I am often asked this question but actually sometimes I wonder if I even know how to do SEO for Google. They do not publish their ranking criteria of course; they only give some hints in their Google guidelines for webmasters.
If you follow those guidelines, you can’t go wrong with your site.
For Baidu, the most popular Chinese search engines, there seem to be some differences to Google:

  1. the filename and domain name seem to be more relevant for Baidu than for Google
  2. Except of the title-tag, the meta-tags are not important for most western search engines, for Baidu, they are still more important
  3. Internal links and the linktext in those links are more important for Baidu than for Google.
  4. For Google incoming links from other websites are the most important ranking criteria. For Google, the quality of those incoming links is more important than for Baidu. For Baidu, the number of links is more important.

Somehow it seems to me, that the Google algorithm is more advanced and for Baidu you have to do more “old-fashioned” SEO.

Some more hints for foreign companies, which want a Chinese website:

  • Most important: Don’t save money by hiring an inexperienced translator. Do a professional translation of your site and let it proofread again and again by an expert in your business field
  • Use a cn-Domain for your website. Also foreign companies are allowed to register cn-Domains without having a Chinese admin-c (in Germany, you need a German administrator for your de-Domain, if the owner does doesn’t reside in Germany
  • Host your website in China if you only target the Chinese market but don’t try to save too much money on web space. Many companies I know spent thousand of Euro on their website but are not willing to spend 10 Euro more per month for a good server. Beware that your website might be slow from outside China. If your website also has an English version, this should not be hosted in China but in the US or Europe.