Top 5 Chinese Search Engines and How They Work


In 2021, China has surpassed one billion internet usersmaking it the largest online marketplace in the world.

As global businesses strive to gain a foothold in this fast-growing digital economy, they face a unique set of challenges, including optimizing their websites for the world’s most populous country.

Unlike the rest of the world, where Google is the undisputed king of search engines, he was right 3.56% of the Chinese market in June 2022.

Bing, its main global competitor, fared slightly better with an 11.47 percent market share.

But Chinese Internet users still need the means to find products and information online.

If they don’t use the search engines that are popular in the rest of the world, what do they use?

Native search engines designed in China for use in China, of course.

To help you enter the Chinese online market or attract new clients from the East, this article will cover the top five search engines in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and give you tips on how to use them to achieve your goals.

But before we get into that, it’s important to get some background information.

The Internet and Censorship in China

Although it has supported simplified and traditional Chinese searches since 2000, Google officially joined the Chinese mainland market only in 2006.

At that time, the country had only 137 million Internet users.

Just four years later, the search engine giant left the country in favor of Hong Kong to avoid Chinese censors.

In response, the Chinese government banned Google search sites in all languages.

All of this was triggered by the Internet explosion of 2009.

Concerned about the effects of unrestricted access to information, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued Circular about preloaded green internet filter software on PC.

This required a web filter on all devices made or sold in China block access to certain websites, including news, streaming and social media sites, among others. More sites are added to this list every year, and if you’re worried about your domain being included, you can be check here.

But where there’s a will, there’s always a way, and enterprising and tech-savvy Chinese citizens have opted to use virtual private networks (VPNs) to access restricted websites.

Surprisingly, although there are many VPNs on the list of blocked sites, their use is not illegal.

And while this solution exists, it is simply not a significant means of directing traffic to Western cities from this Asian country.

Will Google return to China?

It’s hard to imagine the world’s biggest search engine completely giving up on the world’s biggest online marketplace, and there have been hints that it plans to make a comeback one day.

In 2018 The letter was obtained by the New York Timeshundreds of Google employees signed a letter opposing work on a censored Chinese version of the search engine that was being developed in secret.

But just one year later, Karan Bhatia, vice president of government affairs and public policy at Google testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the project was discontinued.

But that hasn’t silenced murmurs that the company plans to return to the Chinese market. If it does, it will be in strong competition from domestic search engines that are already well established.

But a little more about that.

First, let’s talk about how China’s online marketplace and unique route to customers is an Asian giant.

How Chinese consumers shop online

The first thing any e-commerce company that wants to do business in China must understand is that the way Chinese consumers use the Internet is very different from what most non-Chinese companies are used to.

First, while mobile internet is overtaking PC usage in most countries, it does not dominate search traffic as it does in China.

In 2020, almost every Chinese Internet user (99.7%) accessed the web through their smartphone.

In comparison, 32.8% accessed the Internet via a desktop and only 28.2% via a laptop. Thus, any company entering the online market in the country would be wise to focus their efforts on the mobile market.

Chinese consumers also rarely visit company or brand websites, rather than single entry points where many brands are represented. Rather than searching for specific products, they tend to do extensive research and read (often automated) recommendations before making a purchase.

Social media and influencers also have a strong influence on purchasing decisions.

Online and offline sales channels tend to be more related to the PRC, while the line between entertainment and shopping is blurred.

Chinese users can often click on items they like in social media posts and buy them from the associated online store.

In addition, Chinese retailers place an emphasis on customer service, which contributes to a high level of purchase loyalty.

What search engines does China use?

While there are cultural differences from country to country and sometimes from region to region all over the world, Chinese norms are often unfamiliar to Western companies. And that includes the search engines used.

So, what websites do Chinese people use to find things on the internet? Here are the top five:

1. Baidu – China’s answer to Google

Just as “to Google” has become a standard verb to search for something online, people in China “Baidu” something.

He controls more than 75% of the search engine market in the PRC and even attracts some users from other countries, including the US and Japan.

Baidu started with funding from Silicon Valley in 2000, initially just as a home page that allowed businesses to bid for ad space. Since then, it has expanded not only into search, but also into artificial intelligence and many internet-related products and services.

What you need to know

Baidu only indexes websites that use Simplified Chinese characters.

This means that if you don’t have a Mandarin website, you won’t appear.

It also favors websites hosted on Chinese servers.

To host a website in the PRC, you must have an Internet Content Provider license.

Search engine position is determined by the home page and Baidu’s ranking still include meta keywordspartly due to the image AI, which is not as advanced as Google’s.

This means that image alt texts and metadata are important to ensure image understanding.

HTTPS is also included as a ranking signal and appears to take load speed, content quality and content relevance into account as well.

It is also important to note that Baidu does not handle JavaScript welltherefore, all content and links must be in plain HTML on the mobile and desktop versions of your website.

2. Sogou – search dog

Originally launched in 2004, Sogou (literally “dog search”) holds the second place in the domestic Chinese search market with a 4.83% share.

It is September 2021 completed a $3.5 billion merger to become a subsidiary of Tencent, a technology company with interests in gaming, social media and entertainment.

What you need to know

Sogou’s search algorithm places a high value on original content and website authority.

Like Baidu, it favors websites that use Simplified Chinese and those hosted on Chinese servers.

Backlinks are an important ranking factor, and the emphasis seems to be on quantity rather than quality. Meta descriptions don’t seem to be that important, but title tags are crucial.

Due to its association with Tencent, Sogou is the default search engine for QQ Browser, QQ Messenger and WeChat, all major applications in the Chinese market.

3. Haosuo – Safe Search

Haosuo, also known as Qihoo 360 Search and, ranks third in China’s domestic search engine market. Introduced in 2012, it passed a set of domain changes, operates as, and

Backed by one of China’s largest Internet providers (Qihoo 360), it became Haosuo in 2016.

This change came with a simplified interface and a greater focus on the mobile experience.

What you need to know

The Qihoo 360 browser comes pre-installed on most Chinese computers, making it the Internet Explorer of China. However, it is not known whether it is mainly used by the elderly with technological difficulties.

Known for its security features, all Chinese companies recommend Haosuo to their employees, making it a strong player in B2B marketing.

This emphasis on cybersecurity also appears to be reflected in the rankings, with sites with higher authority and trust appearing to be ranked higher.

There is less competition on 360 Search, which often means a lower cost per click for paid ads.

The Hong Kong-based unit may also make it easier for foreign companies to advertise on the platform.

4. Shenma – the first name in the mobile phone

A venture between e-commerce giant Alibaba and UC Web, Shenma owns 1.74% of the Chinese market.

It is the default search engine in UC web browser, which is one of the most used browsers.

Shenma differs from the competition and most search engines in that it is mobile only.

Billing itself as “mobile search experts”, Shenma is a combination of a search engine and an app store.

What you need to know

Shenme’s link with Alibaba allows direct links to product pages to be included.

Widely used for home products, clothing and books and applications.

Products listed on Taobao or Tmall (Alibaba’s shopping properties) are prioritized, which improves search rankings.

5. Youdao – translation search engine

Youdao, a division of Chinese Internet technology company NetEase, functions more as an online education platform than a traditional search engine.

It allows users to search websites, images, news and, perhaps most importantly for foreign users, Chinese to English entries.

What you need to know

Youdao can translate Mandarin to more than 20 languages.

It is the largest translation tool and online dictionary in the PRC, providing example sentences and word usage help.

More than half of Youdao users are 24 years old or younger.

It is mainly used by students and high-income individuals, and offers opportunities to foreign companies that want to sell international products in China.

The beginning of SEO in China

Getting on the site of Chinese search engines can be tricky.

And if you don’t have a Mandarin website, preferably hosted in the PRC, it can be very difficult.

But in a country with more than a billion internet users, it’s worth the effort.

Baidu is the big dog on the block, but it doesn’t dominate the Chinese market the way Google dominates the American one.

Competitors are looking for new ways to carve out their own niches.

And this offers opportunities for international companies.

International SEO it takes some extra work, but if you do your research, learn about Chinese search habits, and work within the confines of the PRC internet environment, you can claim your place on the rankings and expand into new markets.

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Featured Image: Shayli/Shutterstock


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