Runet is the affectionate nickname that the Russians have given “their” Internet. It is made up of Russian sites as well those of the CEI countries. Runet is not especially English language-friendly and it has its own tools, one of the reasons why it stands out somewhat from the global Internet. Second leading European country in terms of the number of people using Internet behind Germany (figure from April 2011), Russia also has strong development potential in the e-commerce field.
The Yandex search engine
This is the most used Russian search engine and the most widely used website in the country. To date, Yandex handles 65% of Internet searches compared with 25% for Google. Russia is, as can be seen, one of the very few countries in the world where Google is less successful than the national leader, and Google’s “failure” (perhaps only a temporary state of affairs?) can probably be explained by the fact that the search quality is more or less the same and Yandex is very well localized for the Russian market. It uses its own search algorithm, although the rules to obtain good natural referencing on Google and Yandex vary little. Yandex pays very careful attention to the linguistic quality (grammar and syntax) of the content in Russian.
Given that SEO/SMO is quite widespread in Russia, and that, as a result, competition is high in certain fields (building, transport, etc.), inclusion in the Yandex directory can prove useful (it is the largest Russian-language directory). It costs approximately 15,000 roubles (around €350).
Vkontakte is Russia’s leading social network, far ahead of Facebook. Advertising is due to be banned on the new version of the site (vk.com) in 2011. Vkontakte is very popular with the 18-30 age bracket but people older than thirty prefer Odnoklassniki (Mail.ru search engine product).
Russian companies prefer the PPC campaigns on Yandex.Direct, the equivalent of Google AdWords. The Begun tool makes it possible to undertake PPC campaigns on both Google and Yandex (and on other Russian search engines such as Mail.ru et Rambler). As the Yandex interface and webmaster tools are only available in Russian, it is worthwhile using a specialised marketing agency. Runet works in partnership with a Yandex.Direct-certified Russian Internet agency for PPC campaigns.
In summary, Runet is relatively isolated at a global level and few European and American Internet agencies are interested in it because of the language barrier and the rather special nature of the market. As for the Russian agencies, they still very often suffer from Soviet-style management which makes communications somewhat difficult.