SEO and SEM for Russian search engines

Russian search behavior: capitals vs. regions

Very recently Yandex released an interesting research that compares search behavior of Russian Internet users living in the two capitals (Moscow and Saint Petersburg) with other cities in Russia – from large to very small.

The report highlights the differences between ways people interact with search engines as well as types of product and services-relates searches across the country. Please dig in!

Top 10 search queries in Russia

According to the research, the top queries in Russia do not differ too much depending on the size of a city, however their rankings are slightly different.


The absolute majority of Russian search queries are connected to social networks (Russians are the most socially engaged audience in Europe after all) vKontakte ( and Odnoklassniki (, but also such content publishers as YouTube and Avito (largest Russian classifieds). Adult content-related searches also made it to top 10 also, regardless of the city size.

These stats can be however a bit misleading. Top 10 search queries only account for 4% of all queries in the capitals, 5-6% in the regions.

About 80% of all search queries do not belong even in top 10 000 and can be classified as “long tail”.

Looking at product / service categories, the most popular ones in Russian search are: social networks, games, cards, music, adult, children & schools, and health. In the capitals people also search for shops, while in small cities and villages many search for TV series and soap operas.


Types of search queries in the Russian Internet

As Yandex understand the linguistics very well, it is easy for them to classify the search queries into groups and sub-groups depending on the searcher’s intent. They divide all search queries into three classic groups:

Navigational – searches that should lead the users to a certain, already known resource. Sub-categories of navigational queries, as defined by Yandex, are names of the services (e.g. “vkontakte”, “youtube”), types of services (e.g. “Russian keyboard online”) or addresses of the services (e.g. “”).

Informational – searches that should help the user find information about objects, products or events. Sub-categories of such queries are dictionaries (e.g. “what is paella” or “water in Spanish”), instructions (e.g. “paella recipe” or “disable data roaming on iPhone”) and user reviews (“iPhone 6 review”).

Transactional – searches that should deliver particular piece of content to the user, for example videos (e.g. “watch Harry Potter online”), text (e.g. “Constitution of Russia”), games (“download Minecraft” or “World of warcraft play”), software (e.g. “download Skype”), audio & music (“Harry Potter audio book” or “U2 listen online”), or images (“Sagrada Familia Barcelona photo”).

Some search queries are very generic, and Yandex is not able to classify them. Interestingly, products (e.g. “Nike shoes”, “Thai massage”), organizations (“hairdresser”, “Scandic hotel Stockholm”) and content names (“Game of Thrones”, “Minecraft”), together with people’s names, fall under this category.

Again, the difference between large and small towns is not very significant apart from transactional queries, which account for 30% of all search queries in small cities and only for 20% in St. Petersburg.


When it comes to transactional queries, the most popular type of content Russians are looking for is video. Searches for video are 50% higher than searches for images, texts or music.

Average length of search queries in Russia

As 80% of all queries are long-tail queries, the average length of a search phrase is of course quite long – between 3.5 to 4 words on average.


Yandex sees that in smaller cities people are more precise in specifying problems they are trying to solve by using Internet search. They are also more often formulate their searches as questions (e.g. they would ask “what to do if whashing machine broke down” vs. “washing machine broke”, which would be a more common way to search in Moscow). This fact makes the average length of a query longer in smaller cities and the percentage of keyword questions higher.

Commercial intent in Russian search behavior

One area where the difference between search behavior in large and small cities in Russia in commercial intent. Yandex sees that capitals search for services and products much more than for entertainment, and in small cities it is vice versa.


This can be explained by the fact that the Internet users in large cities are more savvy and are accustomed to using the Internet not only for content and entertainment, but also for commercial purposes, such as shopping, booking trips and tickets, and getting help in their daily lives.

The regions are however caching up. The overall growth of Internet usage is Russia is largely powered by the regions and the e-commerce is growing there very fast – partly because of younger demographics and partly due to a limited choice of products that physical regional retailers can offer.

Demographics of Russian Internet users

As mentioned above, Internet users are generally younger is small cities than in the capitals. The percentage of school kids is almost double as high in the regions comparing to Moscow and St. Petersburg.


Another interesting fact about small cities if that they account for almost 25% of the Russian population and 30% of all Russian internet users, but only for 6-7% of searches in Yandex.

This data is invaluable for business owners, whose companies aim to cater for the entire country, but also for us, online marketers, especially for those, who deal with geo-dependent queries and different regional ranking formulas.

Knowing search behavior patters across the country helps us optimize and adjust our keyword portfolio and produce more relevant content for each region to ensure higher traffic and better conversion rates.

Anna Oshkalo

Anna is a blogger and online marketing consultant specializing in SEO and SEM for Russian search engines. To see more of Anna's posts, follow her on Twitter, or LinkedIn.

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2 Responses to “Russian search behavior: capitals vs. regions”

  1. […] over at, we have a translated comparison of search activity in the major urban centres of Moscow and St. […]

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