentions is that on occasion Google returns more search results in traditional Chinese character (which is spoken in Taiwan, Hong Kong and by overseas Chinese). People in mainland China are not too comfortable with the traditional character, so they shy away from such results. These search results make Google look foreign to mainland Chinese users.
  3. Better in localized searches: The same comparison uses a local phrase and finds that although Google returns a much larger number of results, they are not relevant. Baidu comes up with fewer but far more relevant results.
  4. East is best: Another interesting article I found said that a lot of times Baidu has smartly positioned themselves as knowledgeable locals while portraying Google as clueless foreigners.
  5. Download music on Baidu: One of the big things about Baidu is that it is used to download music, much of which is copyrighted, but Baidu says that just linking to such music doesn’t break any law. This was something that Google didn’t do initially, but later started doing through its intermediary Top 100. This gave Baidu a distinct edge over Google.

These five are very true. But I would like to add the 6th reason which could be the most important one from a native Chinese speaker’s viewpoint: Baidu is not only the largest Chinese search engine but also the largest Chinese Questions and Answers Community. Which means Baidu is not only taking customers to the right destination but also is actually generating answers for customers’ questions. This gives Baidu huge competitive advantage.

Take a look the following example: Search “XP SP3 cannot be installed” in Chinese on Google. Guess what? The top results in Google are all pointed to zhidao.baidu.com (Baidu Answers Platform means “Baidu Know”).

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It’s not limited to computer problems but covering all kinds of questions in your life. You will see similar results when searching answers like “Which mutual fund perform the best in last year?”, “how to cook a special Salad”. Etc.

Answers Communities in China

The market surged in 2008. The following chart shows the visits and increase rate of this market since 2007Q4. As you can see, the total visits in 2008Q4 exceed 4 billion per quarter (not limited to computer related).

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Source: www.iResearch.com.cn

The following chart shows the market share of key players in this market.

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Source: www.iResearch.com.cn

  • Baidu has about 50% of this market.
  • Soso Wenwen has 25% of this market. It’s owned by Tencent, the biggest internet company in China
  • Yahoo Answers is the 3rd. Yahoo brand is not operated on their own in China. It’s a joint venture with Alibaba.com, and operated by Alibaba.com.
  • Interesting Movement of Google. Google announced to have a strategic partnership with Tianya, who has about 7% of this market, and make Tianya Answers as one of its service in China. See screenshot below:

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