Comments on Google VS Baidu

David DeGeest pointed me (via Twitter) to an interesting article: Google vs. Baidu: A User Experience Analysis. I suspect most readers of my blog are already quite familiar with Baidu and much of the content of the article, but I did find several points very interesting.

On searching “subprime mortgage” (次级房贷):

>This time appears to do much better than Baidu. But if we look closely at the top 20 search results, we’ll find there are 7 results at and 5 results at that direct us to Web sites that use traditional Chinese characters, which are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and by the overseas Chinese community.

> It can be rather challenging for the mainland Chinese to read traditional Chinese, though they can understand most of the message. Nonetheless, this mix of simplified and traditional Characters is not the most user-friendly approach. Verdict: Baidu wins.

I was somewhat surprised by this conclusion. While it’s true that reading simplified characters is more comfortable for the average mainland Chinese citizen, one would think that breadth of search counts for something. If, for example, I’m doing a search on a Taiwanese politician, I’m likely going to want to see articles from Taiwan (which will be in traditional characters). I also know for a fact that many of my Chinese friends prize very highly information sources from Hong Kong or Taiwan.

I’m not saying the author is wrong in his conclusion, though. I think that the Chinese people I hang out with are a rather international-minded bunch. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Also, while the whole subprime thing is not at all a favorite conversation topic of mine, when I hear it referred to in Chinese, it’s usually by the abbreviated name 次贷. The search numbers for this term are a bit different:

Baidu: 6,940,000 results (compared to 1,050,000) 2,180,000 results (compared to 387,000) 2,220,000 results (compared to 1,540,000)

Clearly, searching for 次贷 gives Baidu a clear advantage. I realize perhaps the author was trying to go for the “translation feel” in his search results, but it’s interesting to see the results of the same search “with Chinese linguistic characteristics.”


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I don’t think showing 6,940,000 results instead of 2,180,000 results is a clear advange. Surely what matters is the quality of the first few results because mo one is going to browse through that many results.

    Maybe more results means that Baidu indexes more pages and therefore is theoretically capable of producing better results but you can’t just assume that’s true. Maybe the searching algorithms aren’t as precise and return lots of bogus results, who knows…

    Also, Google only lets you browse through the first 1000 results anyway. Baidu seems to have a similar restriction.

  2. Luís,

    Good point.

    (Nice website, by the way!)

  3. I’m sceptical about the effectiveness of Baidu as the most efficient search option, but that point is negated by how damn popular it is (though higher income mainland Chinese segments seem to have a bias towards Google).

    See this eye tracking survey for some good analysis of the user experience. More studies like that need to be made public.

  4. “Maybe more results means that Baidu indexes more pages and therefore is theoretically capable of producing better results but you can’t just assume that’s true. Maybe the searching algorithms aren’t as precise and return lots of bogus results, who knows…”

    Well put by Luis.

    I’m not familiar with Baidu. Heck, I’m not really all that familiar with Google’s stateside competition. But as with most tools of this sort, it benefits the user to learn the ins and outs and apply the them to his search. The portion you quoted didn’t say how many of the top 20 results on Baidu returned pages using traditional Chinese. If it’s zero, well, I could see that indicating a lack of breadth on Baidu’s part. Some may find that useful, others may not. That’s the way of the world.

  5. I am a mainland chinese.
    Actually,it is very very easy for mainland chinese to read and understand traditional chinese,though it is rather hard to write
    them correctly.
    The point is that is NOT the same as in mainland.

  6. How do you create the effect where hovering shows 汉字 and pinyin? I know I can do it with pera kun but I like this effect.

  7. A Chinese man reviews a Chinese website versus a foreign website. Conclusion: the Chinese website is superior! Surprise, surprise.

    And he’s being very disingenuous when he criticizes Google for its lack of maps – in China, accurate maps are state secrets. Of course they won’t be on the website.

    The part where he criticizes Google for not encouraging stealing intellectual property is rich. Baidu’s MP3 search is one of the more embarrassing things about living in China. It really brings home how much they don’t care about creative people.

  8. xiaobushuo Says: June 7, 2008 at 2:08 am

    good points everybody..
    well just to retort Yap’s “very easy to read…rather hard to write the traditional chinese correctly”.in fact,in my opinion,it is not that easy when reading a full piece of work in traditional chinese;besides,it is,for most mainland chinese,impossible to write 99% of the characters in traditional chinese
    -no offend.haha

  9. Hey Sinosplice,

    Glad I could point you in the direction of something interesting! You can find me at my new blog (I listed the link above). I’ve left CFM and am in the states doing a PhD in org behavior.


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