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Baidu Expanded into Brazil: Why It’s a Great Decision & What it Means for the Future

Originally published at SearchEngineJournal

Last month Baidu, the dominant search engine in China, announced they launched aPortuguese version of their search engine in Brazil. (You might notice they have opted for a subdomain on their .COM, instead of the .COM.BR Brazilian TLD that Google uses, but that’s for another post.)

Brazil might seem like an odd first expansion choice for a search engine that is primarily focused on the Chinese language, but when you dig into the details, it actually quite logical.

Baidu Expanded into Brazil: Why This Was a Great Decision and What it Means for the Future

Baidu’s Background

For those unfamiliar with Baidu, their algorithm is similar to other search engines in that it calculates a web document’s relevance to a query by using a set of on-page and off-page factors. However, the quality of results is not the same as you might see on Google.

The reason for the lower quality is that Baidu’s algorithm gives far more weight to easy to game factors like keyword density and low quality links, whereas Google is a bit more sophisticated in determining relevancy. Additionally, Baidu has a much smaller index due to their weaker crawling capabilities.  As a result, anyone optimizing for Baidu knows that submitting a sitemapto Baidu’s Webmaster Tools is critical to facilitate efficient discovery of their site.

Some of the weakness in the algorithm could be explained by a lack of competition, which meant Baidu had little motivation to innovate and constantly improve search quality. Google’s departure from China in 2010 was quite beneficial for Baidu, and for a couple of years they easily dominated the search market in China.

Baidu’s Challenge

Everything changed for Baidu in 2012 when Qihoo 360,  a software company known for antivirus software, launched it’s own search engine so.com. Surprising many in the Chinese search world, Qihoo quickly zoomed to a 10 percent market share in their first year of business.

Qihoo is currently the second largest search engine in China with 23 percent of the market. Additionally, Baidu competes against Sogou.com a company that just recently merged their search engine with Tencent’s Soso search engine. The combined Sogou market share is 11 percent.

The new competition has steadily driven Baidu’s market share lower over the last two years.  While Baidu is still the market leader, they now have just 63 percent market share compared to their 72 percent at the end of 2012.

With their market share taking a beating in its domestic market, it makes a lot of sense that Baidu decided to find some growth in what they perceived to be low hanging fruit outside of China.

Why Brazil?

While to some it might seem like a fool’s journey to enter the Brazilian market, where Google currently has a 98 percent market share, there actually are a number of reasons why Brazil is the perfect choice for Baidu’s foray into new markets.

  1. Brazil still has relatively low Internet penetration at only 46 percent, so Baidu’s challenge is less about converting Google users to Baidu users than it is about getting new internet users to start using Baidu. This is the precise challenge that Baidu faces in China where only 42 percent of people are online.
  2. Just like China, Brazil is also a member of the “BRIC” (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations, which are countries deemed to be at similar stages of economic development. If Baidu had to choose one country to enter, it would make sense to choose a country that has very similar economic characteristics. Furthermore, out of the other three countries on the BRIC list, Brazil is the only country where Baidu has a chance of competing. Yandex, the Russian homegrown search engine, dominates the Russian search and, as I recently wrote, even Google faces numerous challenges at knocking Yandex out of the top spot. In India, a significant amount of search queries are conducted in English, and Baidu is unlikely to beat Google in the English language search for the near future.
  3. Aside from economic growth there are other similarities between the two countries such as a large growing middle class and a highly educated workforce. It is logical that Baidu would consider opening a local office with a staff that has a similar makeup to employees in corporate headquarters in Beijing.
  4. Baidu is a strong mobile company, and their mobile users even outnumber their PC customers. Brazil is on pace to become a mobile first country, if its current mobile connection rates continue, and Baidu might see this as a competitive advantage.

Time will tell if entering Brazil was a wise decision for Baidu, but the real significance behind this expansion is that it shows that Baidu is starting to think and act global. They have already announced that Thai and Arabic are next, and they surely have thoughts on where to go afterwards.

Should Google be worried that they will enter the US market? Probably not right now.

The Baidu algorithm isn’t ready yet for that level of competition, but the recent hire of a deep learning expert from Google could mean that Baidu has every intention on improving quickly. One thing is certain; the next few years will be very interesting in the search market.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Wikipedia
Post Image: Wikipedia


Google Updates “Right to Be Forgotten” Notification

Originally published at SearchEngineJournal


In late May, the European Court of Justice ruled that Google is required to remove results deemed to be “irrelevant” and “outdated.” In order to comply with this ruling, Google set up a form that allowed people to complain about specific results. To prevent fraudulent requests intended to manipulate search results, the form requires users to supply documentation verifying their identity.

When results are removed from search, Google sends a message to the Webmaster via Webmaster Tools. The original notification Google sent about removing content from its European index was fairly sparse. The message just stated a URL had been removed and shared the referenced URL, but did not give any more information. Google linked to an FAQpage, but there was no additional information about why results are removed from search.

The tone and lack of context could have been quite scary if you were unaware of why Google was sending you this message. Any message that content is being removed from search results is bound to cause concerns for the recipient.

Updated Notice

Now, Google has an updated message using much clearer language and even provides a method to dispute removal with a link to more information about why results are removed.

right to be forgotten

Screenshot taken October 07, 2014

The message states why the content is removed, informs the you that no action is required, and even tells the you not to bother figuring out why the content was removed since the name of the requestor might not even be in a prominent place on the page. Most importantly, the message should allay any concerns about a penalty since it very clearly says that the page has not been blocked from search.

Interestingly, they state results are only being removed for the exact query specified by individuals in their original request form. For example, if a user only requested to have a result removed for John Smith that showed John Smith’s arrest for a DUI, the result would still show for John P. Smith if it had previously ranked on this query.

What Should You Do?

If you receive one of these emails, you shouldn’t be concerned about any dramatic impact to your site, as it seems from the message Google is doing only the bare minimum to comply with the European law (for now). There’s also no harm in at least trying to make a good case for why the URL should not be removed from Google. To argue your case, head over to thepage linked in the notification and fill out the form.

Right to be Forgotten complaint

Screenshot taken October 07, 2014

You can either show you have removed sensitive content from the story (if you can figure out what triggered the removal) or show why the URL contains information the general public needs to know. Google has stated repeatedly that they will not remove links that provide information that is in the public interest.

It is important for public safety to know an individual may have been convicted of a violent crime; however, a story about someone’s arrest for public intoxication is not really that important. If you can provide a good case for why the removed URL is in the public interest, you can at least provide a counterbalance to the complaint form.

Ultimately, as with any appeal to Google, you may not be successful, but at least you are not just allowing your content to be removed from European search results without a fight.


Featured Image: JuliusKielaitis via Shutterstock


Baidu is Now a Mobile First Search Engine

Originally published at SearchEngineJournal

On October 29th, Baidu, China’s largest search engine, announced their Q3 earnings. In their earnings report, they declared that they had a “very strong quarter,” mostly as a result of mobile, which provided 36% of the total revenue, up from 30% in the previous quarter.

Mobile Eclipses the Desktop

Most newsworthy in the earnings report is that for the first time ever, mobile accounted for more traffic than desktop. Mobile has been an intense area of focus for Baidu, and they have spent heavily to conquer the mobile market. Baidu has paid smartphone makers to bundle its apps in their devices, and they made investments into gaming among other mobile initiatives.

Additionally, over the past summer, Baidu launched an algorithm specifically for mobile search called “Baidu Ice Bucket” which is sort of like Google’s Top-Heavy algorithm. Baidu’s mobile algorithm specifically penalizes sites that have too many ads or show login walls before displaying content – both poor experiences on a small screen.

It appears that Baidu’s efforts are netting them positive returns. They now have 80% of the mobile search market compared to the about 62% of the desktop search market for while its closest desktop competitor, Qihoo 360, only has 2% of the mobile search market.

Baidu also reported that they have close to 500 million active users on mobile. Considering that there are over 1 billion people just in China, it seems that there is still a tremendous amount of upside for Baidu.

Comparison to the US

Here in the US while PC usage may be declining, according to Google’s Consumer Barometerthere is still significantly more desktop usage versus smartphones. The opposite is true in China where mobile has outpaced the desktop and Google has declared it to be a “mobile revolution.” In the US, Online business can still get away with not having a mobile strategy or even a mobile optimized website; however, in China it would be almost impossible to survive without a way of reaching mobile customers. In China, 99% of the online population use a smartphone to access the Internet versus 85% in the US.

Baidu is Now a Mobile First Search Engine

Google consumer barometer. Screenshot 11/4

Why Any of This Matters?

If you already know how foolish it is not to have a global SEO strategy, then you are probably already thinking about non-Google search engines around the world. When you optimize for Baidu, and the Chinese market in general, it is crucial that you put your mobile experience first. If you have an offline experience in China, you can even explore services from Baidu like Baidu Connect which enables retailers to build mini-apps just to connect with mobile users.

Nonetheless, even if you are not yet thinking globally, it pays to keep an eye on Baidu’s growth and innovations. It is unlikely that Baidu will enter the US market anytime soon, but they may launch in another country where you do business. Baidu’s experience in transforming the way people use the Internet in China will be very valuable as they spread their search tools around the world. Baidu recently launched in Brazil, and if they are successful in denting Google’s highly dominant market share there, anything can be possible.


Featured Image: Myheimu via Wikipedia


How to Use Surveys to Build Links

Anyone who has ever dabbled in any link building efforts is keenly aware that the easiest way to generate links organically is to publish unique and interesting content that others want to share with their readers. Yet, many site owners and bloggers are at a loss for an inexpensive method of creating truly interesting data. They don’t have the ability to break news on their own or spend vast sums of money to conduct research.

If this is an issue you’re facing in your link building efforts, a skillfully designed and promoted survey could be your answer. You could easily build a tool with an online tool like the leading survey website, and get started in minutes.

While the primary goal of a survey would be to collect unique data for the purposes of creating a linkable asset such as a data-rich blog post or infographic, there are a number of other business advantages. Surveys allow you to generate feedback from your audience and engage with the very people you are trying to sell or obtain links from. Additionally, a successful survey would guide you in tailoring content offerings to your existing audience and thereby increase the likelihood of getting a link. In the process you may also get some fantastic customer quotes to use in your marketing materials.

Here are the steps you need to get started.

Survey Goals

The first step is to decide your survey goal. What do you hope to accomplish with your survey? Your ideal end result should define the questions you need to ask and the amount of effort you will need to expend in promoting it put into creating it. Would you want to just get links to your site even if they aren’t relevant to your niche?

For this type of content you can run a survey about the latest news event. As an example, ask respondents who they plan to vote for in an upcoming election, or if they approve of recent technology updates on a popular product. Are you looking to better understand your own target market and audience? You’ll need to ask more specific questions that are pertinent to your business.

Armed with your survey goal, you’re ready to start brainstorming questions. If your goal is to better understand your audience, then ask how they use your website, why they choose your products, and what they think of your competitors. Develop specific questions and consider using rich media, like images and video.

Discover how they arrive at your site — by way of search engine or social media? If they use a search engine, is it Google or Bing? Open-ended questions can also be a great source of rich information, but keep in mind that analyzing your data can feel overwhelming if you end up receiving a ton of responses.

If one of your survey goals is to engage influencers, reach out to them directly for their input. Invite them to co-brand the publication of the results if they help you with creating the survey. You can also find great ideas on social media by asking your fans and followers to share the kinds of things they would like to know more about. Are they curious about your company name? Your employees? The source of your products? If you’re really stuck on ideas of questions to ask, build on existing research by probing into specific areas of interest to you. For example, Google vs. Bing is always a hot topic. Research topics to revisit, and look for different angles to dig even deeper within previously published analyses.

Once your survey is complete, it’s time to launch it.

Survey Launch

If you have a mailing list, ask recipients to complete the survey in your next email blast. Promote the survey on all of your social channels, and ask your fans to spread the link. Reach out to your influencers and ask them to share. If you are interested in targeted demographics or you require more respondents than you might be able to get on your own, you can use SurveyMonkey Audience.

Set a deadline for when your survey should close and start to analyze your survey responses once the deadline is up. One of the ways to dig even deeper into your data is with the cross tab feature. People who answered X, did they also say Y? Are women more likely than men to answer Z? As an added bonus to the data you’re collecting for link purposes, if you asked questions related to your business, you can then identify any pain points that your target audience might have with your product or website.

Now that you’re finished analyzing your data, you’re ready to develop your data into a linkable asset. Every survey you complete actually gives you multiple opportunities for building an asset that can attract links and publicity.

Follow These Five Steps:

1)       Publish the results into an engaging and embeddable infographic.

2)       Write a blog post that summarizes the survey results.

3)       Release a summary of the results data in a PowerPoint or PDF that you can share on Slideshare.

4)      Create a YouTube video that explains the survey and the results.

5)      Release the raw survey results in another blog post that encourages people to download and conduct their own analysis with the data.

While inevitably some sites will link to the Slideshare or YouTube links instead of your site, you will at least get brand mentions that could lead to links later on.

It’s probably most beneficial to release each asset one at a time instead of all at once, so each publication can be a new attempt at generating links and exposure. Utilize press releases and social media to spread the word about your survey. If you had the assistance of influencers in the creation of the survey, reach back out to these same influencers to see if they will link to your results on their own sites. You can increase the likelihood of a link from them if you share attribution with the influencers in the publication of the results.

If you’ve been successful at generating organic pickup of your survey results, you may find there have been sites that scraped or quoted your data without giving you attribution. Set up an alert that searches for keywords within your survey, and immediately reach out to any sites that neglected to link to you appropriately.

Survey Conclusions

It’s important that once this process is complete you debrief and figure out what was successful and what can be improved upon. Could your initial research, pre-survey, have been a little bit better? Or were your questions clear with no ambiguity in the data? Use your conclusions to plan your next attempt and make it even better.




Before Larry Page and Sergey Brin ever founded Google, Ilya Segalovich and Arkady Volozh had already created Yandex, currently Russia’s largest search engine. Google focused on calculating the PageRank of websites, and Yandex’s ranking algorithm took into account the distance between words and the relevance of documents to a searcher’s query.

Both search engines have since evolved to be fairly similar in how they determine rankings, but Yandex remains the market leader in Russia with 62 percent of the Russian search market, while Google only has 27 percent. Except for Russia, South Korea and Japan, Google is the market leader in every country in the world.

Read on to learn more about Yandex’s reach, and its advantages over Google.

Playing second fiddle to Yandex in Russia is actually quite significant since the country is the largest Internet market in all of Europe with 75 million users. Additionally, Russian Internet penetration is only 53 percent compared to the 80-90 percent penetration in most other European countries, and this allows Russia to continue to have double digit year on year growth for the last few years.

Yandex market share numbers have been relatively stable if not increasing for the last few years, and I strongly believe that Yandex will remain the dominant search engine in Russia.

Here are the five top advantages Yandex has versus Google, which will help maintain Yandex’s share long into the future.

1) Yandex is a portal. Yandex is the largest media destination in all of Russia and for many Russians, Yandex.ru is where they begin their day. In fact, Yandex is the largest media property in all of Russia.

Much like Google, Yandex offers free email, live traffic maps, music, videos, photo storage and much more. Many of these same features are some of the products that Google used to grow its adoption in all around the world by introducing users to the Google brand. Google was able to lure users away from weaker products like Hotmail, Mapquest and even Dropbox to use the Google alternatives. In Russia, Google will not have this opportunity, as the Yandex versions are comparable, if not better.

2) Yandex is better for Russian language search. Yandex was created specifically for the Russian market and is better able to handle specific Russian search challenges. In general, Google is not nearly as effective at parsing user intent over spelling in non-English search, but it is even weaker in Russian.

For example, the Russian language is highly inflected and some words can have up to 20 different endings. All Russian nouns have a grammatical gender, and the gender of the noun will affect the rest of the words in the sentence. Even the spelling of individual’s name could change based on gender. To illustrate, Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin’s ex-wife has the last name “Putina” instead of just Putin. While Google’s search only ranks pages that are relevant to the specific user query as it is spelled, Yandex is able to parse the synonyms and user intent regardless of the user’s spelling. As a result, for highly infected search queries, Google is providing the weaker search experience and therefore does not make a solid case for why a user should use Google more frequently.

3) Yandex is even popular on Android. While Google is able to use its Android mobile operating system to grow mobile search due to the embedded nature of Google search in Android, it’s not that effective in Russia. In Russia, Android has 70 percent of the Russian mobile market; yet, Yandex still has 52 percent of the search market on these very Android devices.

Furthermore, last year Yandex launched its own fork of Android, called Yandex Kit, which allows users to use Android without Google. Yandex even has its own app store with thousands of apps. Any user with root access could use the forked version of Android. This version of Android is already being sold by two handset makers, and is seeing growing adoption.

4) Yandex is Russian. While Russians do have an affinity towards Russian brands they also seem to like foreign products. Nonetheless, in the wake of the Snowden/NSA scandal, Russians might prefer using Yandex simply because they distrust Google.

Also, the Russian Duma just passed a bill that restricts exports of personal data. This law, if implemented, could make it very difficult for Google to operate as they do elsewhere. Restricting the data flow and storage that Google uses to improve its search quality could squelch any opportunity for Google to really be successful in Russia. We could see a scenario in Russia similar to China where the regulatory environment might encourage Google to be a lot less competitive.

5) Yandex’s algorithm might be able to better account for spam. The Russian online market is notorious for outright link spam methods. There are countless “ad” agencies that exist just to sell links for the purpose of increasing search rankings. As a result, Yandex announced they will not use links in their algorithms on commercial queries conducted in specific areas of the country. Instead, Yandex will solely use user experience and keyword ranking metrics. This effort by Yandex is still early, but it mayallow Yandex to generate better quality results than Google which undoubtedly filters spam links, but is most likely still giving credit to low quality links.

In summary, while Yandex saw its market share rise over the last few years as its competitors Rambler and Mail.ru stumbled, Google’s market share of Russian search actually dropped slightly. Yandex is likely to continue to grow at the expense of Google due to market realities that just don’t exist outside of Russia.

With the high stakes and benefits that will come from the continued growth of the web in Russia, we can expect Google will not give up the fight (provided they aren’t legislated away). It will be very interesting to see what sort of investments and acquisitions Google will use to try to become the dominant search engine in Russia.


Google Test

Knowledge Graph Included in Individual Google Search Results

Google is testing inserting knowledge graph information as a part of the actual search result. Typical knowledge graph info is shown just for the primary search query when it matches a brand, but in this test they are adding that to all sites that have knowledge graph enabled. The text that is included in the snippet is the same text that is in the knowledge box that would show up on the right side of the results.

Here is what the results looked like in this test when I searched “survey”. Notice the brand name to the right of the URL underneath the title.

knowledge box in search


This is what the knowledge box looks like as a part of the search result:

Knowledge box opened in search

And here’s what Wikipedia’s knowledge box looks like:

Another knowledge example


Have you seen something similar?


Google Test

Google Test: Adwords With White Backgrounds

Google is testing a new way of displaying Adwords ads that does not show a differentiating background color and instead labels the ad spots as “Ad”. Except for this label the paid and organic spots look exactly the same.

Google Test Adwords

This is the standard view that Google is showing now to users not in the test.

Traditional Adwords View

This new way of displaying ads will definitely make it even harder for users to differentiate between paid and organic positions.


Does Google crawl 404 pages?

Does Google crawl and index 404 pages (not found)? I had heard conflicting theories from multiple people about how the Googlebot responded when it discovered a 404 pages. Does it immediately consider the 404 to be a hard stop, or will it crawl this like any other and possibly discover any linked pages.

I set out to find out by conducting the following test.

  1. I created a brand new page on an authoritative domain. There were no internal nor external links to this page
  2. The URL and title of the page was a single keyword that did not exist in Google
  3. Added a link to the new page on a 404 page of another authoritative domain
  4. The anchor text of the link was a word a word that did not exist in Google
  5. Edited a footer link on the domain to contain a typo, so Googlebot would crawl the 404 as fast as possible


  • Googlebot discovered the 404 in 6 hours.
  • Google immediately crawled the “hidden” page
  • The hidden page became the only result ranked on the non-existent keyword
  • There are still no results for the non-existent keyword used in the anchor text on the 404 page


  • Google does crawl links discovered on a 404 of an authoritative domain
  • Googlebot does not trust the anchor text

I will continue testing to learn if the results change on a non-authoritative domain, and if a page can get ranked on a competitive keyword if the only link is on a 404 page.


International SEO

International SEO, How To Get Started

My prediction for 2014 is that International and Multilingual SEO becomes more important than it has ever been. If you have been doing SEO for awhile you already know that good keyword research is the bedrock of any SEO campaign. Keyword research defines the domain you choose, the structure of your site, and the content you create. There are dozens of ways to do keyword research using anything from a simple Google suggest search to SEMRush for deep competitive research.

But what do you when you need to conduct research in a language you don’t speak? Suddenly, all those great keyword research tools become useless or at least really hard to use. Don’t despair! If you are willing to be a little bit patient you can do keyword research without knowing a single word in a given language if you follow these steps. You can even use your data to decide which phrases and synonyms to target just like you would in English.

To learn how to get started on International SEO, try some of the steps I outlined in the presentation below or discussed on video here.  Any questions? Get in touch!

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