Baidu Search App

Baidu finally released the mobile version of Phoenix Nest, its AdWord-like bidding system, to the all the customers in mid-December 2012 (previously it was only available to a small number of selected customers). It took a whole year for Baidu to launch the mobile version, as reported.

Tailored to the mobile phones, the mobile Phoenix Nest enables direct access to customers’ services. A user, for instance, can download apps or coupons, or dial a phone number directly from the search results page, without being directed to somewhere else through links. A similar service, called Box Computing, has been on Baidu search’s PC version. A couple of new CRM tools, taking mobile into consideration, were launched at the same time. Mobile Business Bridge, for example, is for customer service staff to communicate, through PC, with users on mobile phones.

Baidu also replicated  Baidu Union, AdSense-like display advertising network, and Brand Zone, advertising offerings for brands, on the mobile end.

Well, nothing sounds interesting.

What matters most for mobile search? 

According to a report on mobile search market by DCCI, 82% users searched on mobile devices through browsers. A former Baidu mobile search staff told me most mobile search traffic, by mid-2012, was from UC browsers – It’s no wonder that rumors that Baidu offered to acquire UC Web never ends.

The DCCI report also shows 53% of mobile users search with search apps. Baidu’s apps can handle voice searches and find out the person that looks like you the most world wide after you uploading a portrait of yourself.

As for the location-based information, Baidu has a powerful tool, Baidu Maps, who is one of the most used maps products in China. It claimed over 70 million users in 2012 and expected to reach the milestone of 100 million early this year. DCCI report points out that lifestyle information ranks No.1 in all categories of information searched on mobile, and locations through maps ranks the third. Baidu recently formed a new LBS division by merging its lifestyle information service, Baidu Shenbian, into Baidu Maps, aiming to offer an integrated location-based information service.

If users keep searching for web content through browsers or search apps, Baidu can still take advantage of the Phoenix Nest bidding system. To what extent it would suffer from the mobile end depends on the screen size of mobile devices. According to the same Baidu staff mentioned above, only three links, out of ten shown on the result page, were ads before mid-2012.

But if most Chinese users didn’t access web content on mobile through browsers any more, but through maps or even other applications, the existing advertising system, its powerful money printing machine, of Baidu’s would lose effectiveness.