We don’t often think of the Eurovision Song Contest having an effect on the world of international search but anyone who has watched the event will admit that the voting is notoriously political. It seemed no coincidence that the UK received “nil point” after deciding to turn their back on Europe and follow the US into Iraq.
With nationwide voting this poll provides a thoughtful insight into the attitudes, politics and loyalties of each European country. That is why the decision by Ukraine to award the maximum points (12) to Russian singer Dima Bilan was so surprising. Anti-Russian sentiment has been running high since the gas dispute earlier this year, resulting in a tense stand off when Gazprom (Russia’s state gas supplier) decided to turn off supplies for 3 days.
How does this affect search marketing? Well currently Google and Yandex, Russia’s leading search engine are locked in a battle to control the Ukrainian market. In a country which is literally split along pro-West and pro-Russian lines these global events have added a uniquely political edge to the battle. As Arkady Volozh, CEO and Founder of Yandex joked, “Every time Gazprom makes a public statement our market share goes down!”
So can this popular vote by Ukraine indicate a softening of opinion towards Russia, which can convert into more users for Yandex? It does seems a positive step in relations between the two countries, reinforced by Russians awarding Ukraine 10 points for their contest entry.
Search usage data for the country doesn’t show any significant jumps on last month yet but these are early days. It goes without saying that better Ukrainian-Russian politics could mean significant gains in that market for both Yandex and Rambler. With a recent US funded study showing that 45% of Ukrainians prefer speaking Russian the signs are good for them in that market. Is this the turning point they have been waiting for?