Building an Academic Brand in China: The Importance of Baidu
China has been actively integrated into the global scientific community and is a critical player in the world research market, overtaking even the US in research output. Consequently, many international publishers and journals are interested in expanding their presence in this country. As one of China’s digital giants, Baidu has grown to be not just a search engine, but a vital medium for journals, publishers, and societies, and an integral component of any strategy to successfully penetrate the Chinese research market.
What is Baidu?
Although Google has dominated the search engine market in many countries, it is not the case in China. Since Google pulled out of the Chinese market in 2010, local search engines have been quickly developed to fit the Chinese language and culture better. Baidu is the most popular search engine in China, with a market share of 70% (across devices). As of September 2022, Baidu dominated the Chinese search engine market for mobile users in particular (market share of 79.65%). Baidu has more than 1.1 billion users. According to the QuestMobile report, only three companies have achieved such a milestone: Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.
Baidu is one of the world’s largest AI and Internet companies. Over the years, it has grown far beyond a search engine and has set up a massive ecosystem. This ecosystem has components that are similar to their western competitors, with some important differences. Let’s look at these in detail below.
Baidu Baike, the Chinese version of Wikipedia, serves as a collaborative Chinese encyclopaedia for over 800 million internet users in China. As an essential part of the Baidu ecosystem, the entries of Baidu Baike predominate in Baidu search results. Therefore, all brands make an effort to set up quality pages on Baidu Baike for better visibility (see, for example, the pages by Elsevier and IOP). Anyone can create and maintain entries on Baidu Baike by following their content approval principles, such as canonical term names, objective facts, verifiable content sources and complete term structure.
Baidu Scholar is the equivalent of Google Scholar. It was launched in June 2014 as a free academic resource search platform. Baidu Scholar aims to be China’s most extensive research platform, including acquiring English-language resources and publications. By 2021, it had covered more than 1.2 million domestic and international academic sites, such as those from Wanfang, Elsevier, Wiley, and Springer, through license agreements with these publishers. It offers not just literature search services but also citation management and plagiarism check services, among others.
Baidu News Feed
Baidu News Feed has several features that support effective market promotion and advertising. For example, the mobile Baidu homepage provides user-friendly rich formats for ad placements with massive daily internet traffic. With advanced AI algorithm support from Baidu, the Baidu News Feed can enable marketers to customize promotions for specific target segments, based on user search records, personal interests, and internet behavioural records. Charges for advertising are based on user clicks, known as the Baidu PPC (Pay Per Click). The minimum click fee for each advertisement is 0.3 yuan. When the daily click volume reaches the limit of the pre-set budget, the system will automatically stop displaying the advertisement.
Baidu Tieba, the largest interest-based online community in China, was established in 2003. It is generally similar to Reddit and allows for a wide variety of posts; users share posts related to their own hobbies and interests, their views on current events, or just their daily lives. Thus, the platform can support brand storytelling and story building efforts. Baidu Tieba has almost 45 million users per month and is popular among younger generations. It has high user stickiness and significant social network influence. Being an online community forum, it provides a centralized network for different brands to create promotions for a targeted market. For example, promotions for a conference can be customized to the Tieba on that specific subfield or area. Baidu Tieba is a valuable alternative branding platform in addition to Weibo (equivalent to Twitter) and Zhihu (equivalent to Quora).
Baidu Wenku is Baidu’s online interactive document-sharing platform, launched in 2009. It provides an official certification logo to safeguard the reputation of quality content. In 2021, the Thieme Group was the first international publishing group to sign a comprehensive agreement with Baidu Wenku. Baidu Wenku provides an online submission service for researchers by which they can upload articles with “one-click” convenience. Additionally, Baidu’s AI marketing feature enhances the precision of personalized information retrieval. Baidu Wenku’s total traffic has exceeded 20 billion users as of September 2021.
How to use Baidu to build a Presence in China
A Baidu Trust Certificate is the most important consideration for any journal or publisher in order to safely build a sustainable presence in China. It is Baidu’s own SSL certificate brand, which provides globally trusted server verification and data transmission encryption services. With regard to advertising strategy, journals and publishers need to pay attention to the e-Baidu platform, which is designed to provide search engine marketing services in Chinese, while the Baidu Brand Zone and Baidu SEM on AdChina.io provide international collaboration platforms for English speakers. For example, the Baidu Brand Zone advertising service can display a large section of text, images, and other multi-media advertisements when the user searches for the brand name. Baidu Brand Zone offers a higher conversion rate than traditional Baidu PPC advertising. China Internet Watch estimated that using the Brand Zone can result in a 78% increase in purchase intent.
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