International Search Summit - Yandex, Baidu and Google

While Google dominates the top slot in search both in the U.S. and worldwide, with a global search market share of 62 percent, there is still a lot of pushing and shoving going on in positions below, especially when you look further afield than the U.S.

That seemed to be one of the conclusions from the  International Search Summit, held last week in London which I had the pleasure of attending.   It  became clear, to me at least,  that perhaps the two most impressive pretenders to the Google throne outside of the US are Yandex from Russia, and Baidu from China.  Some of the views (apart from hard data supplied at the conference) in this post are my own opinion, based on what I heard and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fresh Egg of course!

With Google's growth rate at 58 percent, Microsoft's at 41 percent, and others, including Baidu and Yahoo, showing much lower rates of growth (eight percent and two percent respectively), Yandex is doubling year on year and beating the global search query shares of Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, and Ask. What is more interesting is that the growth rate does not appear to have been damaged by the Global recession.

Beating off Google Competition

How has Yandex been able to beat off the mighty leviathan that is Google? There are two key explanation here:

  • By solving the problems associated with the Russian language
  • Being first to market.

Russian is a member of the Slavic family of languages, which includes a wide range of languages in Eastern Europe from Polish and Czech to Serbian and Croatian. Most of these languages don't use the Cyrillic alphabet which is not, as often perceived, the cause of search engines' difficulties in indexing Russian - rather, it's the morphology, or shape and structure of the language.

For example: There is no verb "to be" in the Russian present tense. Nor do "the" or "a" exist. Russian gets around this by changing the ending of the word. This is what's known as an inflected language.   Note: Remember that "the" is treated as a stop word and is consequently ignored by search engines.

Often described as a copy of Google, Yandex was actually launched in 1997, slightly before Google.

  • Runet (segment of the Internet that is Russian speaking) Internet Audience:
  • Runet is growing at 33%
  • 7 million square miles of territory.
  • 11% of the total land mass
  • 142 million people - 2% of the Earth’s population.
  • 83 federal states
  • 11 cities with more than a 180 different ethnic groups.

Runet Search engine share

  • Yandex 60%
  • Google 24%
  • Others 16%

Rusnet search engine share

Yandex facts and figures:

  • Internet usage is growing - 43 million people accessing the web daily.
  • Internet penetration differs according to age group -
  • Example: Moscow With 97% in age groups 18-24 - whereas over 55 it drops to 20%.
  • In other areas outside of the large cities, these figures drop substantially.
  • Most top Russian sites are Russian owned.
  • 60% of all paid clicks go to St Petersburg and Moscow
  • Online shopping increased by 40% from 2008 – 2009
  • Mobile communication increasing exponentially - CTR 40% higher than Google

Other facets give Yandex an iron grip on the Russian market. One is Yandex Money, which facilitates the Russian e-commerce market by acting like a bank for consumers' money and enabling them to buy online when credit cards aren't especially popular or suitable.

If you have a Russian language site (not page) on a gTLD such as COM/ORG/INFO you will also get included but the use of a .RU. is recommended. It means you will not get any problems and the domain has a strong brand identity over there. Geographical location of the server does not seem to be an issue, but many businesses still host locally for Google (17-20% of RU market at the moment).

Four  important things to remember about ranking in Yandex

  • Quantity rather than quality of links are very important.
  • Links need to come from material already indexed in their engine.
  • They only include Russian sites generally and have issues with multilingual site structures.
  • It is essential that you have a local link building strategy.


Baidu is the leading Chinese search engine for websites, audio files, and images. Baidu offers 57 search and community services including an online collaboratively-built encyclopedia (Baidu Baike), and a searchable keyword-based discussion form.

Chinese Internet usage:

  • 450 million Internet users (13% of population)
  • Baidu 76%
  • Google 20%
  • Others 4%

Chinese search engines

Baidu product usage:

  • Web page search : 40% of all search activity whereas the other 60% occurs in the other products below
  • Vertical search : Images, Maps , Video
  • Community search
  • High usage of Google Android mobile operating system
  • Ecommerce spend is around 25%. The SEM spend is 49 million Yen which is far higher than all other forms of online marketing.

Baidu Vision

They want to change the way that websites interact with the search engines from passive (read) to active (read and write). Their aim is to encourage more interaction from applications to help gather, crawl and ultimately rank content. They would also like to address other key computing needs from games to price comparison activities.

Similarities between markets

The most obvious similarities are the sheer logistical challenges associated with supplying a service to such large areas of land and to so many customers. This in my opinion, is the likely reason for the massive success of the mobile markets within both regions. It has obviously been much easier to reach a mobile audience than one using an orthodox land-based broadband network. If you are planning an SEO campaign, or to launch a new product into these markets, to do so without a specific mobile strategy in place would be ignoring a massive opportunity.