Top 5 China Search Engines You Need to Know for Promotion

When you plan to enter the Chinese market, you’d better check the main search engines in China.

Why?

Unlike most other countries, search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo are rarely used in China. Therefore, you cannot take advantage of these search engines to promote your products or services in China.

As a Chinese and an SEOer at the same time, I want to introduce the top 5 China search engines to you, including Baidu, Sogou, Shenma, Qihoo 360 and WeChat.

Keep reading!

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#1. Baidu (百度) – The Largest Chinese Search Engine

While there are plenty of search engines in China and the China search engine market is constantly shifting, Baidu leads the race for dominance by far.

In 2020, Baidu’s market share dominates the search engine market in China, in terms of all platforms (68.66%) and mobile (85.08%). Mobile still accounts for the biggest search engine market share. To be truly successful in China SEO, you’ll need an in-depth understanding of how to optimize for this search giant

search engine market in China

Baidu is built to mainly process results in Chinese and the first page contains very little space for organic results, as it prioritizes advertisements and banners, thus making it very difficult to gain visibility in the top positions.

Baidu also offers many services such as Baidu Maps, Baidu Tieba (it is the Baidu “Social Network” that allows you to have a diary or company social page, where you can go to share status, photos, and videos. It is possible to comment and follow public profiles) and Baidu Zhidao (it is a question and answer service provided by the Baidu platform, where only registered users can interact with questions and providing answers. It is very influential in terms of positioning).

#2. Sogou (搜狗) –  The Tencent Backed Social Media Crawler

Sogou was launched in 2004 and acquired by Tencent in 2013. With the strong support from Tencent, Sogou exclusively provides the search results of WeChat content. No other search engine in China is capable of searching on WeChat. With over 1 billion users on WeChat this gives Sogou a serious leg up over its competitors.

Seeing the success from its WeChat integration, Sogou partnered with Zhihu (a popular question-and-answer site in China) to integrate more content search results.

One thing you must know is that Sogou has developed its own algorithm. Therefore, do not expect Baidu SEO techniques to work on this search engine. Sogou has been very useful for companies who target an audience in low tier locations due to more affordable pay-per-click campaigns.

Sogou seems to be the most English friendly Chinese search engine. They have a special English version at english.sogou.com.

Sogou

#3. Shenma (神马) – The Mobile Only Chinese Search Engine

One of the lesser globally known popular search engines in China. Shenma is the result of a joint venture between Alibaba and UC Web. In fact, Shenma comes with UC browser, a world-famous internet browser. 

An important feature of Shenma is that this Chinese search engine can be used only on mobile devices. Given the tremendous usage of mobile devices in China, this is a very important factor. In fact, Shenma is widely used for shopping, books and apps. Therefore, if you are operating in one of these market niches, Shenma is a must-have.

Shenma

#4. Qihoo 360 (奇虎360) – (previously Haosou)

Once the second-most used search engine in China, 360 Search, also known as Haosou, has since dropped to fourth place, with a market share of around 4% as of July 2020.

360 Search is owned by Qihoo 360, the largest provider of internet and mobile security products in China; its free antivirus software is the most popular and trusted in the country. They also have the advantage that their 360 browser comes preinstalled on most computers in China, which has helped it grow rapidly. Many businesses also recommend that their employees use the 360 browser for its security features.

It’s worth noting that because there is less competition on 360 Search, there is a lower cost-per-click (CPC) for PPC ads, so you tend to get a better ROI from paid campaigns.

360 Search

#5. WeChat (微信) – An “Everything Search Engine”

When it comes to Chinese search engines you likely won’t think of WeChat, but given its ubiquity in China, it’s a factor in nearly every part of the internet & digital marketing space.

In 2017, Tencent released a feature that caused a stir in the search engine market: WeChat Search.

WeChat Search Engine Results show a mix of results from different information source. It provides the following result types when using the WeChat search function:

  • WeChat moment posts
  • WeChat articles published by WeChat Official accounts
  • WeChat Official Accounts
  • WeChat Mini Programs: homepage and inside pages
  • Products and services
  • the tailored brand page / WeChat Brand Zone
  • Novels via the Tencent platform
  • Music via QQ Music
  • Internet content via the Sogou search engine
  • Stickers
  • 3rd party platform content from the following social apps: Zhihu (the Chinese version of Quora), Zaker (news), Mafengwo (travel), Douban (books and movies)

To be honest, when I need to search something, usually I will finish it on WeChat because I’m always using WeChat!

WeChat Search

Conclusion on The Top Chinese Search Engines

Even though Baidu is the most used search engine in China, the market is not dominated by it. As we have discussed in this article, there are several other resources that users can employ. Therefore, while planning a strategy for the Chinese market, it is important to become familiar with the different search engines available to understand which ones resonate with your audience and to use them to achieve maximum exposure. In my opinion, you need to pay more attention on Baidu and WeChat.

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