China and Japan couldn't be further apart in so many ways, but working off a somewhat familiar language platform has Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) believing that China's most popular website can make a big splash in Japanese search next year.

Baidu's plans to enter Japan were announced this morning, but it's important to temper expectations. Baidu has been dominant in China, growing its market share to nearly two-thirds of the market at the expense of stateside leaders like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), but it's at a disadvantage in Japan.

Why? Because it's late to the game. It's also one of the many away teams fighting for a local presence.

Japan can be a tough nut to crack. Just ask eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY). The world's leading auctioneer had to bow out of Japan four years ago when the alliance of Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Softbank proved to be too strong in carving out its online marketplace.

But Baidu's got a shot. It'll be a familiar name, and it is the world's fourth most popular website. The only three that are larger are Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). In other words, it's the world's most-visited site originating in the Eastern hemisphere. Even if Baidu's fate is to only command a thin slice of the Japanese market, it will be worth it as long as the move is profitable. Japan is a much smaller market than China, but it's also one where advertisers are willing to pay more to reach more affluent consumers.

If it fails, history won't dwell on the grazed knees. Unlike the proverb, one misstep doesn't necessarily lead to an eternity of regret. Clearly, eBay has grown globally despite its early stumble in Japan. The move may also help Baidu port its search engine prowess into neighboring countries even if it does come up short in Japan. So it's a bonus if it pans out and an expansion exercise if it does not.

The only thing to watch out for here is to make sure Baidu's overseas ambitions don't crimp its style. Less than a tenth of China is online at the moment, so there's plenty of upside available simply by sticking to its local stronghold. It'd be a shame if Baidu were to ever lose sight of that in the pursuit of two birds in the bush.

Baidu was singled out to Rule Breakers readers less than two months ago and has already gone on to soar 35% higher. Yahoo! and eBay have been recommended to Stock Advisor subscribers. Microsoft is an Inside Value selection.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a fan of China's growth stocks for several years now, even though he does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.