In this post I’m going to have a closer look at the topic of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) in the Russian speaking Internet. I believe that any foreign company who wants to extend their business to the Russian market will have to make a decision on how to implement SEM campaigns in the RuNet.
There are a few options to consider. The less expensive one is to hire a freelancer. I would recommend searching for Russia-based SEO experts on Freelance.ru website. In my previous post I interviewed Mikhail Shakin , an experienced SEO freelancer and excellent blogger. He writes a very interesting and informative blog about the specifics of SEO in Russian search engines. He speaks English well and I am sure would be happy to answer SEM related questions if contacted through his blog. Generally, it’s very important to conduct thorough research about a freelancer’s work and reputation to avoid disappointment. However, it’s hard to undertake such research, if you don’t speak Russian, as this kind of information is mainly available in local non-English industry-related online resources.
Another way to enhance one’s presence in the Russian cyber market is to hire SEO & Internet Marketing companies based in the UK who have native Russian speakers working for them. I found a few UK firms on Google : WebCertain and New Frontier Digital. Unfortunately, not all companies provide employees’ profiles on websites. I came across only one Russian expert working for New Frontie Digital and don’t have a clear idea of the kind of experience Russians working here are expected to have to deliver SEM campaigns.
Some big companies prefer hiring native Russian speakers and let them take charge of online marketing in CIS region. However, it might be difficult to find the right candidate with relevant experience and legal rights to work in the UK. As an option a company can grow their own digital experts by offering Russian speaking employees to take online SEO courses. This will give them an opportunity to learn how to work with Russian search engines whilst practicing on a company’s website. For example, Russia- based company SEO – Study provides such training for approximately £ 360 per month.
Another option is to hire a SEO company based in Russia. This will give certain benefits: local agencies have all the resources to keep abreast with rapid changes of Russian search engines, more native speakers will be available to work on an account and ,finally, prices for services are lower comparing to the UK. In my experience Russians are very motivated to build relationships with clients from the West. Many agencies go the extra mile to deliver great service and results. I understand it’s quite complicated for a foreign company to find the right agency in Russia. I am sure that many still have an assumption that doing business with partners from the former USSR might turn into nightmare. I heard a few concerns from Western marketers about the quality of work middle-sized Russian agencies deliver. I came across a great post by Andrey Milyan, the first editor-in-chief of Search Marketing Standard where he describes the SEO industry in Russia. The article contains lots of criticism. However, the post is almost three years old and I’m sure things have changed.
Obviously, the language barrier is the main handicap for foreign companies to search for agencies in Russia. Many professional SEO forums such as Optimization.ru and other resources where you can look for experts are not translated to English. Usually, websites of Russian SEO independent agencies are only in Russian as well. I think this is the main reason why Western businesses working in the Russian market keep hiring global media agencies with chain offices in Russia. I agree that this is the most straightforward and relativity safe option, but an expensive one.
Someone from an independent local SEM agency explained to me the way some global agencies work in Russia and why their services might be not as excellent as you expect. Usually, big media agencies offer a broad range of services and started offering SEM not long ago. High-quality SEO services require a lot of time, expertise and human resources. Great SEM department requires investment in human resources and extensive training. To avoid these costs some big agencies tend to hire smaller sub-agencies or freelancers whose services are much cheaper and make profit on a price difference. Thus, a client pays a lot for cheap work and the quality of the work delivered turns out to be poor.
Well-known Russian Internet Marketing Agency Ashmanov & Parners conducted research about the state of the Russian SEO industry in October 2008 which was published in the Internet Marketing Practice magazine. According to their findings the price range for SEO services varies from 60,000 rubles (£1,260) – 120,000 (£2,510) rubles per month. Despite the fact that this research is three years old it still gives a rough idea about the cost of SEO services in Russia. The authors of the research concluded that different companies provide different levels of customer service and ways of satisfying clients’ needs. My advice would be to spend more time shopping around before making a final choice. If I were to choose a SEM company in Russia, I would consider companies with employees speaking at industry events, that have strong social media presence and have staff members that are fluent in English.
In my next post I’m going to focus on the search habits of Internet users in Russia.