In a significant shake-up, Chinese search giant Baidu has changed its online advertising formats. The changes, implemented in May, will impact the way search results are displayed and the way many businesses market using Baidu.

We take a look at the changes, and what they might mean for businesses.

What are the changes?

While the number of paid ads displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs) was unlimited, it is now restricted to four ads and no more than 30% of page space. Right-hand bar ads also no longer appear, and the difference between paid ads and organic search results will be clearer.

Why has Baidu made these changes?

According to news sources, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) investigated Baidu’s healthcare advertising practices following the death of a student, after she tried out an expensive cancer treatment that was advertised on a Baidu SERP.

This event brought some criticism of the way the company allows healthcare advertising (which is estimated to comprise a substantial proportion of the company’s ad revenue) on its SERPs. It has forced the company to apply more scrutiny when it comes to paid advertising – particularly regarding the quality of healthcare ads.

What the changes could mean for advertisers

The changes are likely to lead to a great deal more competition for ad space. It also means it will cost more for advertisers who wish to nab one of these limited spots.

Businesses that want to advertise on Baidu might need to rethink their advertising strategies and budgets in light of this. Advertisers will also need to ensure that their ads are truthful and ethical, and of high quality.

On the more positive side for many businesses, with paid advertising space being limited to 30%, the remaining 70% of page space will be devoted to organic search.

This highlights the need for businesses to invest in solid SEO and tailored Asia SEM strategies, and to develop a quality website with localised content to attract traffic and facilitate brand interest.

SERP pages are also likely to be less crowded under the changes, making them easier for audiences to navigate and read.

Need help from China marketing pros?

While competition is likely to be fierce for paid ad spots, the changes could open up a wealth of opportunity in the organic search stakes. If you need assistance with your China marketing strategy, our bilingual team has a deep understanding of the marketplace, and many years of experience in localising content for Chinese audiences and implementing SEO and SEM strategies.

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