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Optimizing for China’s Baidu search engine with its two billion users worldwide

Episode Overview

Over the past decade, China has blocked access of its 1.3 + billion population to Google, Facebook, and Twitter, leaving Chinese government-approved Baidu the largest single-market search engine in the world with over two billion users worldwide. How do data-driven marketers and SEOs tap into complex localized markets such as China and Russia? In this fourth podcast in Searchmetrics’ Non-Google Search Month series, SEO strategist Jordan Koene and Ben Shapiro unravel the complexity of regional, regulatory, and language-driven search engines like Yandex and Baidu that can translate into potentially huge opportunities.

Jordan and Ben discuss:

  • What are the expectations of search engines like Yandex and Baidu, and how do you generate their awareness and ultimately, manage their traffic?
  • When is localization an important component to your SEO strategy and ability to execute in these markets?
  • What are the strategies for creating a unique experience and content that fits the local market?
  • Is it worth the effort to internationalize and focus on SEO for Baidu, Yandex, and other smaller search engines that are so geographic specific?


Ben:                             Welcome back to Non-Google Search Month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re turning the spotlight onto how you can optimize your SEO efforts on some of the most important search engines that don’t start with the letter G.

Ben:                              And this week, we’re kicking off Non-Google Search Month by publishing an episode every day, discussing the history, status, and optimization strategies of Google’s biggest competitors. Joining us for Non-Google Search Week is Jordan Koene who is a world-renowned SEO strategist and the CEO here at Searchmetrics.

Ben:                             And so far this week, we’ve discussed the history of search outside of Google, how to prioritize and optimize results for non-Google search engines, and today, we’re going to talk about how to make an impact with geographic specific search engines.

Ben:                              But before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses, monitor their online presence, and make data driven decisions. To support you, our listener podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary digital diagnostic where a member of our digital strategy’s group will provide you the consultation that reviews how your website, content, and SEO strategies can all be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic, go to

Ben:                            Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with Jordan Koene, the lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc.

Ben:                             Jordan, welcome back to Non-Google Search Week on the Voices of Search podcast.

Jordan:                          Hey, Ben. This is a fun topic, and one that I’m really pleasantly surprised at how engaging and diverse this conversation can be.

Ben:                            You know, we didn’t just spend the last three episodes talking about Bing, and that makes me happy. We were able to find ways to change the conversation around, and we’re going to talk about other search engines. And one thing that we’ve decided for this podcast is bifurcating the local U.S.-based search engines, the Yahoo’s, Bing’s, DuckDuckGo’s of the world to some of the regional players. There’s Yandex, Baidu, Russia and China. There’s some other smaller regional players. There’s a handful of other more localized search engines that are actually much more important than Bing or Yahoo in their specific region.

Ben:                           So let’s dive in and talk about some of the localized, regional search engines. Tell me a little bit about who we need to think about.

Jordan:                        Yeah. So as we think about the global footprint of search, there’s certain ways to look at this from a high level, right? There’s the perspective of regulatory or government driven opportunity, which is created in some markets. There’s language, which is the most common restriction that’s created in some markets, and ultimately, there’s this realization that because of these unique situations, there’s obviously different search engines but also different expectations with those search engines and how you both manage your ability to generate awareness with them and then ultimately what you should expect when you have to manage traffic from those sources.

Ben:                             So, let’s talk a little bit more granularly. You mentioned that there are regulations that can cause search engines in a specific country to be important. Give me an example or a couple examples of what you mean. Where is there regulation causing an impact in search?

Jordan:                         Sure. So obviously China is a closed off market to Google, and so Baidu’s the largest search engine in the world. I mean, quite frankly, Baidu is probably the single market largest search engine, is the single market largest search engine in the world, and that’s largely derived because of the regulation that’s been created in the Chinese market.

Ben:                            So just to be clear, China’s population estimated in 2019 is 1.42 billion people, and you’re saying that on a per country basis, the most per capita searches that are happening in China, therefore Baidu is the most important search engine for single country.

Jordan:                        Correct. That is correct. Yup.

Ben:                           Okay. They have the largest market share for one country per capita.

Jordan                          That’s right. It’s a, let’s see here. It’s a self-predicated monopoly, right? It’s kind of funny because a lot of people, especially in western markets, Europe, U.S. and the like, we often complain about Google being the monopoly. But it’s a very different scenario in China, and there are other competing search engines in the market, but by and large, Baidu controls the text-based native search experience that we’re all accustomed to.

Ben:                             They essentially have almost a full monopoly, almost 100% of share in a country that is 18.4% of the world population.

Jordan:                        And it’s just a math problem from there.

Ben:                            Okay. Are there any other areas that are impactful in terms of having a regulated environment for search? I’m just looking at the other countries that are top in population, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia. Is there regulation happening in any of the other major countries or is all the regulation that is causing a search provider to be more important than Google happening in smaller countries?

Jordan:                       Yeah. So the most closely guarded is without question China, right? Now there are other regulatory opportunities or restrictions that are created in other markets, notably Russia with Yandex, as well as South Korea has a few search engines as well. But the restriction-based component is nowhere near the same, and there are competitors in those markets that thrive at a much more aggressive pace in those respected markets. So from a regulatory standpoint, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s the same, but I say that most notably when we look at international or global, excuse me, search engines, the one that often comes to mind, especially for those that play in European markets is Yandex and your ability to become present in many of those countries where Yandex is popular.

Ben:                             So what is the geography that Yandex covers?

Jordan:                         So, Yandex predominantly operates in most of the ex-Soviet bloc countries. You’ve got countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, but also some of the ones that folks don’t really realize or recognize that they serve and are often quite visible include Turkey, Belarus, and so there’s other markets. They can often be small markets, but if you are operating and doing business in Eastern Europe, this becomes a very prevalent source of traffic. In some of these markets, they have bi-double digit percentage of market share. So it’s an absolute must have partner in terms of your SEO insert strategy.

Ben:                             I want to take this opportunity to double click down and talk about the strategy for optimizing your Belorussian search traffic.

Jordan:                         Yeah.

Ben:                           Are we getting a little too nuanced? Okay. Maybe.

Jordan:                        I mean, I don’t have a ton of experience in this space. Some, but not a ton. No, just kidding aside. The funny thing about all this, and this is quite relevant because later this week I’m actually going down to Latin America to have a conversation about different ranking factors in the Latin markets. And they do vary. I mean, the expectations can be very different in different markets. There are often also nuanced rules in terms of how you use certain data and structure data, whether it be within mark up or in other ways within the body of your content and your pages. So localization does become an important component to your SEO strategy and your ability to execute in some of these markets. And for the big enterprises that are out there and they’re operating in some of these markets, what you come to realize is that you actually have to create a slightly unique experience and then content that fits in that local market. And that usually requires a partnership, a very close partnership with localization teams and content teams that are within market or region.

Ben:                             I appreciate that you turned around my Belorussian joke, and I just want to let everybody know that it is the 95th country in terms of population side and only slightly bigger than Tajikistan and slightly smaller than Azerbaijan.

Jordan:                         Also, the Yandex popular countries.

Ben:                           So let’s talk a little bit about the other types of search engine that is regionalized that is not necessarily caused by regulation but by language. What are some of the examples of languages that have caused Google to not be the dominate player in search?

Jordan:                       Yeah. So, I mean, we were just talking about Yandex, and Yandex often really is associated very strongly with Slavic-based languages. So those languages obviously the Yandex has a formulated their own dictionaries and natural language processing to allow them to better facilitate and serve those markets. In many cases, they’ve actually created innovations both on the paid and the organic side to help them adopt and utilize features and capabilities in a Slavic language. On the flip side, there’s another region, Korea, Japan notably where they’ll take type languages where they have had a strong development in engineering culture around their search experiences, having both native search engines as well as in Japan, like Yahoo is still incredibly prevalent. They’ve really adapted to the search behavior and patterns of both the Japanese language and culture. I think that’s one of the interesting things there too is that, especially when you move into a lot of these Asian markets, what you realize is that the experience is radically different from the experience and the set of expectations that you have for western countries, and it’s beyond just what are the text-based expectations and results but also the overall experience that you have around and with search as a whole. I think that makes it quite interesting as you think about the distinctions that we have just within markets sometimes.

Ben:                            So help me think as there’s these various countries that Google is not the biggest player. When you’re prioritizing your search effort, you are trying to grow internationally, is it worth the effort to try to internationalize focusing on Baidu, focusing on Yandex, even some of the smaller search engines that are geographically specific?

Jordan:                        Yeah. So this largely depends on the nature of your business. So if your company wants to be successful in these markets, you have to play in the search engines. So the first thing is just being mindful of these different markets. And for those folks who are working with global business, international businesses, it can often be very beneficiary for you to have conversations with the local GMs or the local managing directors of your company to ensure that the experience and the technology stack that you’re providing them is effective for those search engines. And that’s an often missed or overlooked opportunity that many of the global SEOs who are listening here may want to consider as they execute their 2019 or even 2020 SEO strategies.

Jordan:                       I know for the big global agencies, this is often a topic that they’re pushing on to help the big enterprise, the global enterprises, ensure that they’re hitting on the markets that they operate and serve content in.

Ben:                           So when you are implementing a strategy to try to get into these very geographic specific search engines, what is the rule of thumb or what is the guide? If you are not a native Altaic speaker or Slavic speaker, when you’re internationalizing your language and you’re submitting your sitemaps to these engines, how do you know what you’re doing? Is there a rule of thumb to be able to get your content visible in these search engines?

Jordan:                         I mean, let’s all be honest here, these are not your native languages. It behooves you to find the right partners internally within your company or to create the right agency partners to ensure that your execution is proper in these markets. And it pays. I mean, just from my experience working on a global scale, there is no way that I would be able to monitor and help facilitate these regions without the right partnership of our APAC partners or European partners to enable both the feeds or the … In some cases, some of these countries have feeds, not even just a site map but they have direct feeds, especially for big sites, as well as the sitemaps, or in some cases, just the localization strategy. How do we ensure that the localization implementation is being adopted on the site is driving SEO success?

Ben:                             Okay. Well, I think my takeaway here is that when you’re thinking about whether you need to expand and focus on really the two primarily geographically localized search engines, Baidu and Yandex, the question is how important is that market to you. Baidu covers 18% of the world’s population. It is obviously restricted through regulations by the Chinese government. So there’s probably some hurdles to be able to get your content verified and published. Yandex, a little less about regulation but still running into some potential issues translating your content into a Slavic language so you’re going to need localization support.

Ben:                        So at the end of the day, this is really a strategic decision based on how important those markets are to your specific business.

Ben:                            Jordan, any last words?

Jordan:                       Yeah. I think one of the big things is just some encouragement that this is a space that can often seem intimidating, especially as you’re expanding into markets that aren’t English-based. And one of the things that we didn’t touch on heavily here is just how you deal with Google in countries that are not English, especially for our English listeners. Much of the advice I gave earlier around how you leverage your global teams, how you find agencies and partners that can help you with global SEO, that’s the right place to start, and it’s about how you can create affinity and connection with either local resources or the talent that’s operating and helping to execute in that local market. Because you’d be surprised but even Google is very different in different markets and in different countries, and so you can just apply the same strategy that worked in the U.S. in every market. So having that connection with your local representation will enable your success.

Ben:                            Okay. That wraps up this episode of the Voice of Search podcast. Thanks for listening into my conversation with Jordan Koene, the lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So, if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes or you can contact him on Twitter where his hand is @JTKoene.

Ben:                             If you have general marketing questions or if you want to talk about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes or you can send me a tweet @BenJShap.

Ben:                            If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategy’s team.

Ben:                             And if you like this podcast and want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning to discuss the verticalization of search in the video, eCommerce, and local search engines.

Ben:                             Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Ben:                            Okay. That’s it for today. But until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.


Jordan Koene

Jordan Koene

Jordan Koene is the CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. a wholly owned subsidiary of Searchmetrics. Previously, Jordan was the Head of SEO and Content Development at eBay. During his time at eBay, Jordan focused on utilizing eBay content to improve user experience and natural search traffic.

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