Yandex Tries to Solidify Search Dominance, Keep Google Down in Russia

google-vs-yandexThe search industry is one of the most competitive in the world and has been for many years and on so many levels, but recently Yandex has been able to overcome Google’s threat of dominance and claim of cracking its local market share.

Competition has been hot since the birth of the Russian Internet segment back in the mid-'90s, however, over the past 3 months, Yandex had an average of 59.4 percent of Russian Internet searches compared to 25.6 percent on Google.

Yandex relies on their knowledge of local specific search and continuous improvements of the quality of their products and technologies to ensure they keep a high market share in the Russian search market.

One of the most recent changes Yandex has made is the enhancement to content in its search results, making it easier to find the latest information on SERPs. When searching for queries about latest events, Yandex uses a new ranking formula and its real-time robot, Orange, to return a group of links in order of historical relevance to the user.

Social Networking Search is also a major initiative for Yandex this year. This new program is “aimed at enhancing its search engine’s quality by adding content from social networking websites”. When a user searches for a person, their public profile accounts on the most popular social networks and blogging website will show up in the search query.

Yandex has also incorporated the microblogging community in their search results. In a new partnership with Twitter, public tweets will be displayed in search results for over two million users, making real-time content about a user’s interests easier to find. As Yandex noted, “People share news, exchange opinions and discuss all sorts of matters in real time all the time. This kind of information will help [Yandex] enhance [their] search results.”

Recently, we reached out to Anton Popov, Head of Sales and Marketing at Yandex for answers to some of my questions regarding its continued growth.

Michael Bonfils: What's the Average Share of advertising budget to Google vs. Yandex?

Anton Popov: Yandex had 58 percent of the whole Russian Internet ad market in 2010 and, as we are a strong player in contextual ads, we have a major stake of [the] contextual ad segment.

MB: What has been driving the recent gain in search market share in Russia? Are you seeing advertisers changing their budget allocations as a result of this change in search market share?

AP: We do not see ad budget allocations changing. According to our experience, the minor tweaks on search engine market do not impact on ad budgets and on advertisers’ preferences. Just for your interest: the number of advertisers that were using Yandex contextual ad network in Q3 2011 was 158,000 – 10 percent more than in previous quarter and 48 percent more than a year before.

MB: How many union partners does Yandex have in Russia (i.e., other sites powered by Yandex search)?

AP: We have several hundred websites powered by the Yandex search engine. Rambler, LiveJournal are most widely known but they are not alone.

MB: Who has the bigger ad network, Google Ru or Yandex?

AP: According to ComScore’s survey as of December 2011 Yandex Ad Network’s audience was 47.6 million unique visitors and it is the highest result.

MB: When we “test” searches on Yandex.ru and Google.ru, comparatively speaking, it seems that Google has much more ads on its search results page – do you agree?

AP: Yandex and Google use different ways to display ads. The volume of text ad on a search result pages very much depends on a concrete user’s query and may vary in different search engines. It is not too correct to make conclusions based on couple of queries from several geo locations.

MB: Do you know what percentage of searches in Russia are in English?

AP: About 20 percent of search queries were made using Latin characters as of Spring 2011. These figures include queries made by users who were looking for, say, a particular fridge model, math formulas or jeans brands. For those Russians who would like to use international search we launched our global search filter Yandex.com in May 2010.

MB: How much of Yandex and Google traffic comes from partners vs. direct searches on their website?

AP: We can't disclose these numbers, but I can say we have a lot of distribution partners that help us to promote our search engine in Russia. Skype, Samsung, ESET, Rambler, Mozilla and Opera are among of them, but it is just a small part of partners.

Summary

There is no doubt Yandex will face many challenges ahead in the face of browser wars, mobile operating systems and even new competition beyond Google. As a representative of several advertisers in the Russian market, we have only seen continued query volume, search quality improvement, better conversions and advertiser return on investment.

When it comes to Google vs Yandex in Russia, I still think Yandex in 2012 will continue to dominate and be an impactful and useful search engine product to millions of Russian speakers around the world and many multinational companies who market to the Russian audience.

About the author

Michael Bonfils is the International Managing Director of SEM International, a division of International Media Management Corp.

Since 1996, Michael was one of the early pioneers in the search engine industry, working in-house for a multinational firm prior to being in charge of Search Engine Strategy at Business.com in 2000-01.

In 2001, his International passion led him to opening up his own firm and an office in Asia after recognizing the need for U.S.-based online marketing agencies requiring an outsourced solution to provide services to their clients outside of the United States.

As the demand for his company's services expanded into other countries, he spread out further into Asia, Europe and eventually Latin America. Today, SEM International is a global network of in-country search engine marketing agencies providing a one stop, centralized solution for Intl search engine marketing management.