An unscientific assessment of Baidu

Google has finally left the Chinese market for search, so I thought I would try the alternative Baidu. My trial is gloriously unscientific in nature and not particularly rigorous. I did what most consumers would have done and searched for myself.

I was quite open-minded about this, on the one hand Google has been killing the search market in Europe, nothing can touch it in the EU and they have made moderately successful forays into other sectors as well. I also know that Google is not all conquering, in fact the wheels start to come off the wagon when you venture into areas with non-Roman languages such as Russian, Korean, Japanese and Chinese.

On the other hand, Robin Li over at Baidu is no slouch. Baidu is famous for is huge index and its continued appetite to crawl content whenever and wherever it can find it.

Baidu like its Korean counterpart Naver has also managed a successful social search product running a question-and-answer service like a better version of Yahoo! Answers – largely free of spam and a more middle-class range of participants provide highly relevant quality content.

It is also blatantly obvious that Baidu doesn’t care whether it attracts a potential English-speaking audience as the entire site apart from investor relations is in Chinese.

Methodology

Outcomes

I was expecting some divergence between Google and Baidu search engine results pages for a number of reasons. Google crawls an estimated 15 per cent of the total web, and Baidu is likely to crawl a slightly larger amount. That means that their search indexes are likely to be slightly different. Secondly the results are usually ‘flavoured’ according to local market preferences such as language and local content.

I was a bit surprised at the level of divergence between Google and Baidu, which was great than I had seen between Google and Yahoo! in the past.

First of all flavouring. A comparison between the Japanese and Chinese versions of Baidu show a high degree of variance between the two versions of the Baidu search engine.

Baidu CN vs Baidu JP

Part of the reason for the difference may be due to Chinese regulations around permitted services, for instance an educational video of me by Econsultancy on YouTube is the top result on the Japanese site and a couple of twitter related hits come in at six and seven. The Japanese site skews much more toward video services than the Chinese site which picked up profile services Plaxo and Naymz.

Interestingly, the Chinese site picked up the re-direct URI for my blog (renaissancechambara.com), whereas neither the Japanese or the Chinese versions picked up my proper domain (renaissancechambara.jp) at all. Even when I clicked a few pages down.

Plotting Baidu China against Google Hong Kong produced an interesting diversity of the results.

Baidu CN vs Google HK

Their one point of correlation, my profile on Naymz. Again part of this may be because of my presence on services that don’t do business in China for instance YouTube and Twitter. Google rightly puts more weight and a consequently higher ranking on my Crunchbase and LinkedIn profiles than Plaxo which appears a couple of pages down on Google.

Baidu obviously puts much more emphasis on a historic redirect URI I have for my blog than the ‘real’ one and doesn’t seem to crawl the site in any great depth. I am guessing that this is because of its largely English language content.

Baidu JP vs Google JP

In Japan, the Baidu | Google comparison told a similar story. The Google flavouring between Hong Kong and Japanese versions wasn’t that great only showing differences at position five and lower on the page. Baidu Japan managed to pick up my last.fm profile and twitter profile, but didn’t pick up my blog or any professional information on the first page.

In conclusion, Baidu provides a great search experience for consumers, but am uncertain how valuable it would be for people in a professional context, for instance researching foreigners with whom they may be doing business or finding foreign presentations. I can understand why Chinese scientific audiences would be concerned by the departure of Google.

I also suspect that optimising content to make it searchable on Baidu is different to the process that I would go through for Google or Yahoo!, but that would merit far more investigation before I could blog with any confidence about it.

Links of the day

Google Apps Still A Tiny Business — Only $50 Million A Year — But Microsoft Should Be In Major Panic Mode – Some interesting information on how it is disrupting Microsoft’s corporate pricing strategy

5 Essential Apps for Your Business’s Facebook Fan Page

The Seven Needs of Real-Time Curators

Strange Days | whatleydude

How Wrong Is Net Censorship in Australia? The U.S. Government Is Officially Concerned About It – as Australia turns into North Korea

New PS3 firmware kills Linux | DigitalFoundry – Sony on a crash course to piss off geek gamers

Preview: Freebase Gridworks – dealing with the challenges of open data

The Digital Divide Will Ensure a Broadband Ghetto

A Conversation With Brad Garlinghouse, AOL’s President Of Consumer Applications

FORA.tv – The Future of Manufacturing in the US and Europe – economists wake and smell the coffee

Economists Urge Government to Stop War on Piracy | TorrentFreak – Digital Economy Bill-type measures don’t make economic sense according to Spanish economists

Making Contact With Mr. Gmail | Webmonkey

How does The Times going paywall affect the PR industry?

Aside from the obvious out-of-pocket expenses rise with The Times going behind a paywall, how is this going to affect PROs?

For a starter The Times Online becomes becomes a less attractive publication  to pitch in stories to, with the number of unique users estimated to fall from 1.2 million to 20,000 according to Forrester Research

It is also unclear how much (if any) Google juice stories will have as no one knows how the paywalled site will manage placing content into the Google index, or whether Google would want to index it given Rupert Murdoch’s hostility to the search engine. Usually, search engine take this content in on a specially formatted XML feed, but News International would be in a rather one-sided negotiation stance with Google over why they should take it.

This is all best guess speculation at the moment and it may be wrong. Sky disrupted the UK TV market and encouraged a substantial amount of the population to pay for television content where free content reigned previously. However this was mostly down to must-see exclusive content; something that The Times doesn’t have. Unlike fellow News Corp publication the Wall Street Journal – it isn’t an essential business tool either, given that there is equivalent high quality content easily available from around the world online The Times is in a tough position.

If the estimates are right then Times online-only coverage for clients may have little-to-no benefit for clients. What do you think?

Archived from blog posts I wrote for PR Week

There is no charge for awesomeness

I love Kung Fu Panda for its visual in-jokes and the line “There is no charge for awesomeness or attractiveness”. I was reminded of this by a window sticker I saw by South Korean logistics company Hanjin.

Hanjin Express

Whilst the Royal Mail has done some interesting product design like the electric mail trolleys and the custom-built post bikes, but there is nothing in their graphic or product design that would make you smile.

Links of the day

U.K. Kids Start Social Networking Way Under the Age Limit | Fast Company

::: Kenichi Tanaka – web zine :::: 卒業制作 / Final Thesis Project – love the 8bit styles

The Times’ Paywall – Can It Work? | Forrester Blogs – you can find my take on this here.

China To Lead The Race In Clean Energy? – PSFK

Consumer rights briefing on UK Digital Economy Bill for MPs – Boing Boing

Sony accuses Beyonce of piracy for putting her videos on YouTube – Boing Boing

Gen Y Highlights From SXSW Interactive – Ypulse reports back from SXSW Interactive on some of the youthier insights gleaned, trends spotted and more!

Internet Access Vital For Those With Chronic Disease | WebProNews

Russian Search Leader Yandex Launches Custom Google Chrome BrowserChina Youthology and Youth in 2009: Dreams in an uncertain age | China Youth Watch by China Youthology 青年志

4G Hype: Field of Dreams — Seeking Alpha – it reminds me of 2000 and 3G all over again, grandoise dreams and the slower mundane reality

The Onion Uses Django, And Why It Matters To Us : django

The IFPI’s obsession with depression – music industry spin to beat back internet

EU accessibility law won’t cover design of goods, says Presidency | Pinsent Masons LLP

Will social media weaken or strengthen brands? | brandchannel.com – interesting debate going on, says alot about the understanding of the sector by marketers