Behind The Scenes At Yandex In Moscow
For many years I’ve been writing about and editing pieces about Yandex. I’ve met some of their people and have introduced them at conferences around the world. I’ve already visited Google and Baidu, but for the first time, Yandex suggested I meet the team at their base in Moscow, to tour the business and to find out what really makes them tick. Having managed to source a visa, I set off for a revelation.
You can probably imagine that as a search geek who has been working in international search for 15 years, I nearly wet my pants. Today, I’m going to share an overview of my visit. Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing what they taught me which reveals not only significant learnings about Yandex — but also on Google. Stay tuned.
It was snowing in Moscow as I caught the metro to Yandex’s offices. Fortunately, I can read enough Russian to navigate my way around the underground as there are no directional signs in English — all in Cyrillic (plus I had an excellent guide!)
The rush hour in Moscow is at least as stressful as London — perhaps worse. But despite the crush, I arrived on time at Yandex’s offices not that far from the Kremlin and Red Square; for the leadership, marketing and PR team and guests on the 7th floor, they can see the golden cupolas of the churches within the walled Kremlin through the windows.
Yandex’s offices are based inside what appears to be some form of converted textile mill — which distinguishes them from both Google and Baidu who have new build offices. However, a large new build extension was added as part of the conversion.
Like all “tech” companies, there is a huge and colourful Yandex logo right beside the receptionist and the offices have a strong modern identity with a focus on bringing natural materials such as wood and plants, into the office making it, I imagine, a very pleasant place to work.
For my first meeting of the day, I began at the top, meeting Ilya Segalovich, the CTO and co-founder of the business. Ilya gave me much more time than he was supposed to and my interview with him will follow in this column in the near future.
I can share with you now that he was particularly keen to highlight all the developments which came first from Yandex and which were later followed by other search engines including Google.
It seems some folks in the west and in the US in particular think Yandex is a Google copy transplanted into Russia whereas Yandex was already built before Google launched.
We were joined by Head of Search, Anatoly Orlov who then introduced me to members of his team in the development of the Yandex machine learning system MatrixNet (more on that in later columns as well, as this has significant implications for the SEO community). Then a team of “antis” meaning the Anti-Spam team, Anti-Virus, and Anti-Malware people.
Then I was introduced to the Marketing and PR teams before finally fortuitously bumping into Arkady Volozh, the principal found of Yandex and CEO since the year 2000, who despite the unplanned nature of the encouter, shared some fascinating insights.
From the experience, I drew the following conclusions:
- Yandex is clearly very forward thinking and aims to stay in the search field for a very long time. There are no suggestions that they are awed by the Google presence in Russia or other markets and they are well aware of weaknesses within the Google structure.
- The international battle is still wide open and whilst Google may have a larger footprint today, the game is getting hotter each day. The current situation could be described as the calm before the storm. I will also discuss this in a later column.
- Machine learning is going to change search marketing and SEO as we know it — I will also dedicate a column to this topic in the near future!
- If you want to find out how a search engine works, ask another search engine!
- Successful search engines always have very modern and attractive offices — though Yandex wins for its view (Google wins for the climate though!).
Everything you need to know about SEO, delivered every Thursday.