Launched August 16, Qihoo Search was the latest search engine to hit China and became one of the largest traffic sources in only a matter of days but where do they sit now as the dust settled?
Just a little background for you, Qihoo 360 Technology Co. is a Chinese security software company that created a very popular browser in China with almost 300 million users, falling just second behind Internet Explorer. According to iResearch, Qihoo’s browser penetration rate reached 61 percent of all web users in China considering its anti-virus/malware capabilities.
Over the summer, coming as a big surprise, in just five short days from the search engine going live, Qihoo 360 nearly overtook Google and Sohu.com in terms of traffic and users. Qihoo Search is now the default search engine on its landing page and on its browsers. According to several analysts and news sources, they’ve reached 10 percent market share, which would put them not too far behind Google.com.hk and ahead of Sohu.com as the third most popular search engine in China.
Chinese IT expert Wu Hongsheng says that 360 Search has already surpassed Google in terms of market share in China – but it’s far too early to have any proof of that.
According to Steven Millward, an expert in Asian digital marketing, “360 Search features seven main tabs: news, web, video, MP3, images, maps, and answers. For the moment, four of those link to Baidu sites (news, MP3, maps, and Baidu ZhiDao for answers), but it’s highly possible that Qihoo will come up with its own versions of those missing features pretty soon.”
Baidu, the current market dominator holding about 78.6 percent of the search engine market share, will prove to be Qihoo’s biggest challenge in finding its place in the market. It is expected that the launch of 360 will radically alter the existing structure of the Chinese online search engine industry. But will it?
"Though both Citron Research and Anonymous Analytics have bones to pick with Qihoo over its traffic and revenue claims, Qihoo’s move into the search market will immediately impact on Google, Tencent Soso, and Sogou – and maybe even on search giant Baidu.”
When it comes to search results, Qihoo Search provides mainly the same Baidu experience with access to their software downloading platform. They do not have a paid platform just yet, however it’s quite likely they will partner with Google. I think this would be ideal for Google.
When you look back at Google's exit from the Chinese mainland a few years ago, they did it for reasons not related to revenue. Partnering with Qihoo Search allows them to benefit from the revenue earned in the huge online economy of the mainland without having to be present.
What makes it very interesting, is Qihoo’s search results when searching for prohibited content. Fei Chang Dao, a blog which chronicle’s free speech in mainland China had found several discrepancies between the results Baidu provides and the results Qihoo provides. In the comparison, they find that searches on terms such as the “Tiananmen Square Incident” netted uncensored results without censorship notices where Baidu restricted the search results. (This of course isn’t always the case, in some instances they restricted the content just as Baidu had restricted it).
Now that it's been a few months, reports are out that Baidu did take a hit in traffic and their search share has recovered slightly, especially for entertainment and lifestyle related searches, yet still lacking from professional and academic inquiries.
Should we in the search industry consider Qihoo now that the dust settled? Well, yes and no, and it's still too early to tell.
Baidu still has superior search technology, incorporates vertical searches such as their travel, maps and video, and offers users with an experience they are used too. I doubt the masses are going to follow Qihoo as they figure out how to change their default settings.
For the most part, the Chinese love Baidu as they love Taobao for shopping. However, interestingly enough, those who search from a professional and academic perspective may be finding that Qihoo is more useful and alternative to the difficult and slow connection they get with Google in China. Those who are already successful with B2B on Google China, may want to consider learning about SEO tactics that Qihoo could provide.
At the end of the day, this all sounds familiar to those in the West, doesn’t it? Bing made a great splash. Regardless of its usefulness, I still resort to Google.