Today’s guest blog post will be devoted to the overview of the Russian search engines and SEO techniques. I know that this market is not very well known in the U.S./Europe/ Asia, so I’ll try to fill this gap with general information. Let’s start.
Internet in Russia: overview & statistics
According to the comScore study, Russia ranks first in Europe by the number of Internet users. According to the FOM data as of autumn of 2011, monthly Internet audience in Russia amounts to 54.5 million people – this is about 47% of the total adult population (17% yoy growth). The increase is mainly caused by the spreading of the Internet in the regions.
According to a recent Yandex study on the development of the Internet in Russia’s regions, over the past three years the mobile Internet monthly audience almost doubled, whereas the Internet audience as a whole only increased by 50%. If we talk about the number of Russian-language Web sites, according to the Nic.ru domain name registrar, the .ru domain extension currently comprises of 3.74 million registered domain names.
Yandex as the leading Russian Search Engine
Russia is one of the few search engine markets with its own local leader – Yandex, founded in 1997. Before that, there were other search engines leading on the Russian market – Rambler was the first of them (founded in 1996, after frequent changes of management started to rapidly lose its search share, signed a strategic agreement with Yandex in 2011 and ceased the development of its own search technology and started to show Yandex results within its usual design ), as well as Aport (also founded in 1996).
The main competitive advantage Yandex has is the understanding of Russian culture and peculiarities of the Russian language, as well as the abundance of successful web services for Russia, including:
• Vertical search: images, video, music, maps with traffic jams, news, people search, product search (Yandex.Market) etc.;
• Services: mail, photos, calendar, payment system (Yandex.Money), web-analytics system (Yandex.Metrika) and many others.
In Soviet Russia, Google Searches You
The #2 player in the Russian market – Google – opened its office in Russia in 2006 and started working on improving the search quality and increasing the number of localized services. Right now its share is almost 3 times less than Yandex one, which dominates the market (with its monthly audience amounting to 32.5 million unique visitors, as of March 2012, source – stat.yandex.ru). By the way, Russia was the first country in the world where Google has launched an offline advertising campaign (billboards on the streets and in the subway), however, it didn’t help it to steal a march.
Player # 3 – Search.mail.ru was using Yandex search algorithm for a very long time, but since 2011 the search engine combines its own search algorithm with Google results.
Yandex Goes Global
Last year, Yandex made an IPO on NASDAQ, having become a public company. Yandex is now trying to expand into new markets – it launched a Turkish search engine (Yandex.com.tr) in fall 2011, together with other services like maps and traffic jams, adapted specifically for Turkey. This is a really important moment in history, good luck to Yandex in reaching out to the new countries
Organic & Paid Search Results in Yandex
Yandex serps contain both organic results and paid contextual links, vertical search information, etc.
Yandex revenue from paid search (and contextual advertising on it’s network sites) in 2011 amounted to $181,4 million, accounting for 85% of the company’s whole revenue – its global nature resembles Google.
By the way, Yandex is the only search engine that offers users to compare the search results from other search engines directly from in the serp page. This way the developers probably evaluate quality of search results.
The SEO market
The volume of the search engine optimization market in 2011, according to some experts, is estimated at $250 million. As for the most popular form of cooperation between SEO-agencies and consultants/ business owners in Russia, payment for the rankings has been used for a long time (the shortcomings of this form are obvious.) It started in the days when promoting a website took 2-4 weeks and simply meant buying a bulk of links. Now the market is gradually switching to the payment for consulting services. There’s another business model, where the client pays for the amount of traffic from organic search (taking into account the season, branded search terms and stop words).
Just like anywhere in the world, Russian search engine algorithms and search engine optimization techniques have been developing according to the common scenario (first the focus on text optimization, then, to reduce the optimization pressure – the introduction of link factors, and now – the large influence of user factors and the gradual introduction of the use of social network signals.)
The MatrixNet algorithm
In 2009, Yandex has introduced a new ranking algorithm named MatrixNet. It’s based on machine learning and the use of assessors to evaluate the quality of search results and the combination of ranking factors for various query types and subjects. Also, Yandex started showing different search results for geo-dependent queries in 1,250 Russia’s regions. According to Ilya Segalovich, the co-founder and Chief Technology Manager, the ranking formula, which in 2006 was 0.02 Kb, increased up to 280 MB in 2010.
The Paid Links Policy
Website promotion tasks have seriously complicated ever since Yandex started using machine learning to distinguish paid links from the organic ones (according to the Madrid report, paid link texts often contain certain patterns specific for commercial subjects, and on the pages that contain these dense blocks with links of different subjects, links are constantly added/removed, while the content remains the same).
Services that sell SEO-links are very popular in Russia – this is one of the main differences from the rest of the world’s SEO. Sape.ru is the most famous of these services – it offers around 550k sites for link placement. Yandex is constantly working to minimize the SEO pressure, for example, links now become “fully working” and start transferring link juice usually 2-3 months after they were placed. But I want to tell you that quality over quantity, and so important to attract links from quality sites. Below you can see the top 10 budgets on Sape.ru link exchange:
Search Results for Commercial Subjects
In December 2011 Yandex introduced a new ranking formula for commercial queries. Now the priority in the search results goes not just to online stores that are well optimized and have a large number of quality links, but the sites with a good product range, excellent descriptions and additional information, easy navigation, a large number of payment and delivery methods, as well as the service quality. The formula also uses the estimates of assessors and the algorithm based on machine learning. In a nutshell, most of these features usually belong to well-known brands that the users trust. According to Alexander Sadovsky (Chief of Web Search Department), “the better quality website – the more traffic it gets.”
What Can a Webmaster Do to Improve the Ranking of Their Website Today?
• Designing the content and the structure of his website, focusing on target keywords (wordstat.yandex.ru provides such information and helps to find related inquiries, another great way is to use contextual ads to find effective keywords).
• Adding his website to Yandex.Webmaster service and confirming the right to this site. After that you can view the information about your website indexing and errors that occur, specify the target region, see the statistics of clicks and keyword impressions, set up “quick links” that appear in the serp, check if the XML sitemap is processed correctly.
• Sending data for rich snippets (they exist for subjects like Restaurants, Pizzerias, Cafes and Coffee Shops, Bars and Pubs, Sports Bars, Hotels, Cinemas, Museums, Airports, Fitness Centers, Driving Schools). It also supports Schema.org markup.
• General recipes of search engine optimization: disallowing service and duplicate pages (login forms, for example) from being indexed in robots.txt and using noindex tags for blocks of content (there’s also a special tag to close the site content from being indexed that only works in Yandex), eliminating duplicate content, writing unique quality content, improving the structure, simplicity and convenience of website navigation, interlinking.
• If you constantly analyze the statistics of search engine hits using web analytics (such as Google.Analytics or Yandex.Metrika), evaluate indicators like bounce rate, conversion rate, view depth and adapt the content to the interests of users, as well as test the website, you’ll be sure to receive an increase of the organic quality traffic.
Filters Against Over Optimization
In order to avoid filters and site pessimization in search results, you should be careful with large SEO texts and the rate of obtaining new inbound links. Instead, you need to optimize your site only for the phrases it is relevant to.
Ranking factors that have the greatest impact are: the domain’s trust rank, its age, link factors, but the main trend that came with the introduction of the Matrixnet algorithm is the user factors, including the number of clicks in the search results and the user’s behavior after landing on the website from the search engine. So far social signals only affect the way the website is displayed on the serps and they gradually begin to influence the site’s ranking.
Social Networks in Yandex
Social SEO is the trend in site optimization that is huge in Russia. Yandex collaborates with Facebook, Twitter as well as with the market leader – VKontakte social network with an audience of 25 million users from Russia every day. For example, a SERP shows links to social networks that are binded to the website (Yandex takes them either from the home page or from the Yandex.Adresa service), as well as the last tweets (to achieve “freshness” and relevance) and information about the people who shared a link on Twitter.
I hope this post gave you a general idea of the Russian search engine market