In my last blog post, I looked at the top players in the Baidu SERPs. Today, I would like to take a closer look at the search results page itself. In what ways is it similar to the Google search results page we know and love? There are some obvious similarities. Just like on Google, we see ten blue links, each with a short text. And URLs are also partly displayed. But if we delve deeper, then it doesn’t take long to discover several differences.
The Anatomy of a Search Result
The individual components of a search result are in a slightly different order. Both Google and Baidu start their snippets with the title in blue, underlined as a link to the website in question. Baidu then has the description, followed by the (usually abbreviated) URL. Google has these elements too, but the other way around. Google also bolds the keywords in the title and description, whilst Baidu colors them in red.
Baidu also frequently provides rich snippets, usually with a small image. This is not a screenshot, but is often one of the images from the page being linked to.
Attention to optimization of images (file name, alt and title attributes and the text around the image) is therefore useful for Baidu SEO, even when not aiming to appear in the image search results. Other than solid onpage SEO for images, there are no secret tricks for this Baidu rich snippet. However, as with Google, Baidu offers no guarantees or promises of appearing as an extended search result.
Other rich snippets are usually seen for well-known (often Baidu’s own) websites. The most common and most visible extensions are larger images (bigger than in the standard extension any page can get), and lists, such as dates, articles or downloads.
V is for Verified
Amongst the differences between the Baidu and Google snippets, one that stands out is the yellow or blue V with a subscript 1, 2 or 3. This is the so-called “V-Label”, which can be obtained via the Baidu PPC Program (Baidu’s equivalent to “Adwords”).
The V-Label is a certificate of trust that Baidu awards in return for submission of certain information and payment of a yearly fee. This acts as a test to confirm whether a website is serious or not. There are two levels that can be bought (V1 and V2), and a third level, V3, which has to be earned. Award of a V3 label is based on things like traffic, social signals etc. You can, however, only earn a V3 label if you are already paying for V2.
Although this should make it clear that the V-Label is an SEA extension, you do sometimes see the V-Label in the organic search results. Does this mean that Baidu is selling advertisements that are not marked as search (as has been suggested in the past)? Or is this an additional bonus in the organic search results, given to companies that advertise?
We cannot provide a definitive answer, but I certainly tend towards the latter. When a company wishes to acquire the V-Label, it has to provide information confirming the serious nature of its website. So why shouldn’t this also be used to provide a trust signal in the organic search results? Along the lines of: “We, Baidu, are helping you, the user, to see whether a website is trustworthy or not.”
It does certainly happen that I click on results in the Baidu SERPS, which are then signaled by Google Chrome as “potentially untrustworthy” or are flagged by the security system in my office as “in contravention of company guidelines”. This means that Chinese users will also end up visiting dubious websites. The only way to avoid this is to only click on websites that you already know or that Baidu has indicated as trustworthy with a V-Label.
广告 is for Advertisement
From the SEA element “V-label”, we now come to advertisements. How can we tell if a search result is an advert or an organic result? Baidu flags adverts in a similar way to Google. If the adverts are displayed above the organic results, then they are highlighted with a (hardly discernible) light pink background. In the upper right corner of this colored box, the word “广告“ (advert) shows that this box displays a paid search result.
The screenshot shows an extended Ads result displayed above the organic search results. I have added the pink frame to make the color difference clearer. The difference between the “pink” and “white” is minimal, but you can just about see it if you look at the product images, which have a white background. Adverts appearing at the end of a page are also marked with “广告“ and a slightly tinted background.
Additional information in the snippet
At the end of the snippet (in both the organic and paid search results), we often find further information and links, some of which we recognize from Google search, some of which is unique to Baidu. Here are a few examples:
- 百度快照 (Bǎidù kuàizhào) – Baidu Cache
- 评价 (Píngjià) – Ratings (on Baidu’s portal: https://koubei.baidu.com/)
- 104条评价 (104 tiáo Píngjià) – 104 ratings
- 80%好评 (80% hǎo Píng) – 80% positive ratings
- 翻译此页 (fānyì cǐ yè) – translate this page
- 由于该网站的robots.txt文件存在限制指令 系统无法提供该页面的内容描述 – This page has been excluded from crawling with robots.txt, no page description can be displayed.
- 了解详情 (liǎojiě xiángqíng) – Find out more (link to further information on the topic)
Related topics in the sidebar
Baidu often uses the sidebar to display further related vertical SERP, such as videos or links to information about celebrities. There is always a text description (in Chinese) explaining what the information is. Here are a few examples:
For the search request, “Jackie Chan“, related actors are shown in the sidebar.
A search for “red shoes” returns related clothing and a selection of sport article brands.
For the search request “Pirates of the Caribbean”, the Baidu sidebar provides information on actors, related US films and film characters.
If you search for “elephant”, the sidebar shows you “related animals” and “large aquatic animals”, which suggests that Baidu is able to understand entities. To a certain extent. Because whilst a panda is related to an elephant by virtue of being a mammal, the one-eyed shark doesn’t really exist. And it may have its own personal snorkel, but an elephant can’t really be considered an aquatic animal. At the very least, Baidu is able to recognize that the elephant is an animal, even if the term “knowledge graph” would be a little generous for describing these results.
So that’s how Baidu looks – who wants more China?
These first two posts have by no means exhausted everything there is to say about the Baidu SERP. And they weren’t intended to. Above all, I was trying to give you a first impression of the results pages of the search engine with the largest target audience in the world.
To close, I’d like to ask a few questions so you can get involved using the comments. Please feel free to discuss amongst yourselves too:
- Do you already have experience with China or Baidu?
- Have you already used Baidu as a search engine?
- Have you already thought about adapting your content for the Chinese market?
- Which other aspects of China and Baidu would you like to read more about here?
Find all blog posts from our “Postcards from China” series here!