China's powerful internet regulator has moved to rein in the country's search engines following the death of a young cancer patient who had used Baidu to find an untested 'cure' from poorly labeled sponsored results.

Internet search providers must now clearly label all paid-for search results and step up their oversight of advertisers on their sites, the country's Cyberspace Administration said in a new set of regulations.

They are no longer allowed to remove negative content about their advertising clients from search results, it said.

"If paid listings are in-distinguishable from normal search results, they could mislead users," the agency said.

The new rules follow widespread public anger over the April 12 death of Wei Zexi, 21, amid concerns that for-profit sponsored links on the search engine had led Wei to an ineffective treatment.

Wei searched Baidu for treatments for his synovial carcinoma—malignant tumors that grow in soft tissues, usually around joints—and found one offered by an outsourced oncology department in the Beijing No. 2 People's Armed Police Hospital.

He later complained online that he had trusted the hospital because it was at the top of Baidu’s search results and not clearly marked as a paid-for link, sparking complaints that the company's current pay-for-listing policy is ethically dubious.


The new rules come as the agency also moves to "clean up" comments sections on news websites, warning news sites not to lure the reading public with "clickbait" stories.

Ren Xianliang, deputy head of the Cyberspace Administration, said in a video statement that news websites should "proactively foster a healthy, positive internet culture, and let cultured comments, rational posts and well-intentioned responses become the order of the day online."

Websites have a duty to "allow the internet to better benefit the people," he said.

Everything's already censored

Hebei-based veteran journalist Zhu Xinxin said the clampdown might give rise to other problems, however.

"There are a huge number of people in our society, and all sorts of things go on," Zhu said. "People have all kinds of varied needs for information."

"By selectively controlling the internet, by trying to solve one problem, they risk creating a lot of other, unforeseen problems when people search for results," he said.

Last week, China's state media regulator further boosted controls over media content with new restrictions on foreign television shows, saying that only independently produced TV with "Chinese cultural genes" would make it to air or online in future.

Online activist Lai Rifu agreed, saying that the new rules are superfluous.

"Actually, most of the controls on search engine results are aimed at managing what ordinary people are about to see online, and they are already very effective," Lai said.

"Anything we might want to see online has already long since been deleted anyway, so these rules won't do anything," he said.

He said anyone seeking information critical of the ruling Chinese Communist Party wouldn't be using Chinese search engines anyway.

"Most activists or dissidents have long since stopped using Chinese search engines, as well as a good many websites," Lai said.

The move is the latest in a long string of controls on what Chinese internet users can see online, and comes amid an ideological campaign launched by President Xi Jinping earlier this year.

The party's internal disciplinary arm has warned its powerful propaganda department that it is failing to exert enough control over public opinion, particularly online and in universities.

Meanwhile, Xi has hit out at "western" ideas entering Chinese public debate, adding that he wants all public debate to be shaped by the Communist Party and not by "hostile foreign forces" peddling values like democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Earlier this month, authorities in the central province of Henan set up an online task force comprised of volunteers from schools and universities who wage an ideological "struggle" on behalf of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.


Categorized in Search Engine

Are you still performing competitor research like you did three, four, even five years ago? Are you crafting your (or your client’s) SEO plan the same way based on what you find? If so, then it’s time to update your strategy. The world of SEO has changed dramatically, and your competitive research should reflect that change. Here’s what you should be looking for when researching competitors, and how to use that information to create a penalty-proof SEO plan.


Just because the competitor is ranking well with tons of spammy, irrelevant links doesn’t mean you should follow suit.  If they haven’t been penalized yet, they might get it in the future. Instead, find out the following.

What is Your Competitor’s Overall Strategy?

Look for the best trends in the competitor’s link building profile. Do they have lots of great guest posts on industry blogs? Do they have a strong local presence? Do major media outlets regularly mention them? These are the things you will want to emulate, not low-quality directories, blog comments, forum signatures, and over-optimized press releases.

What Are the Best Links They Have Obtained?

If you or your client has a strong website, aim to get the best links your competitor has obtained as soon as possible. Start with gathering their best links, and then go for even better ones. If Google continues to penalize websites with lots of low quality links, then the ones with fewer but higher quality links (like yours) will be able to shine through.

One easy way to spot your competitors best backlinks is by using tools likeCognitiveSEO. Their visual backlink explorer displays high quality links with larger dots.

What are the best links the competitor has obtained?

You can also use the Domain Trustworthiness graph to see the highest authority domains linking to your competitors.

Dpmain Trust Worthiness

If you prefer an exportable chart, you can filter the backlinks of your competitors by authority and only view the high authority links.

High authority link filtering

Depending on your industry, you’ll likely find the highest authority links are from .gov or .edu sites, the top blogs in the industry, media networks, and other well-respected sites.

In order to gain these links for yourself, you will need to:

  • Build relationships with the top industry blogs that will publish your content as a guest or regular contributor.
  • Build strong profiles on local sites and properly encourage customers to write reviews.
  • Sign up for HARO and similar networks that connect you to journalists so you can contribute your knowledge in exchange for a mention and a link.


Gone are the days when 300 words of keyword-optimized text were all you needed to get a page ready for your target keywords. Google is not going to reward you for having thousands upon thousands of over-optimized articles on your website. They are going to reward you for having hundreds of high-quality, reader-focused blog posts. Not only that, but they are also going to reward you for having authoritative authors creating that content. When you’re researching the competitor’s content, here are the questions you need to ask.


Who are the authors?

If author rank isn’t playing a role in rankings now, it certainly will be in the future (according to Matt Cutts at least). A part of your competitor research should be focused on who the authors of the competitor’s content are, and how strong are they as authors. Find their Google+ profiles and look at the other sites they’ve written for, how often they are creating content, how many followers they have on Google+, and how much engagement they receive on their Google+ posts.

One tool that can help with this process is the SEOchat Author Links Crawler(free, but currently in beta). You can use it to see what authors are linking to specific sites in order to connect with influential people in your industry. Reach out to them and see if you can get them to create content for you.

What is the length of the average piece of content?

While length isn’t everything, it can certainly help you determine how in-depth competitors go with their content. If their content ranks well in search, and it is generally 1,000 – 2,000 words per piece, but your content or your client’s is only 500 – 600 words per piece, you might want to look into creating more extensive pieces of content.

How much engagement do they receive?

Does social engagement with content have anything to do with rankings? Maybe, especially if you consider that the more a piece of content is shared on social networks, the more likely bloggers and journalists are to pick it up and link to it on their own websites. See if you can follow the promotional strategy for some of the competitor’s top pieces of content. Who tweeted it, how it was shared on Facebook, where it was bookmarked, and what sites linked to it? Answering those questions can help you build a sound promotional strategy for your content, or your client’s.

One tool that can help you see the content that receives the most engagement on social media – Twitter in particular – is Topsy. Use the following URL and replace searchenginejournal.com with your competitor’s domain.


You will then see their content links along with the number of tweets each link has received.

Topsy Engagement Analytics

You can click on each piece of content to see who tweeted it, and then do a search on Google for the title of the post to find out other networks the article has been shared upon or linked. This will help you identify their promotional strategy.

Social Media

Having a strong social media presence can be a great asset, especially since you don’t want to put all of your eggs in an organic search basket. If social media isn’t a part of your competitor research, then make sure it does! Ask the following questions.

What networks do the competitors use?

Not what networks do competitors have a profile on, but what networks do they actively use. You’ll generally find that most are active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest (usually in that order). Also be on the lookout for any niche-specialized social networks and forums that the competitors are using on a regular basis. To find this out, you can simply use Google to search for the competitor’s name – their top social profiles will generally come up in the first couple of pages.

How many followers / fans do they have?

Do you need 1,000 fans, 10,000 fans, or a million fans? Find out by seeing how many people the competitors have in their social networks. If you’re looking for a selling point of why a business should be on social media, this number could play an important role as it shows the number of potential customers that can be found on social media.

Aside from visiting each of the competitor’s social profiles and noting their audience size, one great tool to use to quickly see a group of competitor’s followers and fans is Rival IQ. It allows you to compare the size of your competitor’s audience on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Follower Analysis

You can also use tools like TwitterCounter to see the growth of your competitor’s Twitter following over the time span of up to three months for free, or up to six months with a preview of their premium service by paying with a tweet.

Twitter counter follower growth

One of the things this will quickly reveal is if your competitor has had any major growth spikes, which is sometimes indicative of a purchase of followers.

Of course, don’t stop there…

How much quality engagement do they receive?

Anyone can buy fans and followers. They can even buy engagement. But they can’t buy true interactions. If you are looking to craft your social media strategy based off of how competitors are using social media, be sure that you are modeling yours and your client’s on a competitor that is receiving true engagement from their audience.

How often do they update each of their networks?

This revolves back to content, except in this case, it’s social media content. How many times do competitors update each of their social networks, and how do they do it? Do they ask questions, post links, and/or share photos and videos? And most importantly, what types of updates get the most engagement from their audiences?

You may not be able to tell their ROI, but there’s a good chance that the more exposure they get on a status update, the more likely that update is to convert compared to one with little to no response.


Categorized in Online Research


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