Search Engine Market Share in Russia

False Consensus Bias is a term used in psychological study to characterize the condition in which an individual overestimates the amount his/her opinions and preferences are shared by others. The phrase gained popularity as a result of the often-cited 1977 research of social psychologist Lee Ross, and is frequently referenced today in discussions pertaining to adolescent development.

Well, while False Consensus Bias may be a characterization most germane to fourteen year olds struggling with greasy skin and erratic hormones, it’s also applicable to too many western Search Engine Marketers.

“Everyone uses Google, right?”

Wrong. Everyone in your neighborhood may use Google as their preferred search engine, but your neighborhood is not representative of the entire global community.

Russia covers nearly 1/8th of the earth’s land surface, and is populated by more than 143 million people spread across 11 time zones and 17 million square kilometers. It’s a massive country.

The Internet using population in Russia is the largest in Europe, the 5th largest in the world and with relatively low Internet penetration (54%) increase in significance is inevitable.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 10.33.58 AMFor the globally concerned Search Professional, Russia matters. And, in Russia – contrary to what your False Consensus Bias may suggest – everyone does not use Google.

Yandex is the leading search engine in Russia, and the discrepancy between first and second is stark. The chart to the right shows search engine market share in Russia, and clearly depicts Yandex as the preferred search engine for Russians.

Yandex has long maintained its dominance. This chart by LiveInternet shows the consistency in market share held by Yandex over the most recent three years. Such stability is reflective of a service/product that has matured into a cultural staple.

How has Yandex secured such significant market buy-in? Well, it’s multifactorial, of course; but, the Internet is the ultimate meritocracy and the performance of the product is chiefly responsible for Yandex’s popularity. Elegantly illustrated by SEO Ann Smarty on Twitter earlier this year, Yandex’s comprehension of the Russian language and its morphology is superior to Google’s. The better the engine can understand the language, the better the query can be satisfied, and the better the experience for both the publisher and the user.

But to fully appreciate the prevalence of a search engine, we must follow the money. The chart below illustrates the distribution of contextual advertising dollars in Russia; a staggering 70% of all spend on contextual advertising in Russia is spent on Yandex.  Yandex is where the Russian consumer engages in all five stages of the buying process – Need Recognition and Awareness, Information Search, Evaluation of Alternatives, Purchase, and Post Purchase Evaluation – Yandex is the Russian arena for them all, and the advertisers have taken notice.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 10.40.26 AM

The advertisers prefer Yandex because that’s where the audience is, but also for the same reason the users do – the Russian language comprehension. Understanding the language not only lends itself to better matched organic results, but paid results, as well. SEMers utilizing Yandex for reaching the Russian market are confident their ads will be returned to those targeted and erroneous impressions will be avoided. Every penny counts in online advertising, and Yandex presents the best vehicle in Russia for an efficient and cost-effective approach.

If you’re selling to Russians, you need to be advertising on Yandex.

The ability to understand English was the catalyst for Google’s climb to prominence in the western world; an influential 1998 PC Magazine article acknowledges Google’s “uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results,” and the rest is history. The same ability has secured Yandex the dominant share in Russia.

Yandex isn’t going anywhere. So if you’re a western SEMer and Russia is part of your audience, it’s time to avoid the False Consensus Bias and recognize that Yandex is the leading search engine in Russia.