Baidu continues to fend off search rivals

Chinese internet search giant Baidu is likely to maintain its lead over rival Google in its native territory for the time being, given the firm’s aggressive expansion plans.

Baidu, which leads Google in the world’s largest Internet search market by volume, has launched several new products this year aimed at maintaining its dominant position.

But the firm faces stiff competition from home-based web portals such as Sina.com and NetEase. And Google is stepping up its own efforts, despite the difficulties it faces in adjusting its algorithm for the complex Chinese language.

“It’s not just at this moment that we are competing. We have a lot of new innovations to help us to maintain our dominant position,” Li Yinan, chief technology officer of Baidu, told Reuters.

Among its new products is a search platform called Box Computing, which allows users to input a question and retrieve an answer without having to click a link.

Baidu has high hopes that this more intuitive search will help it continue to fend off Google, and even to stretch its current advantage even further. Baidu currently has 61.6 per cent of volume in terms of revenue while Google has 29 per cent, according to Analysys International.
UBS analyst Li Wenlin said in a note that Baidu’s new search solution is better than Google’s, given that online information contained on Chinese websites is not well organised and the Chinese language requires a more sophisticated algorithm than English.

Baidu is also looking at expanding its e-commerce platform Youa to tap into China’s burgeoning B2C market. “E-commerce will be a focus of ours over the next 5 years,” said Li Yinan.

Google was a tiny player in China’s market in 2003 with only a 2 per cent market share, but has steadily grown into Baidu’s formidable rival with innovative offers for the Chinese Internet surfer such as free music downloads.

However, the search giant also faced tighter scrutiny from Beijing censors who this year criticised Google for its “pornographic” content and asked the company to audit its searches.

But where Google has lagged Baidu, say analysts, is not in technology but in its sales and marketing effort.
According to the UBS report issued late last month, Google has no direct sales force in China whereas Baidu has close to 3,600.

Steven Cox

Steven Cox spent many years as an offline journalist before joining Lakestar McCann. He has worked as a specialist correspondent for a market-leading transport magazine, a news journalist for major regional newspapers, a commercial features writer with the Manchester Evening News, and a freelance writer and sub-editor. He is now heavily involved in helping Lakestar McCann clients achieve wide coverage through keeping their news feeds updated, as well as in writing and updating on-site copy.

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