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In January 2010 Google declared it would stop censoring search results in China and now redirects traffic to its uncensored Hong Kong service. Since then the Beijing-based, Chinese-language search engine’s Nasdaq shares have jumped 54%. This makes Baidu the unequivocal leader in the Chinese search engine industry.

According to iResearch Baidu controls 63% of Chinas market share in the search industry.  In April 2010, Baidu ranked 7th overall in Alexa’s internet rankings and.

Baidu is a Chinese and Japanese search engine for websites, audio files, and images and was incorporated on January 18, 2000.  Baidu provides an index of over 740 million web pages, 80 million images, and 10 million multimedia files. It also offers multi-media content including MP3 music and movies, and was the first search engine in China to offer WAP and PDA-based mobile search.

Baidu proactively censors its content in line with government regulations, allowing it to prosper in Google’s absence unhindered by the government.  According to the China Digital Times, Baidu has a long history of being the most proactive and restrictive online censor in the search arena. Documents leaked in April 2009 from an employee in Baidu’s internal monitoring and censorship department show a long list of blocked websites and censored topics on Baidu search.

Baidu offers a number of services to locate information, products and services using Chinese-language search terms. Such as, search by Chinese phonetics, advanced search, snapshots, spell checker, stock quotes, news, images, video and space information, and weather, train and flight schedules and other local information.

Among the many services offered by Baidu, including a mapping tool (which not as developed as the Google equivalent), the Baidu Knows provides users with an online community which is query-based and searchable to exchange views and share knowledge and experiences. (similar to Yahoo Answers), The Baidu News provides links to a selection of local, national and international news, and presents news stories in a searchable format, within minutes of their publication on the Web.

Chinese government and Chinese industry sources stated that Baidu received a license from Beijing, which allows the search engine to become a full-fledged news website. Thus Baidu will be able to provide its own reports, besides showing certain results as a search engine. The company is already getting its news department ready. Baidu is the first Chinese search engine to receive such a license.

An interesting addition to Baidu is its MP3 Search service, which produces algorithm-generated links to songs and other multimedia files provided by Internet content providers. While such works are copyrighted under Chinese law, Baidu claims on its legal disclaimer that linking to these files does not break Chinese law. This has led other local search engines to follow the practice, including Google China, which uses an intermediate company called Top100 to offer a similar MP3 Search service.

Baidu Space is the social networking service of Baidu, which allows registered users to create personalized homepages in a query-based searchable community. Registered users can post their Web logs, or blogs, photo album and certain personal information on their homepages and establish their own communities of friends who are also registered users.

By July 2009, it had reached 100 million registered users. This represents one of the many social tools incorporated into the Baidu search engine; other services include Baidu Love and Baidu Games.

They also offer a host of specific search tools such as a patent tool, educational tool and a legal search tool.  This allows the results to be highly specialised within a relevant area.

Baidu’s Pay for placement (P4P) platform enables its customers to reach users who search for information related to their products or services. Customers use automated online tools to create text-based descriptions of their web pages and bid on keywords that trigger the display of their webpage information and link.

The P4P platform is an online marketplace that introduces Internet search users to customers who bid for priority placement in the search results. Baidu also uses third-party distributors to sell some of its online marketing services to end customers and offers discounts to these distributors in consideration of their services.

Baidu offers certain consultative services, such as keyword suggestions, account management and performance reporting. Baidu suggests synonyms and associated phrases to use as keywords or text in search listings. These suggestions can improve click-through rates of the customer’s listing and increase the likelihood that a user will enter into a transaction with the customer.

Baidu also provides online daily reports of the number of click throughs, clicked keywords and the total costs incurred, as well as statistical reports organized by geographic region.

For more about information about Google in China read our article Google Censors Chinas Search Results.