Russia’s government last month announced possible plans to launch a national search engine, their aim being to have tighter control over filtration, and to ensure the ‘safe access of information’.

The venture would set them back around $100m (around £65m), and it would be a long and lengthy process to overtake the market leader Yandex, who currently holds 62.8% of the market share in Russia.

Despite the plans being questionable, the announcement does bring to attention certain aspects of the Russian search market.

Yandex is the world’s fastest growing search engine, with a massive 80% growth between December 2009 and 2010. Its popularity in Russia is mostly down to its in-depth and thorough knowledge of the ‘complexities and nuances of the Russian language’. 

Yandex was built and developed for the Russian language, and understands it as well as Google understands English, which is undoubtedly why it’s Russia’s search engine of choice.

So, what does this mean for UK businesses wanting to improve their SEO in Russia?

  • As with all multilingual SEO, simply translating a site from English to Russian will not suffice. Research needs to be carried out into the intricacies of Russian search behaviours, such as popular key words and phrases. Oban found that Russian searchers often use plural phrases when searching i.e. ‘search engines’ rather than ‘search engine’. 
  • Backlinking is important when it comes to search engine optimisation in Russia. It’s best to follow the same rules as when linking for Google – select quality and industry related links, and essentially with Russian-based sites. Be aware of spammy Russian link directories.
  • Yandex, like other ‘local’ search engines such as China’s Baidu, prefers sites hosted in Russia, with a Russian domain name i.e. .ru. Russia’s most popular top level domain name can now be written in Cyrillic (‘.ru’ becomes ‘.рф’, which stands for ‘Rossiyskaya Federatsiya’ – Russian Federation).

    Yandex hasn’t yet made it clear whether they are planning to hold preference to Cyrillic domain names, but if they do, it will have a huge effect on Russian SEO.

  • The use of Twitter and Facebook in Russia is growing, but the most popular social networks are local and According to ComScore, Russia has the most engaged social networking audience in the world, and this is something to bear in mind when targeting a Russian market.

Russia holds a promising online market. By looking at the trends of local search, the complexities of the Russian language and by adhering to the principles of Yandex, UK businesses can improve their search rankings, and reap the rewards of what Russia has to offer.