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Yandex faces Google role reversal in Turkey

Despite great efforts from Google, Yandex has stood firm as the undisputed market leader in Russia, holding 60% of search share in Europe’s largest internet market. Yandex’s success is largely attributed to its superior understanding and manipulation of the complex Russian language, as well as the fact it was ahead of Google in launching a relevant produce for Russian users and had already developed strong brand awareness and customer loyalty by the time Google was in a position to compete.

However, Yandex now finds itself in the same position in Turkey – and will have to overcome the same challenges that its rival did in its native country.

These are the thoughts of WebCertain CEO Andy Atkins-Krüger as they appeared in Russian Newspaper Izvestia, which reports that Yandex is currently struggling to make gains in Turkey, currently holding only 0.5% market share. This puts it a long way from achieving the 20% share it is targeting, and it needs to be classed as a real player in the market.

So, is Yandex set for failure in Turkey?

No, says Atkins-Krüger, or at least it is far too early to tell. This is Yandex’s first international move and they have not got it all right – and they are learning that there is really no substitute for coming at things from a truly local perspective. The announcement of a new chairman to the board of Yandex.Turkey, Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, demonstrates the understanding that developing deeper roots on the ground in Turkey is vital to achieve the coverage it wants to there.

Google is the most popular search engine in Turkey to a large degree by default – it was the only one – but without any competition it has developed a strong following which will not be easy to infiltrate. As well as developing a linguistic and culturally relevant search offering for users, Yandex needs to increase its brand awareness in Turkey in order to make any real gains on Google.

It has been taking some innovative steps to do so – including pushing its maps service by providing live traffic information on LED boards in some of Istanbul’s busiest streets and the executives in Moscow must be hoping that the introduction of more native Turkish experts to the team will enable them to develop their branding initiatives and drive users to their search engine.

Yandex has clearly had international expansion in its sights for some time. Making the move out of Russia, and Russian speaking markets was a big, and possibly brave decision, yet it was the search engine’s only real option if it was to really challenge the might of Google long term. Google still sees Russia as an important market and has not given up hope of taking more share there, recently even running a TV advertising campaign in order to boost its presence. If Yandex were to fail in Turkey, it would more than likely signal the end of its international aspirations and leave the engine more vulnerable than ever to its Silicon Valley nemesis.

But Rome was not built in a day, and ten months is not long enough to justifiably say that Yandex will not succeed. However, it does need to up its game if it is going to be the Google killer we are all waiting for.

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Gemma Houghton

Director of Marketing at Webcertain
Gemma has worked in international search marketing for over 15 years and is Director of Marketing at Webcertain, overseeing all marketing activities for the Group. She also organises and programmes Webcertain’s International Search Summit and International Social Summit, Barcelona-based conferences focusing on international and multilingual digital marketing. Gemma holds a Professional Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, a Diploma in Management and Leadership from the Chartered Management Institute, and a BA joint honours degree in French and German.

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