Leading Chinese search engine Baidu, the Internet Society of China and the China Communications Standards Association have published a set of search engine marketing (SEM) regulations aimed at developing the sector as a reliable source of news and business.
According to local reports, the Search Engine Marketing Standard and Regulation is being circulated to drive out disreputable companies who tarnish the reputation of SEM in China and help to steer the healthy advancement of SEM.
Among the goals of the organisations involved include a wider education of the benefits of SEM for businesses looking to become involved with the medium, including an appropriate way to engage in it.
The regulations come one year after Baidu found itself embroiled in several SEM controversies, including accusations of blocking searches containing words associated with the melamine milk scandal as well as being found to have accepted money from fraudulent medical companies to include their websites in Baidu’s top search positions.
In response to the latter, Baidu launched an ad platform that separates its list of paid links from its general search listings.
Disgruntled companies unhappy with their dealings with Baidu further pledged to launch a mass lawsuit against the search engine in December. Each of these hurdles contributed to Baidu’s revenue drop that same month.
According to Barney Loehnis, head of Isobar Asia-Pacific, which is engaged in a search engine optimisation partnership with Baidu, the SEM landscape in China has become increasingly more focused on transparency following the incidents Baidu faced in 2008 as well as pressure from music and video providers looking to preserve copyright entitlements.
In the market, rival Google has worked to make its operations transparent, and Loehnis points out that the regulations are an attempt by Baidu to prove that it is also taking the matter seriously.
“Baidu has traditionally not been as transparent as others in showing what’s a paid result and what’s not, and in that case some consumers wouldn’t be aware of the paid or not paid and the result is that Baidu has fallen at one end of the spectrum where it’s not always known where they’re making money and not making money,” Loehnis said. “Any group operating in transparency has got to be good from a client’s point of view and I would interpret Baidu’s action as a step in the right direction.
“However, some Chinese companies do claim the moral high ground for more political reasons, so I think so it’s up to Baidu which way it falls and follow through to maintain these guidelines,” he continued.
Separately, Baidu announced the launch of a marketing promotion that will see it give Rmb 100 million (US$14.6 million) of display search ads to companies. The offer aims to promote its Baidu Search Marketing Services platform and gives participating companies a 60-day image display ad worth up to Rmb 10,000 ($1,464).
According to reports, the promotion was launched to help broaden Baidu’s image as an ad-sales provider.