Building a good list of keywords is essential task for all SEO and PPC activities, and it is a tricky job even in your native language that requires strong marketing skills. Putting yourself into customer shoes, understanding his or her rational and emotional needs, understanding behavior scenarios and search phrases used in each stage as well as estimating their frequencies and potential conversion rates takes hours and hours of extensive research.
The complexity of the task multiplies tenfold when you need to do it in different language, and Russian is not one of the easiest when it comes to building a semantic kernel for your SEO or PPC campaign. In this post I will outline the major differences between Russian and English languages that have direct impact on your keywords research process.
Russian language is notoriously famous for the large number of synonyms. While in English prepositions, modal verbs and idioms create a numerous amount of combinations from frequently used verbs and nouns, Russians tend to use new word to describe new object, action or attribute. As a result, your product can have several or even many names in Russian.
Once I was building a list of keywords for a company that was selling kitchen taps. Our team had discovered there are two different words Russians are using to describe it with almost several frequency. Further research had revealed that customer behavior differs greatly depending on which word a customer had been using do describe the product – one word sounded more colloquial and people who were using it did not know much about market landscape, brands and prices. Customers who used the second word were much better informed, they wanted to compare the prices and know the details. The reason was quite simple – the overwhelming majority of internet shops tend to use the second word to describe the product, so when customer had just been starting the research they used the first word, while progressing in their search they got more and more information from retailers and further search requests have been done with the second word.
Russia is huge, and there are regional differences in Russian language. Say, even customers in Moscow and in St. Petersburg would choose different words to describe a “monthly bus ticket”, or “building entrance”. Be ready that your product can have different names or descriptions, say, in the North and in the South of Russia.
If you have ever studied Russian or German grammar, you know what I am talking about. 6 cases, singular or plural form and 3 genders give us 36 versions of one adjective and 12 versions of almost every noun. Endings matter. Both Google and Yandex understand the cases and plural forms and offer your search results with your keyword in all cases and forms. However, as always, the better match means the better results, therefore finding the most relevant cases and forms of the word and reflecting them on product pages shall be the part of your content strategy. When it comes to PPC campaigns both Google AdWords and Yandex Direct let you use special operators that fix the case, gender and the form of your keyword. This can turn out crucial if you are fighting for a highly competitive and expensive keyword or phrase.
We Russians do not care about word order. Seriously. We change the word order in the sentence or in the phrase the way we want to express different emotions and overtones. Correspondingly, a customer can use any word order in his or her search request. As with endings, fixing a specific word order in a phrase with a special operator for exact match can save your money both in PPC and SEO activities.
Well, yet another nightmare. We use Cyrillic alphabet that makes you check if your website font supports Cyrillic characters or needs to be replaced. It also has great influence on how we describe products that have original name in English. When searching for an English product some people tend to spell the name of the brand in English, or the way they suppose this name shall be written in English. Some are searching in Russian and transliterate the product name – you may be surprised with a number of ways your product name can be spelled in Russian. In combination with different product descriptions, these spelling variations can create a long list of the phrases your customers are using to describe the product. It is well worth to study geographical, social and behavioral difference between them. For example, working with recreational product market we had built a list of more than 20 ways customers are using to describe an “ATV”. We have also discovered that people from large cities in the North like Moscow and St. Petersburg tend to use Latin spelling for the product name, while people from smaller cities in the Southern regions prefer transliterations in Russian.
Russian spelling is not always easy even for native Russians, and the number of spelling mistakes can be substantial. At some point of time in the past one of successful SEO strategies was based on spelling mistakes – there were so many of them that you could advertise at much lower price by offering ads and content with misspelled keywords. Search engines no longer favor this – they automatically correct spelling mistakes and offer content for corrected word, you need to insist on your spelling to get results for the misspelled word or phrase.
In conclusion, it would be worth to mention that there are several tools in Russian market that can simplify and automate the search and make sure you are not missing important keywords – we are planning to devote one of the next posts to these tools. Technologies advance, but the basic principle of building a right list of keywords stays the same – all it takes is to understand the customers and speak their language to them.
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About author: Olga Gusseva
Your marketing expert in Russia
+ 7 921 303 91-99, firstname.lastname@example.org