Everything Digital Advertisers are Wondering about Russia in 2015

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Russia undoubtedly has the world’s attention right now. If you are looking to expand your business internationally, Russia should have your attention too.   Between the growth of the Russian Internet audience , lower cost-per-acquisitions, and weakened domestic competition, Russia is offering something you shouldn’t refuse right now.

Any time you enter a foreign market, it’s highly advisable to at least have a basic understanding of the country. General facts and insight on a foreign culture and language are important things to consider when doing business abroad. You need to understand your local audience enough to serve them the right ads, promote your brand appropriately, and most importantly integrate your product into their digital ecosystem.

That being said, this article will touch on Russia in addition to the Russian Internet and digital ad scene to give readers a better idea of how to approach the Russian market. A separate section will also address the current economic situation in Russia and explain how this puts digital advertisers in a great position to advertise in Russia.

Facts on Russia

Russia is huge, you already know that much. The country itself makes up an eighth of the world’s land surface and includes 11 different time zones. Approximately 143 million people call Russia home. 11 million of which live in Russia’s capital city, Moscow. Russia’s biggest cities include Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, and Nizhny Novgorod.

The multi-ethnic country is primarily comprised of Russians, but home to many other ethnic groups. The major religion is Russian Orthodox, making Christmas fall on January 7th and their Lenten season Easter match a Julian calendar. People also celebrate a number of national holidays including Men’s Day on February 23rd and Women’s Day on March 8th – two of Russians top occasions for gift giving.

Russian Nesting Dolls

Russian is the 4th most spoken language worldwide with approximately 250 million Russian speakers around the world. The language is written in Cyrillic and Slavic based with a number of complicated verb conjugations and case declensions.

Russians have a deeply rich culture and almost anyone you meet can easily quote one of their many famous writers from Pushkin to Tolstoy. The fur coat stereotype is very much real but interestingly, keeping clean and nice footwear is a common fashion rule.

RuNet Facts

83 million Russians are RuNet or Russian Internet users, resulting in a 54% penetration rate and an extremely high upside. More Russians are utilizing RuNet in major cities but recently people in less central regions are also regularly going online and a major source for growth in the travel and eCommerce industries.

User behavior varies by area in a number of ways. For instance, users in major cities are more practiced search engine users and simply enter a few words in their queries but users in areas of low population typically enter long tailed queries. Search behavior by topic also fluctuates by location depending on the needs of people.

Currently, Russia has 23 million broadband homes and a quarter of the Russian population accesses the Internet from their mobile phones. Mobile Internet use in Russia is expected to reach over 60% by 2017. In comparison, the mobile Internet audience in the US is expected to reach 68% in 2017. Moreover, Russians’ interest in apps ranks the country 9th worldwide for mobile app download share in Q2 2014.

Russian mobile Internet use

Economic Discussion

As you are probably well aware, the current economic situation in Russia has had an impact on both domestic and international businesses in Russia. However, it’s not necessarily negative. Yes, prices are rising, the ruble is dropping, and people are responding accordingly.

For instance, people are making necessary online purchases rather than frivolous ones and adapting their travel destinations. Still, 63% of Russian businesses surveyed by Proximity said they hadn’t noticed a change in their respective businesses. However, many businesses do expect to see some changes in the future.

Half of Proximity surveyed businesses answered that they have adjusted their marketing efforts in response to the economic situation. A good portion of local businesses are directing their marketing efforts into digital advertising with a focus on performance based marketing.

Digital Ad Scene

Despite greater local digital advertising in Russia, international digital advertisers have the greatest potential to capitalize on Russia’s economic situation and weak ruble (Russian currency). By paying in dollars and maintaining current spend, advertisers have a much greater opportunity to get the clicks and impressions they want for a cheaper price.   This is the time to promote your brand and gain greater market share in Russia. By the time the Russian economy turns around, your brand could be the go-to brand.

Search engine marketers have two major options in Russia, Yandex and Google. Yandex, Russia’s most visited website, maintains approximately 60% of the search market share and serves 70 millions ads per day through Yandex.Direct advertising. Yandex offers free translation and site optimization to advertising customers. Advertisers can also of course use Google Adwords for advertising on Google.ru, which maintains about 30% of the search market share with 13.1 million daily users.

Russian search market share

Social media marketers will be interested to learn that Facebook is not the “it” social media site in Russia. The top social networking sites in Russia include Vkontakte, Russia’s second most popularly visited website, Odnoklassniki, and X. FYI, Russians use social networking sites for communication and photo sharing but also spend a good portion of their time watching TV shows and movies and creating playlists on their pages.


So as it turns out, Russia is not this scary place that you should avoid. It’s a great opportunity you should consider. More and more Russians are using the Internet for a variety of reasons. Russians trust the Internet more and spending their idle time browsing the web and checking their social media. In addition to the pre-existing RuNet potential, the current economic situation offers a great opportunity for international businesses to offer and advertise their services in Russia at a very affordable rate.


Melissa McDonald is the International Marketing Manager at Yandex, Russia’s leading search engine, which offers free English to Russian translation and optimization for advertisers. Melissa also regularly blogs for RussianSearchMarketing.com, a news and information resource for digital advertising in Russia.

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