Top 3 Chinese search enginesA quick introduction to Baidu, 360 Search and Sogou
The search engine market in China doesn’t differ that much from Western countries, just the main players are others. Baidu was originally modeled after Google and for a long time also dominated the Chinese market in a similar manner as Google did with the US and Europe. However, in recent years, Baidu’s two main competitors, Qihoo 360 and Sogou made up some ground and successfully took away some market share from Baidu. While Google isn’t playing a role anymore in China, Microsoft’s search engine Bing is a viable alternative especially for searches in languages other than Chinese. We’ll come to Bing in one of the upcoming posts, so for now let’s concentrate on the Chinese big 3.
As mentioned above, Baidu can by all means be regarded as the Google of China. Similar to Google, it’s name became the synonym for online search (百度一下 – bai du yi xia – let’s Baidu). Baidu has a rough market share of a little over 50% and also controls a big share of the online ad market.
Baidu’s headquarter is in Bejing and the company is listed on NASDAQ. Again, similar to Google, what started out as a search company is today a holding company with multiple subsidiaries, search being one of them. You can go to Baidu’s English investor relations page or to Wikipedia for more information on Baidu as a company.
360 Search is also known under Qihoo 360, Haosou.com and today runs under www.so.com. Different to Baidu, where everything started with search, the 360 brand is actually better known for it’s anti virus software and other security tools. So.com still made it to the second most important search engine in China with a market share of betwen 25% and 30%.
Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd. is traded on the New York Stock exchange. More information on the company itself can be found on the investor relations website and on Wikipedia. For those interested in 360’s safety tools, you can take a look at their English website here.
Sogou.com (literally “search dog”) is the third biggest search engine in China. It launched in 2004 and today has a market share of around 15%. Sogou is a majority-owned subsidiary of the NASDAQ listed compay Sohu Inc., an early internet company that is also a major player in online advertising and gaming.
In 2013, Chinese internet giant Tencent bought a 36.5% stake in Sogou from Sohu Inc., merging it with it’s own search engine and looking to integrate it into its own products like QQ, Tencent Weibo and WeChat (among others). Only recently it was announced that Bing would cooperate with Sogou to improve its English search results.
When it comes to pure search engines, other players are almost non-existent. Bing is keeping up its efforts to get a foot in the market and is probably the best alternative for foreigners in China, but in terms of market share, 90+ percent of the market is controlled by the big three.
Having said that, it is important to mention, that search in China is not limited to search engines. Other than in the West where most of the searches are done through Google or other search engines, in China a considerable amount of searches are done on social media platforms directly.
The top 3 search engines in China pretty much dominate the market in the Mainland. Similar to the US and Europe, where Google is the must-go-to platform when it comes to SEO, proper consideration of Baidu is a must in China – information on how to do that will follow in the near future.
However, other than in the West, the competition can’t simply be ignored (shouldn’t be done in the West either). 360 Search and Sogou are giving Baidu a run for its money and are backed by big companies with the power to go on and steal market share away from Baidu in the future. So making sure all 3 big players are considered in your China SEO strategy would probably be the best and safest way forward.
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