─ What benefit does SEO bring to small and medium-sized business in Russia?
─ The same as it does elsewhere in the world: it attracts potential customers to sites via search engines i.e. through the search results displayed to internet users. Business today without the internet is an impossibility. These days, all consumers can be found on the net. And, generally, it is on the net in particular that they go looking for whatever it is they need. We’re not just talking about internet stores, either. Of course, any self-respecting retailer will set up online trading in one form or another. But even if the customer doesn’t complete the transaction over the net, preferring to see the goods with their own eyes instead (and Russian customers are fairly conservative in this respect, ordering goods over the internet far less frequently their Western counterparts), they do still use the net to research the market situation before they go heading off to a store. The same goes for the services sector: which is probably the most important sector to small businesses.
─ So that covers the difference between the Russian and Western consumer. But what are the specific characteristics of Runet? Surely, the internet is cosmopolitan and transcends all borders?
─ Yes, the internet is cosmopolitan and international but in each country it has its own unique qualities. Runet is markedly different from the American and Western European version of the World Wide Web in that the dominant search engine here is the local one, Yandex, which controls over 50% of the market. Ten years ago, it looked as though Yandex would share the same fate as other home-grown search engines in trying to play Google, and failing, but this didn’t end up happening. Yandex managed to improve its technology and optimally adapt it to the tastes and expectations of the Russian-speaking user. It was localisation that was key to Yandex’s success. Google operates in all countries to universal standards without taking domestic preferences into particular consideration, and Yandex was able to exploit this. The upshot is that not only do sites on Runet receive the bulk of their traffic from Yandex search results, but the Yandex.Direct contextual advertising operation produces substantially more traffic for Russian language sites than the equivalent Google AdWords service. Any commercial enterprise, Western ones included, counting on success on the Russian market, cannot afford to ignore Yandex’s unique position on Runet, and should adapt itself to Yandex’s search technology and make use of the Yandex service in order to promote itself.
Runet is markedly different from the American and Western European version of the World Wide Web in that the dominant search engine here is the local one, Yandex.
─ What are the technological differences between Yandex and Google?
Obviously, Yandex’s technology is reasonably similar to that of Google, and most commercially oriented search queries at the top of Yandex and Google turn out to be the very same sites: those large and established portals overgrown with countless links, likes and comments on social media. For a startup, on the other hand, the difference is fundamental. The one which the majority of potential customers use is Yandex. Which means you need to tailor yourself to Yandex and set aside the larger part of your advertising budget for Yandex.Direct.
─ But how do you tailor yourself to Yandex?
─ This is what SEO services are for. They constitute, by the way, a large market with a multi-billion turnover. SEO services are offered by specialised companies, and advertising and branding agencies.
─ What do these services include and what is their price on the Russian market?
─ Usually a specific package is offered, one which is quite wide-ranging. I’ll give you the main points. First off: the SEO Audit. Statistical research is carried out into search queries, and the semantic kernel of the queries is identified. The structure of search traffic entering the site is analysed, as is the current position of the site in search results according to key search terms. A search promotion strategy is developed and priority promotion methods selected. Then optimisation of the structures of the site, goods catalogue, and individual pages is carried out based on the semantic kernel of queries and, if need be, fine-tuning of the site’s html code. Finally, the settings needed for search promotion are made in Yandex.Webmaster. On the market, SEO Audits start at 20,000 roubles (for a one-off service), SEO Support starts at 20,000 roubles a month. SEO Optimisation depends on the amount of work involved. It costs from 800 roubles per working hour. But SEO on its own means little. If you want your website to work properly, to bring in clients, you need contextual advertising.
─ So what does the package for setting up and implementing contextual advertising include?
─ Creating different versions of adverts, setting up the counting of ad impressions (keywords, stop words, geo-temporal targeting etc.); choosing an ad display strategy (be it on the first page of search results, on further pages, or contextual display on ad networks sites etc.); selecting the rates at which ads will be posted; organising analysis of ad traffic quality in Yandex.Metrica; setting optimal indicators for the advertising company in order to derive maximum efficiency from the agreed advertising budget. The cost is from 20,000 roubles for Yandex.Direct and Google AdWords.
─ And what budget would you need to allow for contextual advertising?
─ That very much depends on the market segment. The most expensive, most frequent keywords can require a million roubles per month. But the budget can always be optimised. Basically, for a small business, the contextual advertising budget starts at 30,000 roubles a month.
Basically, for a small business, the contextual advertising budget starts at 30,000 roubles a month.
To finish, I would point out that Yandex’s advertising services are not limited to Yandex.Direct. A completely exclusive position in its market sector is occupied by yet another Yandex service: Yandex.Market. This is the main sales tool for the majority of online stores operating on the Russian market. Yandex.Market will yield online stores, even the large ones, up to 80% of its sales.