The different rules in place for the web in China means that designers and developers need to have a similarly aligned set of development and design best practices to help their products navigate through the labyrinth of existing restraints and connect with the Chinese customers. To make an optimized presence in the Chinese web circuit, you need to create designs that avoid the common pitfalls for negative rankings in Baidu search and be on par with development practices crafted after considering the dos and don’ts that help you in your SEO for Baidu. The following represent some of the basics that must be followed by designers and developers to make a site accepted by Chinese search engines.
The withdrawal of Google from China means that features like Google Fonts, Google Analytics, its APIs etc. are also rendered ineffective. Any website using these features will be carrying the baggage of redundant pages that the search engines will refuse to index. Although there has been some relaxation lately on the usage of these, it is still better for you to follow Baidu Developer Guide if you are preparing a website for the Chinese customers. These guidelines will prevent your site from being de-indexed by the Chinese search engines. It will also ensure that the complete content of your site is delivered to the user without parts of them being blocked. Most of the tricks and techniques of the trade that works with Google works with Baidu search but its differences in some core areas mean that one has to use these specific guidelines.
Moreover, it is a popular practice for web developers to use libraries like jQuery and Bootstrap to take advantage of the CDN hosted by the companies like Google to improve their site speed and caching. However, since contents from CDNs outside of China will load slowly or get completely filtered in the country, you should not use the hosted libraries like the ones mentioned above.
Since China is a huge country the page loading speed might be different in various locations and it is vital for you to test the speed of your site in various geo-locations in China. The speed of a site is an important metric for search engines like Google, for which it is one among hundreds of ranking factors, but for getting featured in Baidu search it is one of the most important one.
Baidu has its own internal tool for testing site speeds, using which you can log in to the analytics section that provides your website’s measure of speed. This tool provides the loading speed of your site in various provinces in China. Other site speed testing tools available in China are webpagetest, Site 24*7, Dot Com tools, site speed and CDNetworks.
Given Baidu’s inability to crawl through deep layered sites it is important that your sites are simple in architecture using only a minimal number of layers necessary for optimized user experience. The good thing about Baidu search is its negligence to link and keyword stuffing so one can use as much outbound links in their pages, allowing them to obtain a simplified design for the site with minimal pages while not limiting them from including links so vital to optimization in the search engine. Use only two layers for your site whenever possible — Home Page > Pages — and if it does not suffice, it is better if you follow a tree structure for your site. A tree structure site will have a home page that links to the main category pages and the sub category pages linked to the main category pages and so on. Additionally, you should provide a site map in .xml format and avoid zipped site maps in formats like .xml.gz.
For the most useful dos and don’ts in developing your China focused digital strategies for 2017 and beyond, you can find the articles of this series of posts here:
It is great working with such a dedicated and competent team in this ever changing space and I would highly recommend Michael and his work.