Richard, the webmaster of an international B2B website, entered a dimly lit tea house after a hard day’s work. The smell of scalding tea mixed with the musty smell of old books, creating an eerie atmosphere. He took a seat at the counter and ordered a cup of tea. While sipping his tea, he noticed a strange figure sitting next to him. She looked kind of like a robot.
“Hello, I’m Richard. I’m a webmaster. What brings you to the bar?” asked Richard, trying to sound friendly.
Without warning, the bot spoke in Mandarin. Richard looked confused, but the bot didn’t seem to care. Instead, it turned on Baidu’s translation AI and continued speaking.
“I’m just here to take a break. It’s been a long day of browsing trillions of pages on the Internet.”
Richard’s eyes widened. “You’re a bot, right? What kind of bot are you?”
The bot replied, “I’m a Baidu bot. I scour the Internet every day looking for new content to add to the Baidu search index.”
Richard’s jaw dropped. “Wow, I’ve heard a lot about you. You must have a lot of insight into how websites work.”
The bot seemed annoyed. “Yeah, that’s true, but I’m not in the mood to talk about websites. I’ve been having a lot of problems with poorly programmed websites lately.”
“My website is pretty cool – have you seen it? I use a top-nodge JS framework that I’ve featured on some of the most recent front-end JS websites.”
“Actually, I’ve been watching you, Richard,” the bot said. “I crawled your site, and I’m not impressed.”
Richard’s heart skipped a beat. How did the bot know his name, and what did he mean by not impressed? Nervously, he asked, “What’s wrong with my website?”
Richard felt a knot forming in his stomach. He had put a lot of effort into his website, but he knew he was no match for Baidu’s algorithm. “Can you help me fix it?” he asked.
The bot smirked. “I can, but it won’t be easy. Baidu’s standards are high, and you’ll have to work hard to meet them.”
Richard nodded. “I will do whatever it takes. Please, show me the way.”
The headlines were catchy – but not with the terms people would search for on the Internet.
Speaking of headings – they were just everywhere – in the navigation, in the footer, quotes were also marked with H1 (they were important – so H1 just felt right?!).
And he had even added the extra SEO text to the bottom of all those product category pages, just as his SEO friend from the other company had advised him to do. Little did he know that this was nothing more than spam and search engine bots just hate spam.
“You have to meet the user’s search intent with your pages,” the bot said.
“I have to what?” Richard asked, “I’ve already put the most important keywords everywhere after you told me my headlines wouldn’t mean anything to you. Now you want me to change them again?”
“You don’t have to do anything. But if you want me to rank your pages, you have to do more than just match the keywords – you have to be willing to satisfy the human user. And I know exactly what they want – just look at the pages I’m currently ranking.”
“But they are all in Chinese. That doesn’t matter for my business. All engineers speak good English, don’t they? And – what do I have to see – all those top-ranking pages are on .cn domains except for Baidu itself? I was planning to move to a Chinese TLD next month.”
“Yeah, the ‘you need to use a .cn or your SEO in China will fail’ is a common myth – even big SEO tool websites repeat that. Don’t fall for that. A Chinese TLD like .com.cn or .cn can be a good hint for us bots and for the users, that the website is meant for Chinese users. But a generic TLD works just as fine. …”
“… talking about your .com domain. Without a Chinese language version, I will not rank you well for any Chinese keyword – and yep, Chinese engineers look for Chinese keywords – not for English ones. …”
“… talking about English, and French, and German, and Spanish … do you really think, that I think a website that hosts the content of those many languages might be of any interest to Baidu”s Chinese audience? The more pages in Non-Chinese languages you have on your website, the higher the chance of misleading ‘my’ Chinese users to the wrong language content – and the more options to switch the language you offer – the higher is the chance ‘my’ Chinese users land on non-Chinese content. You have to fix that. Get this .cn domain you already registered and build a Chinese only website for the Chinese audience.”
After weeks of hard work, Richard submitted his website to Baidu for crawling and indexing. He anxiously awaited the bot’s verdict and visited the tea house every evening. But the bot didn’t show up again.
But one night he found a note on his table – more of a riddle. What does that mean? A blue ‘f’ crossed with a red line, a light blue ‘t’ crossed with a red line, a white ‘y’ on red ground crossed with a black line. Aside of that a double-‘Q’ not crossed with any lines, a pair of green speech bubbles with eyes.
Richard was puzzled – but he was eager to find out.
Days turned into weeks, and Richard began to lose hope. But just when he was about to give up, the bot returned.
Richard sipped his tea shakily and watched the Baidu bot sitting across from him. He had struggled for months to improve his website’s ranking on the search engine, and now his chance had come.
“What do you think?” asked Richard nervously, setting down his cup. The bot didn’t answer, just stared at him with its blank, black eyes. Finally he spoke.
“You’ve done a good job so far,” the bot said in a robotic voice. “But if you want to continue improving your website’s ranking, there’s more to do. He gave Richard a few more tips on how he could improve his SEO strategy, and then disappeared without another word.
As he left the teahouse, Richard couldn’t help but feel uneasy. He had made a deal with the devil, and he knew he had to keep improving his website to stay in Baidu’s good graces. “But you’re not done yet,” a voice whispered, “you promised to do good. You’ve improved, and your site is ranking better. But you still have a long way to go. Now go!”.
He looked around – there was no one to be seen. Was this the bot – or was it just his restless mind playing tricks on him, remembering what he expected the bot might have said to him? But at the moment, he was just glad that he had survived the encounter with the Baidu bot.