Russia’s Search Engine Yandex Steathily Moves West
Yandex now has deeper cash pockets following its IPO -- so where and in what type of expansion is the company going to expand? Moving west and south perhaps? There are good competitive reasons why Yandex needs to take its battle with Google to other markets -- but it also needs to be secure at home -- in Russia.
Fresh off its IPO, Yandex recently raised $1.3 billion, giving it a significant cash resource for investment in its own development and expansion. Now whilst Google continues to push for more share of the East, the team at Yandex has been both strengthening their position in Russia and slowly pushing their search engine in Google’s direction and towards the West by two different means.
Preston Carey, Yandex’s US-based Business Development Director, is a regular speaker at the International Search Summit workshops and provides regular updates on progress and he makes clear that Yandex is working to give greater access to advertisers from outside of Russia to home in on Yandex’s domestic markets. This means localizing both tools and people.
Yandex Releases Yandex.Webmaster – Its Webmaster Tools Solution
Additionally, this week Yandex announced the release of a key tool for international search markets, namely the opening of their Webmaster tools area to English users, pictured below.
This enables people working internationally to access data from Yandex including crawler issues, which pages are in Yandex’s index, who links in, searches, viruses and improving the appearance of your site in results.
This is a great help, but also has its limitations.
You still need a Russian language speaker to do the real work because keywords and anchor text still have to understood from a Russian perspective – but at least it will remove some of the fear that non-Russian speakers have of dealing with Russian projects. Typically, they feel more comfortable working with Google in Russia even despite its smaller market share.
I asked Yandex for data on how many people were using the tools, but unfortunately, they didn’t have this yet and pointed to a very positive reaction from the press as evidence of progress.
Protecting The Russian Heartlands
In Russia, Yandex’s own market share seems to be holding firm with actual searches on Yandex growing exponentially to 2.3 billion per month as the above chart shows.
Significantly, Yandex has firmed up its position at home by doing a deal with Rambler, now the smallest search engine contender having dropped from a strong second place and apparently becoming the biggest loser to Google. Yet, Rambler still has a search audience of 4.2 million and reaches 14% of the Russian Internet audience.
It’s a fairly complex arrangement whereby Rambler’s search services are powered by Yandex’s search engine and Rambler has also joined Yandex’s Ad Network. Ads placed via Yandex can now run in Rambler’s search results, as well as on its content pages.
Rambler was principally working with a company called Begun in which Rambler has a controlling interest so this agreement involves the sharing of inventory between the two systems.
Begun’s advertisers have been given an opportunity to run their ads in any placement position on Rambler, thanks to the Begun system placing their ads via Yandex. These ads can also run on Yandex’s search results pages and on the pages of websites in the Yandex Network. Got it?
Now More Local Search Suggestions
In March, Yandex improved its search suggestions to based them on the user’s location.
Now, the user in Moscow typing театр (theater) in Yandex’s search box will see the театр сатиры (Satire Theater) suggestion, while the search engine’s suggestion for the user in Kirov will be театр на спасской (theater on Spasskaya), and a theater enthusiast in Kaliningrad will be offered театр на бассейной калининград (theater on Basseynaya in Kaliningrad).
Currently, Yandex offers over 40 million search suggestions and these words appear on Yandex’s search page over 25 million times a day.
The Second Strand Of Yandex’s Westward Strategy
I said that there were two ways in which Yandex is moving westwards out of Russia and the second is that the company is beginning to talk about its progress in eastern Europe where it appears to be gaining share from Google.
These markets are used Cyrillic characters and are close to Russia — they represent the best way for Yandex to build its international standing. See the chart below.
Will Yandex really only target Cyrillic or Slavic countries in the future? My questions are always replied to with, “Sadly, we cannot comment on our plans regarding international expansion. The only thing we can say is that we constantly explore all kinds of opportunities”.
Which means, yes we’re going for it,but we don’t want to tell you where. If you look at linguistic, geographic proximity and economic factors, my money is on Turkey and the Middle East. We will see.