Continuing our guide to SEO on the 5 major search engines in China, we move onto Qihoo 360 (so.com), which has the second largest market share and is the up and coming challenger to Baidu, acquiring the majority of Baidu’s lost market share in the process.
Qihoo 360’s emergence as the 2nd most visited search engine in China has been nothing short of remarkable. Though the search engine didn’t even exist prior to July 2012, 360 was able to capture 13.42% of the market share in less than a year! While still not close to Baidu’s commanding 67% market share, this explosive growth certainly makes Qihoo 360 a search engine that should be on your watch list.
So how did Qihoo 360 do it? The company first became known for their incredibly successful anti-virus software, later launching their own web browser to extend their influence. Like most browsers, Qihoo 360 came with an integrated search bar with the default search engine set to Google. Then on August 16, 2012, Qihoo 360 abruptly swapped out Google for their own brand new search engine as the default search engine, skyrocketing Qihoo 360’s search engine to the #2 spot overnight.
Now that Qihoo 360 has moved into Baidu’s territory, the companies are now fighting a turf war over various segments of the tech industry, with both companies vying to keep users within their own respective app ecosystems.
Baidu is now taking swipes at Qihoo 360 by entering the anti-virus software market, and has recently purchased a leading app store in China for $1.9 billion, showing their resolution to own the mobile arena.
Meanwhile in attempt to further challenge Baidu’s dominant market share, Qihoo 360 is rumoured to be close to agreeing a deal to buy Sogou, China’s 3rd most visited search engine. Besides acquiring the market share, the deal would give Qihoo 360 access to new technology such as Sogou’s search algorithm which has been running far longer than Qihoo 360’s.
Both companies have ongoing suits against the other, Baidu suing first claiming unethical competition and intellectual property theft, with 360 quickly suing right back. 360 lost the suit, but are currently in the appeals process. Whatever happens next is anyone’s guess. What we can expect that whatever the case, it’s going to be ugly, given the two companies’ long-standing feud.
Very little is known about the Qihoo 360 algorithm at the moment, due to its relatively new arrival. However, as Baidu is the main competitor, it’s likely a great deal of their own algorithm has been modelled after the market leader. The only unknowns are the limits to Qihoo 360’s ability to reverse engineer Baidu’s algorithm.
Though no wide-scale research has been done to reveal a deep inspection of Qihoo 360’s algorithm, anecdotal evidence from webmasters around the web confirm that typical Baidu SEO best practices are likewise effective for 360. Many webmasters have noted the search engine’s indexation rate seems to be impressively high, overtaking Baidu is most cases. Submitting a site to 360 usually results in a visit from their spiders within 24 hours, which again can be much faster than Baidu at times.
An evergreen criticism of any search engine is that they tend to favor their own properties in search results, and Qihoo 360 is not an exception to the rule. Though without hard evidence, many SEOs claim Qihoo 360 features results from their encyclopedia or Q&A sites abnormally high in SERPs.
Just as Baidu’s algorithm and spider lack the sophistication of Google’s in crawling and spam detection, it can be inferred that due to Qihoo 360’s relative immaturity, their algorithm may be more susceptible to more old-school linkspam or other black hat techniques. It would be unwise however, to suspect that you could fool the algorithm for too long, as Qihoo 360 has declared their algorithm is user-experience focused, and it won’t be long until the search engine is even savvier at filtering out such results.
While an acquisition of another search engine such as Sogou could indeed mean a change in 360’s algorithm, for now our recommendation is to stick with known, common-sense SEO best practices for Baidu, and rankings on haoso.com should follow.
Qihoo 360 displays search results in a way that will be familiar to Google users, but tries hard to differentiate themselves from Baidu’s practice of subtlety confusing paid results in with organic ones. In fact, they went as far as indirectly calling out Baidu’s philosophy without mentioning them by name in a statement last year:
Paid links are mixed with organic search results and that misleads users. And often, fraudulent websites occupy the first page of the search result page as search results are often manipulated manually, which has a major influence on the ranking of search results.
By trying to make the line between paid and organic listings more clear and prominent on SERPs, Qihoo believes they’re taking the higher moral ground in protecting users’ interests, while calling attention to what they feel are Baidu’s unsavory tactics.
Qihoo and Baidu do share one SERP layout feature in common, however, and that is the ability for 3rd party widgets. In Baidu, it’s called Baidu Open, while in Qihoo 360 it’s called oneBox. The service allows advertisers to create a customized widget that can be served up in SERPs.
As you can see in the E-Commerce example below, some of them can take up quite a large footprint on the SERPs. This is definitely something you should be aware of when optimizing for a keyword. If there’s a very large oneBox on the SERP above you, it may be less effective optimizing for this keyword since even a top ranking will be far below the fold.
Qihoo 360 is definitely a hot search engine to watch. Their entry into the market has caused a considerable stir, and is poised to shake things up even further. Mergers and acquisitions could considerably change the competitive landscape in the near future, as could improvements in Qihoo 360’s algorithm, further leading to the search engine chipping away more and more market share from Baidu.
While doing SEO for Qihoo 360 likely doesn’t require any extra steps than you would normally do for Baidu, you’ll still want to pay attention to SERP layouts to see if organic results get crowded out by any oneBox results that may appear above your site’s results.
In any event, it’s certainly going to be an interesting story to watch unfold. Stay tuned here for any breaking news.