Time to Reevaulate your Geo-targeting: Russian Search Interests by City

SEM specialists know that information on demographics and users’ search interests help with ad creation and keyword selection.  So here is a bit of great insight from Yandex, the leading search engine in Russia, that sees over 5 billion search queries every month and can offer some awesome information for your ads.  Yandex research analysts recently evaluated the billions of search queries from September 2013 to May 2014, comparing the search behavior of people from different size cities.

This Yandex research offers useful data for digital advertisers who use geo-targeting for their ads on Yandex.Direct.  For this project, the categories of cities were studied by the following parameters: population of 1 million or more, population between 100,000 and 1 million, and a population less than 100,000, Moscow, and St. Petersburg.  The results showed search variation by city, which can accordingly be utilized for your campaigns.

City Size and Population:

More than half of Yandex searches are coming from the two major cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg.  Meanwhile, almost a quarter of the population lives in smaller cities but only contributes to 6-7% of Russian search queries..

Yandex search queries by city

A greater portion of users in the small cities are younger, so their search interests are going to be a bit different and in time, as they grow, their needs, and use of the Internet will change as well.

yandex users demographics 2014

Top Search Topics:

Most Russians’ top searches are for one of the popular Russian social networking sites, Odnoklassniki or VKontakte.  Users are also searching for Avito, Russia’s premiere classified site, Youtube, and Yandex.  Recently, all of these sites landed on the list of RuNet’s top websites. Russians are also searching for porn but unfortunately, such sites didn’t make the cut so I can’t really elaborate on that.

Yandex top 10 search queries

Some search topics are universal regardless of a city’s population size, like foreign languages and mobile devices. As seen on the map below, a search may be more popular in one city and less so in another.

Yandex map of user search interests

Overall, Yandex analysts concluded that there are many similarities across the various cities for the top search queries in Russia. Really the variation is seen in the amount of user interest in the topic. For the top-10 search query topics, a topic can make up over half of the total search queries in small cities but less than 40% of the queries in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Yandex top 10 searches by city

User Intent by Category:

Analysts at Yandex broke down the queries by category to better assess how people are searching – are they solving a problem or looking to watch a movie? Users search for a combination of entertainment and services, as indicated by the blue and red (well maybe pink) boxes above. Over 20% of all search queries in Moscow and St. Petersburg are for services, while over 20% of all queries in the two smaller locations are for entertainment.

Residents in Moscow and St. Petersburg are searching more for services and personal affairs, including anything from a car repair to finding a doctor.  90% of queries about tourism, home, health, and beauty fall into this category for personal affairs. Users in Moscow and St. Petersburg have grown accustomed to utilizing the Internet for solving all sorts of needs like getting their fridge fixed. In time, this will expand to regions with smaller populations as users and demand catch up with the bigger cities.

Users elsewhere are still searching for such topics but they are searching more for rest and recreation: films, games, and social networks.

yandex regions search 2014

Users in Moscow and St. Petersburg also place greater emphasis on solving issues related to work, which generally means cruising on classified ads sites. Meanwhile, people in smaller cities are searching for education related topics – learning, growing, and expanding their horizons. To me, this says a lot about the future of these areas with smaller populations. Access to more information and exposure to lots of international content, like we have seen in the past, will promote these areas to catch up with the major cities and Western standards.

yandex user intent region 2014

For most of these cities, you will notice that user intent still shows a need for and an interest in all categories. For that reason, depending on your business, your campaigns should still target and find success in all regions but you can just adjust your ads and spend to get more impressions in areas where you will be more successful.  For most cases, it makes sense to duplicate your ad (and adjust some keywords) for smaller cities and dedicate some of your budget to these areas well.  If your business is for instance, related to online gaming, you may want to consider a bigger relative budget for smaller cities, given the interests in gaming and demographic breakdown.

Geo-Targeting for the Future:

If I had to take a guess, most of you are targeting Moscow and St. Petersburg right now so that’s great as these clearly are the current hot spots.  I would also guess when you started your Yandex campaign you may have turned on Moscow and St. Petersburg because they were pretty much the only Russian cities you knew – they were big, Internet penetration was up, and you read in some report that the e-Commerce scene was popping so that was a logical move. Researching some smaller cities you can’t pronounce and figuring out what in the world is going on there, well it probably seemed a bit pointless and time consuming.  I assure you, it’s not. The biggest growth in Internet penetration and e-Commerce is in the regions and smaller cities. There is an entire audience beyond these well-known cities waiting for your business but they may not know about you.  If they aren’t searching for you yet, they will be – plan accordingly.