Baidu, often referred to as the “Google of China,” is the primary gateway to the digital world for millions of Chinese users. Behind its user-friendly exterior, Baidu employs complex algorithms for precise search results, making Baidu SEO knowledge crucial. However, due to the language barrier, the algorithms are a myth to marketers overseas.
We have gathered all the algorithms since 2013 and categorised them into four areas for clarity: content, user experience, backlinks, and security.
Content is the king. It applies to Baidu, too. Baidu takes content quality seriously and has a few specific algorithms targeting content quality in the last few years.
In May 2013, Baidu introduced the Pomegranate (石榴) Algorithm, an upgraded version designed to tackle low-quality websites. Aligned with the earlier Baidu Ivy Algorithm, this algorithm is committed to enhancing user experience and raising content quality standards. It focuses on pages harbouring numerous disruptive advertisements, specifically addressing spam advertising that significantly disrupts normal browsing, including an excess of low-quality pop-up ads that obscure the page’s main content.
The Baidu Blue Sky (蓝天) algorithm, introduced in November 2016, focuses on news sources, major news websites, B2B platforms, and similar entities. It penalises activities like selling secondary directories and promoting advertorial content.
Blue Sky 2.0, announced in July 2021, follows Baidu’s technical team’s discovery of an uptick in “site structure directories publishing low-quality, false, and unrelated content.” The enhanced Blue Sky algorithm is designed to identify and penalise these phenomena.
Hurricane (飓风) 1.0, launched in July 2017, is designed to combat content plagiarism on websites. This refers to sites that copy content from others and assemble it together. When detected, Baidu takes strict action by removing the site from indexing, offering greater visibility to high-quality, original content.
In 2018 and 2019, Baidu also launched Hurricane 2.0 and 3.0 to strengthen content quality online.
Drizzle (细雨) 1.0 was introduced in July 2018 and strengthened with a 2.0 update in 2019; it targets the B2B sector, including Obscene Pages and supply and demand B2B websites.
- Misleading page titles and pretending to be the official website of the company.
- Keyword stacking: similar keywords are stacked in the page title in order to obtain more search traffic.
- Special Symbol interleaving: The page title is interspersed with special characters such as ★■◆●▼▲░▒▓.
- Including contact numbers and other contact information in the titles.
- Low-quality content and poor readability.
- The product or service information in the text is collected randomly and spliced together, and the layout is confusing. Users cannot obtain the product or service information.
The Gale (劲风) algorithm, launched in February 2020, aims to regulate content aggregation by focusing on four key aspects:
- Incongruent Content: Pages with incongruent content often display information that doesn’t align with the core theme or focus of the website. They appear as haphazard collections of unrelated content.
- Misleading Content: Malicious aggregation pages may feature content inconsistent with the page’s title and label descriptions or display weak relevance. This creates a disjointed user experience.
- Static Search Result Pages: Websites generating numerous search result pages may be susceptible to the algorithm. Static search result pages can be affected.
- Invalid Information: Many of these pages lack useful information, offering little to no valid content. They often serve as ineffective aggregation platforms, resulting in a high bounce rate even if users click through from a search.
The Breeze (清风) Algorithm, launched in September 2017, targeted deceptive practices on download websites, penalising misleading page titles. Breeze Algorithm 2.0, introduced in May 2018, expanded its focus to combat misleading download links and inadequate resource delivery. By October 2018, Breeze Algorithm 3.0 integrated measures against title deception, fraud, and bundled downloads. It imposed strict restrictions on low-quality download sites in Baidu search results. In September 2021, Baidu announced the Breeze 4.0 update to enhance user download experiences. The upgraded Breeze algorithm now limits the display of substandard download sites in Baidu search results.
The Lightning (闪电) Algorithm, launched by Baidu in early October 2017, is explicitly designed to improve the mobile search experience. Primarily addressing the loading time of the first screen, emphasising the allocation of network bandwidth for optimal loading speed and user experience across different network conditions. It provides preferential treatment to mobile web pages loading within 2 seconds on the first screen while suppressing those with slow load times (3 seconds or more).
In May 2019, the Trade Wind (信风) Algorithm was introduced to tackle the automatic redirection triggered by users clicking on page-turning buttons. This algorithm specifically targets instances where users are redirected to other pages that do not match the page expected by the user. Such as directories or off-site advertising pages, when engaging with the page-turning function. The primary focus is on enhancing user experience by preventing unwanted automatic redirects.
The Ivy (绿箩) Algorithm, launched in February 2013, initially focused on addressing link farming practices, including intermediaries for hyperlinks, link trading websites, and link purchasing. In its July 2023 update (Ivy Algorithm 2.0), the algorithm underwent refinement to filter out advertorial links that are either unrelated or unnatural more effectively. This update also introduced stricter measures to penalise websites involved in both the publication and purchase of advertorials.
The Thunderbolt (惊雷) Algorithms target deceptive practices that artificially boost website search rankings, specifically addressing the creation of malicious hyperlinks and the manipulative brushing of clicks. Launched in November 2017 (1.0), the algorithm initially tackled ranking manipulation through activities like brushing and clicking. The subsequent version in May 2018 (2.0) broadened its scope to suppress the visibility of cheating websites in search results, eliminating deceptive links and clicks. Serious infractions were documented in site history, resulting in permanent bans. In its latest iteration in January 2021 (3.0), the Thunderbolt Algorithm intensified efforts to combat sites seeking to improve search rankings by fabricating user behaviour.
Baidu launched the Fire Beacon Algorithm (烽火) to rigorously address behaviours that jeopardise user privacy and maliciously hijack websites. The Fire Beacon Algorithm 1.0, introduced in February 2017, aims to penalise websites engaging in malicious hijacking and crackdown on behaviours that compromise user experience and security. The Fire Beacon Algorithm 2.0, implemented in May 2018 and updated in October 2019, specifically targets the malicious theft of users’ private data, including the unauthorised acquisition of mobile phone numbers and the malicious hijacking of Baidu traffic.
Mastering Baidu SEO offers a competitive edge that can elevate your business. Continuously adapting and optimising your strategies ensures the thriving of your online presence in one of the world’s most dynamic digital markets. Stay tuned for further marketing tips in China.