Calling all SEO wizards, WeChat enthusiasts and social marketing aficionados!
Today we’ll be diving into the little-known world of WeChat SEO in order to gain a better understanding of WeChat’s current search functions, interpret the manner in which WeChat content is ranked within WeChat search and provide you with suggestions regarding the optimization of your WeChat public account.
While it has to be said that WeChat’s search functions are relatively hidden within the app and have enjoyed little coverage when compared to the app’s other major functions, Tencent has been discretely strengthening their search capabilities over the last few years and WeChat is clearly central to that strategy.
Tencent’s purchase of a 36.5 percent stake in Sohu.com Inc’s search engine “Sogou” in 2013 was an early indicator that the group was focused on improving their position within the search market and the subsequent integration of WeChat search within Sogou’s website and mobile app (we’ll refer to this engine as “Sogou Weixin search”) enabled non-WeChat users to search for and access WeChat content for the very first time.
Since then, Tencent executives have equipped WeChat with its own internal search engine (that we’ll call WeChat search), although little is actually known about the algorithm behind its search function or future plans related to its development.
So, now let’s take a closer look at the inner workings of Sogou Weixin and WeChat search and boost our knowledge of WeChat SEO.
How does WeChat search work?
WeChat’s search engine within Sogou, aka Sogou Weixin search, and WeChat’s own internal search engine work similarly but target different things.
While Sogou Weixin limits searchers to posts published by public accounts and the public accounts themselves, WeChat’s internal search engine is much more complete and allows users to target keywords in their friends’ moments, group chats, Dianping’s restaurant database as well as public account posts and accounts. On top of that, you can only search through subscription accounts on Sogou Weixin while WeChat search enables you to search for content published by subscription AND service accounts.
The one thing that’s not all that impressive with WeChat search though is that Chinese WeChat users, by which I mean any WeChat user registered with a Chinese phone number, can NOT see international WeChat accounts in the search results, despite the fact that international users have total access to Chinese search results.
On a side note, searching for keywords within group chats might not seem all that useful but it’s actually a great way for business developers to know if someone’s mentioning their brand or product.
How are WeChat search results displayed
Before we ask ourselves how results are ranked on Sogou Weixin and WeChat search, let’s take a quick look at how they’re displayed. Why? Because knowing how they appear and what information they display can help you to optimize your content in such a way that your WeChat search results appear in a user-friendly manner.
As illustrated in the screenshots above, WeChat article search results on Sogou Weixin feature the title of the piece, a summary of the piece, the article’s cover image, the public account name, the number of reads and the date it was published. Subscription account search results however feature a QR code that redirects searchers to the actual account on WeChat. While the summary serves as a meta description, as found on traditional search engines such as Google or Baidu, Sogou Weixin seems to pick up random content within the article instead of the summary line required when publishing a WeChat post.
Search results within WeChat search are displayed in exactly the same way as their Sogou counterparts, without the inclusion of the number of reads.
How are WeChat search results ranked?
Let’s be honest. Search engine algorithms are highly secret, complex things that frequently update themselves and constantly evolve. It would therefore be foolish to think that we have the answer.
That said, our experience working with Sogou and Wechat, as well as data compiled by admin5.com, has led us to believe that WeChat search results (within WeChat OR Sogou) are ranked based on 4 major factors:
- Authority: The authority of a WeChat public account depends on its level of verification. Different verifications carry different weights, although the most influential verification you can get is “WeChat verification”.
- Relevance: The relevance between user search queries and public account names, account summaries as well as the summaries of WeChat articles.
- Popularity: Number of WeChat followers as well as number of reads, forwards and reposts.
- Frequency: The frequency of publications and recentness of your articles.
As you can see, ranking factors within Sogou Weixin & WeChat search are extremely similar to Google’s ranking factors in the sense that recent, relevant content from an authoritative source is KING. But instead of fighting for backlinks and site visitors, you’re after more reads and account verifications.
There are most certainly other factors in the mix such as the size of articles, the use of images and so on, but we’re confident that you can improve your WeChat SEO by working on the relevance, popularity and frequency of your posts and registering for a properly verified account!
Who does WeChat search benefit?
Now that’s all good and well, but Tencent clearly wouldn’t have made such a big investment in Sogou, nor would they have allocated so much time to the development of WeChat’s internal search function, if they weren’t expecting to get something out of it.
So who does the development of WeChat search really benefit and why?
- Tencent: To start off with, the obvious benefactors of the development of WeChat search are the makers themselves. By working with Sogou to create Sogou Weixin search, Tencent have found an ideal way to promote WeChat products & content on the outside web without having to depend on other internet players. Secondly, search is and has always been a great revenue stream and Tencent could easily decide to capitalize on this by creating paid ad slots. Last but not least, Tencent’s long-term plan is to dominate the Chinese internet space and crush other Internet giants such as Baidu and Alibaba, and taking on the search-engine market is the first step on that path.
- SEO-savvy community managers: WeChat community managers at Sekkei Studio leverage WeChat search factors to optimize the on-page structure of our clients’ public accounts and articles, which in turn drives more reads, resulting in a higher ranking within WeChat search results and extra visibility. Furthermore, if Tencent were to create paid ad slots within search results, this would also benefit businesses with adequate social marketing budgets.
- WeChat users: While Tencent take over the internet and community managers drive more traffic to their WeChat public accounts, everyday WeChat users can reap the benefits of a functional search engine they can use to discover all sorts of new content.
What does the future hold for WeChat search?
As Tencent haven’t made any announcements regarding the future of WeChat search, we can only hypothesize what those future plans may be. But based on the fact that Tencent aim to dominate the Chinese internet landscape, using WeChat as a 1 stop shop for anything and everything from chatting and bank payments to e-shopping, we could make an educated guess that Tencent’s big plan is to ultimately integrate a fully functional search engine within WeChat that would crawl the whole internet and once and for all turn WeChat into THE all-in-one app.
Other marketers out there, what do you think?
Here at Sekkei Studio, we’re experts in the fields of Chinese social media and search, especially when it comes to WeChat marketing and Baidu SEO. Our SEO specialists and community managers work hand in hand to ensure that our clients’ marketing strategies incorporate both SEO and social media actions, so drop us a line if you’re looking to build a digital presence in China.