5 Popular Chinese Search Engines: How They Work

hand using phone to search

The History of Chinese Search Engines 

In the early days of the internet, Chinese search engines were few and far between. In the late 1990s, several Chinese companies launched search engines, but most struggled to gain traction in a market dominated by international players like Google and Yahoo. Baidu emerged as the clear leader in the Chinese search market. Baidu has continued to dominate the Chinese search market ever since, despite intense competition from companies like 360 and Sogou. 

Consumer Habits in China

Every e-commerce business that wants to conduct business in China must first recognize that the way Chinese customers use the internet is vastly different from the norm for most non-Chinese enterprises.

In most countries, mobile internet use exceeds that of China, although it does not dominate search traffic as it does in China. According to the 47th China Statistical Report on Internet Development, in 2020, 99.7% of all Chinese internet users accessed the web using their smartphones. In contrast, 32.8% of users accessed the internet using desktop computers and just 28.2% via laptops. Therefore, it would be smart for any firm entering the internet market in the nation to prioritize the mobile market.

Chinese customers seldom visit corporate or brand websites, preferring single-entry points with several brand representations. Before making a purchase, individuals often do considerable study and read (often automated) suggestions as opposed to looking for particular items. Additionally, social media and influencers have a significant impact on purchase choices.

Frequently, Chinese users may click on products they like in social media postings to purchase them at an online shop. In addition, Chinese retailers prioritize customer service, which adds to high levels of consumer loyalty.

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1. Baidu

Baidu is one of the largest Internet companies in the world. Founded in 2000, it is headquartered in Beijing, China. Baidu provides several services, including a search engine, social media, and marketing tools. It also operates several other businesses, such as a mapping service and an online payment system. In recent years, Baidu has been working on expanding its reach beyond China. It has made many significant acquisitions, including a majority stake in the travel website Qunar and a minority stake in the U.S. company Uber. With over 1 billion users, Baidu is an important player in the global Internet landscape.

One reason for Baidu’s enduring success is its effective marketing strategy. In addition to traditional marketing channels like television and print advertising, Baidu has invested heavily in online marketing, including search engine and social media marketing. As a result, Baidu has become one of the most recognizable brands in China.

What You Should Know

  • Baidu indexes only sites that utilize simplified Chinese characters.
  • Therefore, you will not be shown if you do not have a Mandarin website.
  • Additionally, it favors websites housed on Chinese servers.
  • An Internet Content Provider License is required to host a website in the PRC.
  • Baidu’s results still use meta keywords, partly because Baidu’s picture AI is less sophisticated than Google’s.

Related Link: 404 Errors: How to Fix Them (& Why You Should)

2. Youdao

Youdao, a branch of NetEase, resembles an online education platform more than a standard search engine. It enables users to search websites, photos, news, and, most crucially for non-Chinese users, Chinese-to-English entries.

What You Should Know

  • Youdao is capable of translating Mandarin into over 20 languages.
  • It is the most comprehensive translation tool and online dictionary in China, using guidance and phrase examples.
  • More than fifty percent of Youdao’s users are younger than 24.
  • Primarily used by students and high-income persons, it presents a potential for multinational businesses seeking to promote their goods in China.

3. Haosuo  

Haosuo, also known as Qihoo 360 Search, and s.com, is another leader in the Chinese domestic market for search engines. It underwent some domain name modifications after its 2012 debut, functioning as so.360.cn, so.com, and haosou.com.

In 2016, it became Haosuo, backed by one of China’s leading internet service providers (Qihoo 360). This modification was accompanied by a streamlined UI and a greater emphasis on mobile experiences.

What You Should Know

  • Qihoo 360 is preloaded on most Chinese PCs, making it the Internet Explorer of China. However, it is unknown if most users are technologically impaired elders.
  • On 360 Search, there is less competition, which typically results in a reduced cost-per-click for sponsored advertisements.
  • Additionally, this focus on cybersecurity seems to be mirrored in rankings, with sites with greater authority and trustworthiness seeming to be ranked higher.
  • Haosuo’s prominence in B2B marketing is attributable to all Chinese enterprises advocating its usage to their workers.

4. Shenma

Shenma, a joint venture between e-commerce behemoth Alibaba and UC Web, claims 1.74 percent of the Chinese market.

It is the default search engine of one of the most popular online browsers, the UC browser. Shenma differs from the competition and the vast majority of search engines in that it is mobile-only. Shenma identifies itself as the “expert in mobile search” and combines a search engine and an app store.

What You Should Know

  • The connection between Shenma and Alibaba enables the inclusion of direct links to product pages.
  • Priority is given to products posted on Taobao or Tmall (Alibaba shopping sites), which boosts their ranking in search results.
  • In addition to applications, it is often used for household items, apparel, and books.

Related Link: On-Page SEO: The Ultimate Beginners Guide

5. Sogou  

Launched in 2004, Sogou (meaning “search dog”) is another leader in the Chinese search market, with a 4.83 percent share.

It concluded a $3.5 billion merger in September 2021 to become a subsidiary of Tencent, a technology corporation with gaming, social media, and entertainment holdings.

What You Should Know

  • The search algorithm of Sogou puts a premium on unique content and site authority.
  • Similar to Baidu, it gives preference to websites that use simplified Chinese and are housed on Chinese servers.
  • Backlinks are a significant ranking element, with an apparent focus on the number above quality. Meta descriptions seem to be less significant than title tags.
person using phone to search

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Search Engines In China

Now that you know all about China’s most popular search engines, it’s time to learn more about how to market your business on them appropriately. Check our website for tips and tricks on digital marketing, from SEO to social media marketing. 

Related Link: Organic SEO vs. Paid Search: What’s the Difference?

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