Usually SEO efforts are directed towards achieving top rankings with Google and sometimes with Yahoo and Bing. However, in addition to the Big Three, there are also other search engines that might be of interest to you. In fact, some of these search engines might prove a better option than Google, Yahoo or Bing. If these search engines are used by your target audience, they will be more efficient and it is worth to spend some time optimizing for them.
If you haven't heard about Baidu, don't worry. It is a popular search engine but its reach is not global and this is why many people don't even know about it. Still, Baidu is certainly not just one more search engine to waste your time with. Baidu is big in China and since the population of China is more than a billion, if you rank well with Baidu, this can make quite a difference. In fact, if you are operating globally, not to mention if your visitors are based mainly in China, you can't afford to miss this market. On the Chinese market, the share of Baidu is around 60% and it is the most popular Chinese language search engine. Google is less popular in China than Baidu, so if your traffic comes from the Chinese market, it pays to optimize your site for Baidu.
The algorithm of Baidu is different from the algorithms of Google, Bing, and Yahoo. In a sense, it is less sophisticated and it kinda resembles the algorithms of the other search engines from many years many years ago. Here are some tips what you should do in order to get decent rankings with Baidu:
Find the right Chinese keywords
Of course, as with other search engines, keywords are important for good rankings. You need to find the right Chinese keywords to optimize for. This might be a challenge because Chinese has many dialects and the same words have different meanings in different dialects. However, Pinyin Chinese is preferred by Baidu and this is why Pinyin Chinese is your best choice. You should stick to it not only for your keywords but for your content as a whole.
You need LOTS of content in Chinese
Even if Chinese is not the official language of your site, you need to have many pages in Chinese. With Baidu, content is king the same as with other search engines. When generating tons of content in Chinese, follow the official guidelines for what content is acceptable in China because there are strict rules there and if you don't obey, this could cost you not only your good rankings with Baidu.
Metatags weight a lot
Similarly to the early days of the other search engines, with Baidu metatags are very important, so don't forget to make your metatags top-notch. However, don't abuse metatags and don't stuff them with keywords.
Get a Pinyin Chinese domain name and host your site on a Chinese host
Domain names are important with Baidu as well. In addition to having keywords in your domain name, you need to have a domain name in Pinyin Chinese. You can use a .com, .net, or .cn extension with it. For even better results, host your site on a Chinese host because this gives you an additional bonus with Baidu.
Use simple navigation structures
Simple navigation structures are a must with every search engine but for Baidu they matter even more. Baidu won't follow links that are deeply buried in all kinds of messy code or that go many levels deep in the site hierarchy.
Watch for duplicate content
Baidu is very strict about duplicate content. With the other search engines you might also have problems, if you have duplicate content but Baidu is even less tolerant. Use a robots.txt to tell what not to index and you are safe.
No links to bad neighbors and no link farms
Linking to bad neighbors and getting links from link farms isn't a good idea with any search engine but penalties with Baidu are even more severe, so you need to consider this. Also, don't put too many outbound links on your site because this also affects your Baidu rankings in a negative way.
Plan in advance
In Google you can get top rankings for a week (though this certainly isn't the norm and we don't mean you should use blackhat strategies to achieve it) but with Baidu success doesn't come that fast. In Baidu it can take 6 months or more to achieve the good rankings you will achieve in Google overnight and you need to take this into account. For instance, if you are promoting a summer-related site, you should start optimization not later than November, so that when the season comes, your site will have achieved the rankings you want.
Make sure your site is spiderable
As you see, optimization for Baidu isn't totally different from optimization for any other search engine but it certainly has its specifics. Follow the rules, be patient and sooner or later success will come to you. When you are done with your Baidu optimization, it won't be a surprise, if your site starts ranking better with Google as well, especially for country-specific searches. When you have so much content in Chinese and a Chinese domain name, this will inevitably help you to achieve better rankings for your Chinese search terms in any other search engine.