As most webmasters and SEM specialists with a presence in Russia will tell you, one of the biggest draws to the Runet is the high upside and room for growth.  Overall, Internet penetration continues to rise, especially thanks to mobile Internet access but Russia is still behind most Western countries.  Russia has a population of 143 million people and spans 11 time zones.  Disparities among the different regions results in different rates of Internet development depending on the area.

Yandex research analysts recently compiled data to review how the Internet is developing in Russia by location.  The research compares Russia to its former Soviet counterparts and other countries worldwide, in addition to dividing the Russian regions with Internet statistics.

In 2014, the Russian Internet audience continued to increase at a similar pace as 2013.  According to the Fall 2014 data from the Public Opinion Foundation, 72.3 million Russians use the Internet at least once per month while almost 60 million users are online daily.  During the year, Russia gained 6 million new Internet users.  The daily Internet users grew even more significantly with 6.7 million new users who access the Internet every day.

Russian Internet penetration and audience 2015

Among CIS countries (Commonwealth of Independent States, formed after the Soviet Union dissolved), Russia has the highest Internet penetration.  However, several smaller countries in the surrounding area are catching up to Russia.  The Baltic states, which also have a considerable Russian speaking population and Russian nationals, maintain a much more developed Internet audience.

FYI, for Yandex advertisers, Yandex maintains approximately 60% of the search market share in Russia, 44% in Belarus, 33% in Ukraine, and 25% in Kazakhstan.

Internet penetration in Russia and Eastern Europe

Despite being one of the leading countries for Internet use in Eastern Europe, Russia’s stats still rank fairly low compared to some of the world’s most developed economies.  Comparatively, Russia still has a long way to go and millions of more users to start regularly accessing the Internet.

Internet penetration by country

While generally the development of Runet proves to be steadily growing with significant upside, this in depth look at Internet use in regions of Russia provides a more detailed understanding of the domestic Runet scene.  Most Yandex.Direct advertisers should recognize these Russian regions from the breakdown in the geo-targetting options.

These regional areas encompass major cities and villages throughout Russia, aside from Moscow and St. Petersburg that were extracted from the Central and Northwesternl regions.  St. Petersburg and the Far Eastern Federal District saw the greatest growth in 2014.  Siberia has the highest Internet penetration Moscow had the least significant change but still leads the amount of Internet users.  Across the board, every single region in Russia grew over the past year.

Internet use in Russia by region

When looking at the breakdown by city, town, and village, the most significant growth is seen in villages.  In rural areas of Russia, every other person accesses the Internet at least once a month.  As most would expect, Moscow and St. Petersburg have the highest Internet penetration by a significant margin.  Elsewhere the Internet penetration is still increasing as more people gain Internet access and start relying on it to solve their everyday needs.  Generally, areas outside of Moscow and St.Petersburg are driving significant growth in a number of major industries

Internet use in Russia by city

PPC specialist frequently run campaigns in Moscow and St. Petersburg where they know their ROI will be strong.  However, many others advertisers are also learning that by targeting regional areas they have the opportunity to to create great brand awareness and grow with the developing Internet audience.