Eye Tracking Expert Takes On Google-Baidu Rivalry

    June 15, 2007

Google’s not doing too well in China, and a variety of reasons have been given to explain this poor performance.  But fact is better than conjecture, and eye tracking is a preferred (and interesting) way of obtaining insight into these matters.  So Enquiro’s Gord Hotchkiss conducted a Google vs. Baidu study.

Baidu Rivalry
Baidu Rivalry

A “preliminary full report” is available through Enquiro, and even the summary, posted by Hotchkiss on Search England Land, is over 2,000 words.  By this, I mean to say that there’s a lot of valuable information, but you’ll need a fair amount of time to process it.  We’ll just be hitting the highlights here.

In short, it appears that, compared to Baidu, Google offers Chinese searchers a more efficient experience.  The heatmaps’ hot spots are more condensed, and Hotchkiss notes, “In our study, an average interaction with Google.cn lasted about 30 seconds, and with Baidu over 55 seconds.”

A blind test between Baidu and Google, conducted by another company, even found that Chinese users might prefer the American offering.

So why is Baidu’s market share three times the size of Google’s?  Well, we’re moving away from those heatmaps, but Hotchkiss’s ideas are entirely plausible (and are backed by evidence).  “There’s a strong preference for a true Chinese search experience,” he writes.  “I noticed in a blog that picked up our very early findings that several Chinese users commented that they use Baidu because it is Chinese.”

Then there’s the matter of entertainment, the one area of the blind test in which Baidu beat Google.  “Baidu is the primary vehicle to locate and download free MP3 files,” states Hotchkiss.  “This generates a huge amount of traffic, as this is one of China’s most popular online activities.  There’s no way of knowing what Baidu’s search share might be if you separate the MP3 traffic out, but my suspicion, backed by a conversation with Piewen at Microsoft, is that it would drop dramatically.”

These findings may not help Google much, but they at least help explain how and why the search giant has been minimized in the Chinese market.