China Search Engine Statistics: The 9 Things You Must Know
Updated · May 20, 2023
Back in the year 2000, barely anyone in China had access to the internet. Nowadays, more than a billion Chinese people have the opportunity to browse the Web—though not exactly freely—which is why China’s search engine statistics are more relevant than ever.
Join us as we explore how Chinese search engines work and what the market looks like in this niche.
China’s Search Statistics and Revealing Facts (Editor’s Choice):
- Baidu’s share of the Chinese search engine market is 75%.
- A third of Chinese netizens use Sogou.
- Combined, the biggest search engines boast more than $26 billion in revenue.
- Bing has an 11% market share.
- Even though it’s blocked in mainland China, more than 3% of the people in the country use Google.
- Baidu earns $11.6 billion per year from online ads.
- Sogou has 506 million monthly active users.
China’s Search Engine Market Share
Google is the most popular search engine all across the globe—except for China.
Censorship, hacking, and political opposition drove Google out of the Asian giant in 2010, a scarce four years after the search engine’s foray into the country.
Where do Chinese people google, then?
Read on to find out.
1. Baidu has 628 million monthly active users.
(Source: China Internet Watch)
Following the big ban of 2010, Baidu took it upon itself to fill the gap in the search engine market. Going from a relatively modest 58% share of the market in 2009 to a more impressive 75% share a decade later.
According to the most recent China search engine statistics, Baidu boasts 218 million daily active users, making it the absolute winner in this segment of the market.
2. Bing takes nearly 12% of the Chinese search engine market.
Microsoft’s search engine is still allowed in China—albeit with significant changes in its search algorithms, which are necessary to comply with the country’s strict censorship rules.
Despite facing significant backlash for continuing operations in China—and amid concerns about censoring autofill suggestions for North American users, too—Bing is holding onto its 11.47% share of the Chinese market.
3. Every month, 506 million Chinese netizens use the Sogou search engine.
(Source: GMA Marketing to China)
As opposed to Baidu, which is an independent company, Sogou is one of Tencent’s products.
This search engine saw the light of day for the first time in 2004, after all the hard work Sohu (another Chinese company) put into its development. Almost a decade passed before Tencent—the multi-billion-dollar company that’s behind Beijing’s most popular entertainment platforms—decided to join efforts and make an incursion in China’s search engine market.
“Join efforts” how?
Well, first, by acquiring 36.5% of Sogou’s equity capital. Then, by making it the default search engine for Tencent’s mobile browser. And finally, by sharing all the data, Tencent has on its social media users with Sogou, thus improving the latter’s targeted advertising capabilities.
Nowadays, Sogou is the second most popular Chinese-made search engine—though it falls to spot #3 in the overall count, boasting a 4.83% share of the country’s market.
4. Google holds 3.56% of the Chinese market.
That’s right. Even though the world’s favorite search engine is still officially banned in the mainland area, Google manages to snag the fourth spot on China’s top search engine list.
If you’ve been paying attention, you already know that Baidu takes the first place (75.54%), leaving Bing (11.47%) and Sogou (4.83%) to follow behind. And then, of course, comes Google with its 3.56% share.
How can this be?
Unfortunately, we can only speculate, as there’s no official explanation of where the data came from. Presumably, though, the explanation comes down to Google still being a legal search engine in Hong Kong and Taiwan—both of which were a part of China, and then they weren’t, and now…it’s complicated.
5. 40.3% of internet users in China use Shenma.
Believe it or not, there are more players in the search engine field. After Google come Haosou (2.2%) and Shenma (1.74%)—granted, not as impressive as Baidu’s market share but still worth mentioning.
Shenma is a mobile-only search engine that resulted from Alibaba’s collaboration with UC Web. Making a search engine that only works on mobile devices may seem like a strange corporate move, but it’s actually an understandable strategy for the Chinese market.
In China, computer ownership isn’t all that high. In 2020, for instance, there were only 54.2 computers per 100 households in China. This is in stark contrast with the US, where 74% of adults own a computer.
How do Chinese people fare without laptops in today’s day and age?
Simple—they have smartphones. Hence the development of a mobile-only search engine.
Fun Facts About The Most Popular Search Engines in China
Now that you know who the key players are let’s dive a bit deeper.
In this section, we’ll tell you what Chinese people are searching for, as well as some other internet-browsing-related facts.
6. Sogou vs. Baidu: Who is ahead?
In terms of revenue and number of users, Baidu is definitely the #1 contender. But there’s at least one category where Sogou comes out on top: users’ time on site.
Tencent’s search engine has an average daily browsing time of 35.3 minutes, whereas Baidu has to settle for practically a quarter of that (8.4 minutes).
For comparison, Google takes up an average of 16 minutes of people’s days.
7. China’s search engine market has a revenue of $26 billion.
(Source: China Internet Watch)
Chinese search engines make money much in the same way as Western search engines do—they sell ad space and charge per click.
Take Baidu, for instance. Its annual revenue reached $19.53 billion in 2021, but not all of it came from its advertising segment. That year, 59% of the company’s total revenue ($11.6 billion) came from ads.
Sogou, on the other hand, became an official part of Tencent in 2021—which, unfortunately, means we no longer have access to the search engine’s financial results. In 2020, though, the company reported that $166.7 million of its total $189.5 million revenue was search-related.
8. One of the hottest Baidu search trends is “hidden in the smoke.”
(Source: Top Baidu)
“Hidden in the smoke” is a Chinese movie (translated as “Return to dust”) about a couple who lives in a rural province and faces numerous hardships. The film received a nomination for the Golden Bear at the 2022 Berlin Film Festival, and it boasts a search volume of 1,722,506 on Baidu.
The second most popular movie—if Baidu’s searches are anything to go by—is 独行月球 (translated as “Walking to the moon”), which people looked up 277,446 times.
Other popular entries to the largest search engine in China include “Immortal Samsara” (a TV series) and “Black bear found running on the street.”
Fun fact: Ironically enough, “Google” is the most commonly googled word. Or, at least, it was in 2020. Other popular search terms in Alphabet’s engine are “Facebook” and “YouTube.”
9. Up to 31% of Chinese netizens use a VPN.
Using a VPN may be nothing out of the ordinary in the US, but that’s not the case everywhere in the world. India proposed to ban them in 2021, Russia started outlawing them in 2017, and China…well, China has been trying to keep people from using “unauthorized” VPNs for several years now.
Alas, 31% of the country’s internet users seem intent on keeping at least a semblance of privacy. This is important because it means China’s search statistics are probably a little skewed.
You see, some of the most powerful VPNs in the market are able to breach the Great Firewall of China and allow citizens to access Google, Facebook, Twitter, or any other banned site.
But, as the whole point of VPNs is to remain as anonymous as possible, we don’t really know which Western sites Chinese people are going for. Maybe they’re uploading some stuff to Dropbox, maybe they’re looking at yellow umbrellas on Shutterstock, or maybe they’re watching cute kitten videos on YouTube—we’ll never know.
The Chinese internet is incredibly interesting for us at Web Tribunal. It’s basically the equivalent of an isolated online island that has more than one billion users.
With a little luck, though, today’s batch of China’s search engine statistics allowed you to get an idea of what browsing the web is like over there—both due to and in spite of the restrictions.
Unaware that life beyond the internet exists, Nick is poking servers and control panels, playing with WordPress add-ons, and helping people get the hosting that suits them.