You probably heard about Yandex from financial news last year, as one of the biggest dotcom IPO debuts since Google. Yandex raised $1.3 billion on NASDAQ in May 2011, and currently has market capitalization of $8.3 billion. What you probably don’t know, is that Yandex is the largest search engine in Russia with 59% search share, and world’s 5th largest search engine in 2011 by Comscore. Surprisingly, Google takes second place in Russia, conducting only 25% of all searches.
With population of 140 million and internet penetration of only 42% (60 mil), Russian search market is growing at a very high pace of 18% (2011/2010) and provides great opportunities for companies that are looking to market their products in Russia.
Point It has been running Yandex paid search campaigns for one of our largest global clients, and we’d like to share some important points you need to know when considering online marketing in Russia.
Recent stats of Russian search by liveinternet:
Yandex has its own advertising platform for managing PPC campaigns. First, forget about Google Adwords or Microsoft adCenter – Yandex.Direct has different structure and campaign organization. Make sure you allocate some time to learn and get familiar with the platform. Yandex provides support for its advertisers, if you are big enough you may get a dedicated account representative for language assistance, help set the mediaplan, upload initial campaigns, and advise on optimization. Yandex reps are quite knowledgebale and very proactive, however you are still hands on managing your campaigns. Also, having someone on your team who is fluent in Russian would help significantly in understanding peculiarities of Russian market.
2. Yandex networks.
Like other engines, Yandex.Direct has two major advertising networks: search and content. In search, similarly to other search engines, Yandex serves ads on the top and right hand side of search results. Yandex claims its YAN (Yandex advertising Network) consists of “only quality websites” and “every website goes through a multistage evaluating process to meet conditions for participation before being accepted into the Network”. (link)
3. Yandex SERP and ads
Ad serving is also an auction; ads compete for placement in any position on the basis of their CTR and CPC. There are several ad placement areas in Yandex SERP:
– Top three positions above organic results are called Premium Placements. According to the research by Neiron.ru there is a highest CTR in these positions (12.7%-13.9%)
– Ads at the top right column are called Guaranteed Placements. There may be up to 4 guaranteed placements.
– Below guaranteed placements are dynamically rotated ads that triggered based on their CTR and CPC. If there are not enough search ads for guaranteed placements, content banner ads may appear in their place.
The reason for such ad segmentation is Yandex bidding strategies for position targeting described below.
Structure-wise, Yandex.Direct ads are similar to adCenter text ads allowing up to 33 characters in the headline and up to up to 75 characters in the main text.
Here is the typical Yandex SERP page for searching “buy a television” in Russian:
4. User interface and campaign structure.
For someone who’s used to the well laid-out Adwords interface, navigating in Yandex.Direct UI maybe challenging. Yandex platform is far from perfect in terms of layout, structure and overall user experience. Some settings are not easy to find within the UI. For example, geo-targeting settings are buried under ad copy settings.
Campaign structure is also different in Yandex. There are no ad groups in Yandex PPC. Within a campaign keyword sets are attached to a certain ad copy. The drawback of this structure is that it is not possible to have multiple ads per keyword set. As a result there is no ad rotation as well.
For better adoption by international advertisers Yandex needs to align its structure with industry standards and make it more intuitive to use.
In terms of billing, Yandex has a US subsidiary and accepts invoicing for the U.S. residents. According to its website, “non-resident companies are billed in U.S. dollars and may pay by bank transfer. You must provide paperwork proving the status of the company and its registration. Minimum payment has to be no less than $700”. The invoice is sent monthly.
6. Pricing and bidding.
Yandex uses a CPC model where you can manually set maximum costs per click. Yandex does not have CPM bidding. All pricing is done in units: 1 unit equals to 30 Russian rubles which is approximately $1. Minimal bid is 0,01 unit. While units are almost equal to the amount in U.S. dollars, you still need to use a current exchange rate for the exact spend. This especially applies when you have large budgets.
For bidding, there are manual and automated options. With manual bidding you set maximum bids on a keyword level. You can use position estimates as guidelines.
For automated bidding there are several strategies available. You can maximize number of visitors based on your budget, focus on best converting keywords (requires metrica), budget optimized spend etc.
7. Geo targeting.
Russia is a large country and very different within. Yandex has quite advanced local search algorithm to target all 83 regions of Russia. According to Yandex geo-targeting recommendations, an advertiser has to pay attention to their regional settings:
1. Provide the full address on the website of your business, including zip code and phone area code. This will help the algorithm to automatically determine the appropriate target region.
2. If your business has several regional offices, provide addresses and telephone numbers of each, so it knows that website targets several regions.
3. Use Yandex Webmaster and Spravochnik (aka Google Places) tools to assign regions.
4. If your site is region-dependent, then you can create subdomains and directories for each version.
Geo-targeting is done on an ad copy level. This means you may have multiple geo-targets within one campaign. In order to get to geo-settings, you need to drill down to regional ad settings.
Note: after bulk uploads, make sure to double check the settings, they often get reset.
8. Keywords and match types.
Russian language is quite different from English. Compared to English that has a fixed word order, in Russian meaning is dependent on composition of words (prefixes and suffixes). For non-Russian speakers this may create a serious challenge. It is highly recommended to use assistance of native speakers or help of reps at Yandex.
There are four keyword match types in Yandex:
– “Modified broad match” – this is a default match type. In order to trigger an impression, a search query has to contain all words in any order. All forms and plurals are also included.
– Broad match – “additional relevant keyword phrases”. When you enable this option, the system will select relevant keyword phrases based on ad text, keyword phrases and information from the advertised site. This includes typos and transliterated keywords.
– “Modified exact match” – use quotation marks (“keyword”) to set an exact matching. However it will match plural and other forms of the keyword.
– Exact match – place an exclamation mark in the beginning of a keyword for the exact match.
Note: Letter case does not matter in Yandex. Propositions are ignored as well.
Negative keywords, also called “minus-words”, are set on ad copy level. Use dash (minus) sign to add a negative keyword. For example: keyword “download –free photoshop” will exclude all queries with word “free” in them.
Using () and | commands can create phrase variations. For example: “buy (apple | android) smartphone” will generate impressions for queries “buy apple smartphone” and “buy android smartphone”.
Yandex is capable of understanding semantics of Russian language better than Google, often delivering much more relevant results especially for queries that may have additional meanings.
Yandex does not have conversion tracking like adCenter or Adwords. However, it offers an analytics platform called Yandex.Metrica. It is similar to Google Analytics and quite powerful. It requires you to install a small code on the site to enable tracking.
In our campaigns we used a third party tracking tools and had to create dummy campaigns in Adwords and them use tracking URL’s in Yandex ads.
10. Bulk edits.
For bulk edits Yandex has a tool called Direct Commander. Do not expect functionality of Editor or Desktop tool, this one is quite primitive, but still helps with bulk edits, such as status changes, ad copy and URL updates etc. Personally, I found easier to use the tool rather than navigating through the web UI. Additionally, you can view stats and edit keywords, but cannot export them to Excel. Unfortunately, the tool is only available in Russian language.
Overall, there has been a mixed experience with Yandex PPC. Comparing to AdWords and adCenter, Yandex PPC platform is not structured as good and it is more difficult to manage large accounts. There is a steep and often frustrating learning curve. However, the company tries hard to compensate this with providing a good account support. Like it or not, Yandex is the leader on Russian and FSU online markets, and, if you market to Russia, advertising on Google will not be sufficient and eventually will lead you to trying Yandex PPC.