The Oban Blog

Russia’s online revolution – search and online trends

The first step to mastering SEO in Russia is to shake off any preconceptions and approach it from a localised perspective. This enormous and upwardly mobile country has one of the most active online populations in the world. ComScore estimated user figures to be around 62 million in 2012 – that’s 44.3% of the total population[1]. This figure shows huge potential for targeting e-commerce consumers in Russia; something your business should possibly be taking advantage of.

Oban strongly believe every global digital strategy starts with a deep understanding of local markets. Russia may have inherited elements of European culture, but their language and behaviour is strikingly unique. To help plan your digital marketing activity Oban has profiled the Russian internet community to determine how to approach this emerging market.

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Image credit: ComScore

Boasting a land mass of approximately 1.5 million km1 and a population of 144 million, Russia is the largest country in the world2. Active online users are predominately found in Moscow and Saint Petersburg – that’s only 21% of the total Russian consumer landscape! The rural areas are increasing their internet consumption at speed, narrowing the gap as each year passes. In 2007, it closed by 31% and it will continue to reduce a further 8% by 20143. Indicating the online Russian audience is expanding beyond cities and into new territories.

Tip: Urban consumers and rural communities use different online applications. It’s imperative you know what audience you are geo-targeting before drawing up your digital marketing strategy.

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Image credit: NetRefer

Statistical trends suggest the technological infrastructure in Russia is radically changing. A survey by the Public Opinion Foundation states home internet access grew by 10%4 over the first half of 2011, while household broadband subscriptions remained flat. Why is the country increasing its internet access but not subscribing to household broadband? Well, 1 in 15 of the online population now have a smartphone or tablet – a number that is increasing rapidly. Indicating, 10% of the internet growth is attributed to an increased popularity in mobiles.

So, what does this mean for you and your business? If you decide to enter this market, you will need to ensure your website and digital marketing strategy caters for smartphone and tablet users. Producing localised content on these platforms will be the centrepiece of your strategy.

TIP: Runet is a collective term used for all online Russian content, establishing itself as a separate entity to the Western web. To incorporate it into your content strategy, employ a native content expert to create engaging Runet that will capture your target market.

Image credit:

Search engine wars
Home-grown search engine Yandex holds more than 60% market share of the online landscape compared to 26%5. Interestingly, Yandex have overtaken Microsoft6, becoming the 4th biggest search engine worldwide, signifying the growing strength of Runet.

Consequently, indexing your website on Yandex is crucial for increasing natural search ranking in Russia. It is worth noting Yandex reacts strongly to likes, comments and shares, on social networks. Between 7% and 15% of searches relate to ‘fresh’ content, so ensuring this is implemented in your strategy7 is important for natural search visibility.

When it comes to creating content, it’s imperative you don’t put it through an online translation service. The Russian language has a unique alphabet and grammar system, rendering most automatic translations useless to native speakers. Only 8% of the country speak English, so hiring a bilingual native speaker is the only viable option for campaign success. Moreover, employing a Russian content expert will allow you to enter other Russian speaking countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and more8.

Russia has an ever-changing online landscape with an insatiable enthusiasm for online content. Brands forging a digital marketing campaign must learn to integrate Runet, adopting a localised approach to their strategy. Russia has yet to boom fully so understanding how online opportunities can be turned into realistic business goals is integral to market entry success. Keep an eye out for our accompanying white paper ‘Lost in translation – social media trends in Russia’, for more information on this exhilarating country.


1 Trading Economics
2 Nations Online
New Media Trend Watch
6 Search Engine Land
Russian Search Tips