Tips on language, website adaptation, and search optimization for the Russian audience
This article offers an overview of the materials published by RSM experts over the years: from accounting for spelling errors in search queries to data on English language proficiency and unexpected ways in which Russian cultural norms affect online behavior.
Browse the quotes for a primer on how to attract and convert Russian-speaking visitors on your new Russian website – or explore articles in more detail to develop a comprehensive plan.
What you need to know about entering the Russian market
- an agile approach
- willingness to run a pre-launch
- adapting to the demands of Russian consumers
- minimizing risks inherent in entering a new market
“The Russian market is different from the European, Asian, and American markets both from the perspective of business behavior and the launch of advertising campaigns and from the perspective of user preferences. To make sure your launch is as successful as possible, in addition to a launch strategy, thoughtful marketing, and a high-quality offer, you need to offer payment methods that are familiar in Russia and local service, carefully think through shipping logistics, and be ready for negative feedback and responses from your competitors.”
“When entering the Russian market we usually recommend using a pre-launch — as mentioned earlier, the Russian market is very different from those you’ve worked with in the past. The behavior and preferences of Russian consumers differ from those of European, Asian, and American consumers, which means you need to be extremely attentive and careful and make preliminary test flights. … Moreover, a pre-launch will allow you to generate consumer interest, attract more active consumers, and guarantee your first sales immediately after launch.”
“Over 80% of Russian citizens do not know a single foreign language, so if you don’t have Russian localization for your translations and support you will be very likely to lose this portion of the audience. According to research data from Ipsos, 66% of Russian citizens feel uncomfortable making purchases on websites in foreign languages. Moreover, 43% of Russian citizens polled wanted to at least have customer support in their language on a website, and almost half want the website to be available in Russian or at least translated.”
Increasing conversions: Russian localization & translation
The previous article touched on the importance of being ready to communicate with Russian consumers in their native language. This post provides additional statistics on conversion rates and localization, as well as reasons to start with a Russian-language landing page to test the waters during pre-launch.
“According to research by Common Sense Advisory, translation has shown to significantly improve conversion rates; 72.4% of consumers say they prefer to use their native language when online shopping, and 55% of global consumers say they only buy products form websites that supply information in their own language. In fact, 56.2% of consumers say they care more about information being provided in their own language than the actual price of the product or service.”
“A site’s potential is severely limited if users are unable to understand the content presented to them. Through language translation and Russian localization sites will gain the trust of foreign customers and increased credibility among their international user base. Those who enter the Russian market and try to “test” things by running ads to English language landing pages do not receive real feedback on their potential with the Russian audience.”
How to attract and convert Russian online shoppers by using language properly
The need to localize your website for Russian users doesn’t mean you need to completely abandon English on your website, or when planning your SEO or paid ads. In fact, Russians frequently use brands names in Latin characters in their searches. Here are some ideas on how to capitalize on their search habits, and how to pre-qualify your Russian-speaking traffic if you choose to run an English-language landing page:
“When it comes to keywords and some ad copy text, using your brand in English can be preferable. Users search for brand names in both the original Latin text but also in a transliterated text or spelling out the brand using Cyrillic. … English spellings and Russian spellings vary depending on the brand. … it is encouraged to utilize both English and transliterated Russian to target the entire audience searching for a brand. This is especially important because a higher English search volume for a keyword or brand doesn’t mean there are more English language users searching for the brand. Rather users often search for the brand name in Latin character and then add the specific item or service in Russian. For example, a user may search Adidas +бутсы, combining the Latin spelling of the brand and Russian word for the product when searching for Adidas cleats.”
“For brands that decide to maintain their English landing pages, indicating the that landing page is in English by adding (EN) in the add copy will tell users that they will be presented with English text. This helps advertisers attract more quality clicks from users who are more likely to still convert on an English landing page.”
Assessing Russian keywords: spelling & grammar errors
Russian being notoriously hard, there are some opportunities in optimizing your paid ads for errors made by native speakers in their search queries. Melissa McDonald explains how to adapt to spelling & grammar errors in Russian search queries:
“…analysts at Yandex researched Russian language related search queries, revealing the most difficult aspects of Russian language. For those of you writing keyword lists, these results on the most common mistakes and grammar concerns of native Russian speakers provides insight into how locals are often searching with mistakes in their queries.”
“For those simply searching for something they need on Yandex, errors are likely not too important to users because they know Yandex will automatically return the best organic search results. Unless advertisers have addressed these errors in one way or another, users will see fewer relevant ads when they make mistakes.
For advertisers who want to learn more about the errors that are relevant to their keywords, there are two useful methods. First, advertisers can use the Wordstat tool, which in addition to showing results on the keyword entered, also will show “similar searches” on the right-hand column that can include errors. For advertisers using Yandex.Metrica, the free web analytics tool, they can download a Yandex.Direct- summary report that will show exact queries. Accounting for certain Russian spelling and grammar also relates to how advertisers are using match types.”
Choosing the right color for your Russian ads
In addition to keeping in mind possible typos and grammar errors, you might want to consider the fact that colors might have slightly different connotations in Russia.
Read this post by Melissa McDonald to learn more about the associations various colors trigger in Russia:
“When selecting your colors, first consider the gender and age of your general audience. Then ask yourself what emotions and associations you may want to trigger. By considering the emotions different colors stir in Russians, you can then adapt your ads for your target audience.”
7 things Russians expect on your website
In addition to being able to understand information about the product without having to open a dictionary, what else do Russian buyers need to know to be comfortable with buying on an e-commerce website?
This article lists 7 things Russians expect to see on a website that caters to them. Among other things, you might consider adding:
- several options for customer service and a local phone number
- social integrations
- various delivery options
- an option to order without registering
“It’s common for Russians to search for “official” sites due to a number of sites selling counterfeit goods. It’s therefore especially important to help your users understand you are an official retailer. Contact information is an important feature to include to make your site credible and to build trust with a potential Russian customer. Offering several options for customer service and a local phone number and address are especially helpful. A FAQ section also allows clarification for Russian users and any confusion or uncertainty they may have when using your site.”
“Social integration on your website not only helps users share content but it makes it easier to sign up for a service when they can use their social media profile. Unlike many other users worldwide, Russians prefer local social media sites over some of the international channels.”
“The speed in which users can use your site to achieve their desired outcome is crucial to Russian users. A great feature to meet this expectation is no required registration. For example while online shopping, it has become popular to make transactions as a “guest” on a site, rather than having to register to complete a purchase. While registered users can enjoy other benefits, giving users the option can encourage purchases and perhaps draw in future registered customers. Russians also prefer to be able to use sites or apps that are free (also require less work inputting information) but are happy to indulge in in-app purchases or other fees.”
5 facts about Russia that can impact your advertising
In addition to adjusting your website copy to adhere to Russian buyers’ expectations, what else do you need to consider to make your advertising efforts a success?
“Being one of the countries with the most time zones in the world, it is important to consider how Russian local times impact scheduling ad timing. Due to Russia’s size, it is important as an advertiser to decide what locations you’re targeting. Depending on your business or service, you may only want to target metropolitan areas or even the whole country. If you want to target smaller areas, advertisers should focus on the time zones of specific locations. If you want to reach the whole country then it is important to think about when people are using your service or shopping for your ad campaign.”
“Culturally trust and loyalty are important values that Russians can appreciate even when shopping. Russians trust and comfort with online shopping has definitely increased, but there are some important factors that can help advertisers make Russian shoppers more comfortable shopping with them. … It’s common for Russians to search for “official” sites due to a number of sites selling counterfeit goods. Consider bidding on “official” plus your brand name as part of your campaign in addition to trustworthy site links you include in your ad.”
6 must-have Russian social buttons on your website
Wondering which social media sites are relevant for your Russian buyers? This article lists 6 social media networks popular in Russia and explains how Russians use them to shop and communicate.
“Social network user penetration is led by Russia, making social media an increasingly important component of e-commerce activity in the country. Companies seeking to reach Russian consumers typically must embrace social media if they want to expand their customer base.”
“VKontakte is typically considered the Russian interpretation of Facebook, and while both companies have similar social networking features, VKontakte has a much stronger presence in streaming media. Many Russians turn to VKontakte as a primary source of streaming music and video, and VK is especially popular among Russians younger than 25.”
“Although Odnoklassniki is the second most popular social network in Russia, the site is particularly popular among older generations and is typically used for connecting former classmates.”
“WhatsApp has a considerable fanbase in Russia. The Facebook-owned service is available through mobile applications that have cross-platform capabilities, allowing users to message one another from within the app on any major mobile OS. This makes the service especially popular for international communication, as well as in countries where text messaging is expensive or restricted.”
“The fourth most popular social network in Russia is not as widely used as it is in the United States, but its growing popularity and strong tools for brand integration make it a necessary addition for social buttons. Specific brand pages for Russian companies and subsidiaries are less common than on Vkontakte, but Facebook is a necessary social button to have for sharing content, and it is a popular service to use for logging in to a company’s website.”
“Online media consumption is especially popular in Russia, which helps to explain why many companies operate their own YouTube channels. It is a good idea to operate a YouTube channel specific to a company’s Russian website in order to better expand one’s customer base. Social buttons linking to the YouTube channels for companies are increasingly popular, particularly for those in fields where visuals are a strong part of the customer experience, such as in the auto industry.”
3 ways Russian culture matters online
At this point you might be wondering, “But what about the mysterious Russian soul? Should I consider making changes to my website or ads based on differing cultural norms and expectations?”
Some ideas on how the Russian psyche works based on the work of Hofstede can be found here.
In addition to that, this article by Melissa McDonald has several examples of how Russian cultural traits affect their online behavior, focusing on gift-giving, the importance of appearances, and the value of strong relationships:
“Many of today’s popular online dating sites in Russia have a gift-giving feature. While many of these dating sites are free, users can spend a few dollars for virtual gift credits. A virtual gift on dating sites works as a good conversation starter and is truly appreciated by women.
Traditionally, Russian men frequently give women flowers or chocolates and tend to court women a bit more than the current Western scene. Gifts are more common and appreciated than we would see in the US. Where it may seem cheesy for a man to give a virtual gift and a women to dismiss the picture of a flower in the US, Russian culture invites this online behavior.”
“Russians care about their appearance and always look put together and presentable when in public. While appearance has become a bit more relaxed, there is no “wear my yoga outfit to the grocery store” “throw some sweatpants on to go out to brunch” behavior in Russia. Same goes for social media – after all, it’s public. Posting lots of modelesque pictures of one self isn’t seen as something that makes a person really self-involved but pretty common and appreciated.”
“…serious relationships are just the norm in Russia. Over 80% of surveyed Russians said they were looking for serious relationships online according to a study by mamba.ru, a leading Russian dating site.
Beyond more Russians adjusting their search parameters to find love online, this cultural aspect has impacted the way dating apps are being used. Among others, Tinder has taken off almost as much as it has in the US. … Despite the way the app works and is known in the US, Russians use it to find serious relationships and business networking purposes. … If they aren’t finding a serious relationship on Tinder they are looking for a free marketing tool for their private business like advertising their English language tutoring.”
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