How does Baidu deal with international websites? Well, in reality, Baidu favors local websites in Mandarin Chinese and doesn’t bother with multilingual or multinational websites much. However, there are ways to tell Baidu where the intended audience for each version of your website is.
Hreflang? Baidu Doesn’t Seem to Care
Hreflang annotations are Google’s speciality and a way for Google to understand the relationship between different country versions of a website. It was announced in 2013 on Google Webmaster Central and Yandex followed up right after. Other global search engines, such as Yahoo!, Bing, Naver and Baidu continue using their own signals to determine the language and country target.
Meta Language: Widely Underestimated
As I mentioned, most of the world’s search engines including Chinese search engine Baidu don’t take Hreflang as a country/language indicator. Some of them including Bing and Baidu look at the meta language tag instead. So, in order to tell them which website version targets which customers, you need to implement this tag in the headers:
<meta http-equiv=”content-language” content=”en-us”>
This tag indicates that the website is intended for English-speaking users in the US.
<meta http-equiv=”content-language” content=”zh-Hans”>
This tag indicates that the website is intended for Mandarin-speaking users in Mainland China. Mandarin Chinese is the only language variant that is accepted by Baidu.
Geographic Target, TLDs Submission
Baidu, unlike most search engines, doesn’t allow you to specify the geographic target in their Webmaster Tools. However, it is recommended that you submit each country version separately for Baidu to more easily understand that the sites are different and are serving different regions. You can only submit TLDs or subdomains (not subfolders). I thus recommend running country versions on different TLDs.
Image credit: webnots.com
So, What is the Best TLD Strategy for Baidu and Multi-Language Websites?
There is no point in trying to rank multilingual websites in Baidu, as Baidu doesn’t like it when a website “is advertising on other search engines” (a bit like a super-jealous girlfriend, right?) and the majority of searches performed on Baidu are either in Chinese or in English. So, if you need to approach Chinese users in multiple languages, I recommend one of the following solutions:
1. If you only target users in Mainland China, e.g. in Chinese and English, choose one .COM domain and place content in Chinese there. Add /en/ subfolder for English content and a language selector.
2. If you target users in multiple countries including China, place content in Chinese under a separate TLD (.COM or .CN), while keeping content in other languages under different TLDs or a TLD with subfolders.
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