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Ex-CEO Ashmanov On Latest Deal Between Rambler and Google

On the 27th July, Radio Station Ekho Moskvi (Moscow Echo) invited the ex-Managing Director of Rambler for an interview on the latest deal between Rambler and Google. This is an English translation of the show you can watch below:

Igor Ashmanov started his interview with answering some questions about his web service, search engine analyzer http://www.analyzethis.ru/, which gives a comparative analysis and operational data of search engines working on the Russian search market.

The first question was absolutely obvious, and has been widely discussed in the Russian media recently; Is Rambler dead?

No, not yet. Although, my point of view is very subjective. No, it is not dead. But the step made by Rambler towards using Google search on their portal is ambiguous. The issue of using Google search instead of leading development and investing in their own search engine was discussed in 2000 when Rambler was bought by a group of investors.

Igor also pointed out that the Google agreement terms are very harsh for the party using it on their site. Google doesn’t allow to change their search results. So Rambler will be obliged to show it as it is.

Yandex or Google, who will be the leader?

Rambler was #1 search engine in runet for a long period of time. Only at the beginning of 2003 it began to lose its position. People say, it seems that none uses Rambler today, what is absolutely not true. Rambler has very specific users, it has always been a search engine for internet geeks (hard users).

Internet novices tended to use Yandex more because it was for teenagers. 12% of runet searchers still use Rambler. It is the 3rd most popular portal in Runet (after Mail.ru and Odnoklassniki.ru). Today they start positioning Rambler as a multi service portal like Yahoo.

Still will the main struggle for search take place between Google and Yandex?

The situation is quite unstable. In case Rambler uses Google search on the portal, Google takes another 10%-12% of the search share. Another possible situation is that Mail.ru leaves Yandex Search for Google, just because Google pays more. In this case Google has another 8% share.

Rambler has its obvious unique search features. When it abandons its own search engine and uses Google Search, will it lose some of its obvious characteristics for user?

Having its own search technology is an advantage. Search engines can collect some important user data and surfing habits and improve their results. So from the point of view of Rambler leaving back its search engine is a strategic fault.

Are there any new search engines to take part in the competition for search in Runet, for example, Gogo.ru or others?

Mail.ru doesn’t have a strong understanding whether they need their own search engine or not. Mail.ru is a multi service portal specializing in communications. They can always speculate that they can use their own search engine instead of Yandex or Google.

In this case they will have to invest money and people, the main problem is in finding people and creating a team for that. So if Mail.ru creates its own search engine, it will have 10% share like Rambler. At the moment Gogo.ru (Mail.ru) is not indexing the whole runet, it has limitations and it is unstable.

What about Nigma.ru as a potential competitor?

Nigma is a meta search engine. They have their own index which is not big, many times less than Google or Yandex have. Moreover they have a deal with Yandex and are showing Yandex context ads.

Nigma is popular today because people think they will get more relevant results when they search in several search engines at a time. But I doubt the results are really relevant.

What is the difference in search results between Google and Yandex?

There are different search queries. Google and Yandex are strong in different search queries:

Information search – Google is stronger.

Navigation query, for example when we search for some domain – it has always been the strong point of Google, but since last summer Yandex results are also getting better.

Transaction search (when you want to buys something, pay for something, service search) – Yandex is strong here due to Yandex.Market.

That is why average Internet searcher uses Google and Yandex for different things.

What about Yandex index in the foreign Internet?

Yandex has now 1 billion pages in its index.

What happens if Mail.ru applies Google search instead of Yandex on the portal? Does it influence somehow the market?

8% search share depends now on Mail.ru. In Case Mail.ru puts Google logo it will surely influence Google brand recognition in runet. So it can influence on the search market on the whole.

What has changed from the old times of runet (96-97)?

In those times search queries were much simpler. It was a one word query. But today with the information rise the query is lengthening. People more and more are asking questions to search engines. We are coming more closer to natural language. Search engines will be forced to understand such queries as natural questions asked by users.

What are search shares today?

Due to LiveInternet statistics Yandex has 56% in working days and 52% at weekends. Google on the contrary has 21% and 25%. What does it mean? Yandex is used by office people, not hard users of Internet. Google is used by internet geeks, attached to Internet and having Internet connection at home.

For Google it is a question of positioning themselves on the market to make a step forward to average and mass users.

What about providing opportunities for news search from Google and Yandex. Is there any difference?

Igor Ashmanov pointed out they have their own news aggregating project, novoteka.ru . Sure they will never have so many visitors as Yandex have. Google is new to News search. This feature has been available since last year. But the drawback of Google that it aggregates for Russian users not only Russian news, but also news from Ukraine or Belarus.

Google had also problems with Russian morphology, in case of search called machine morphology. So they took some free morphology and set it for their needs.

What is the future for a national search engines?

National search engines are still strong in China, Czech Republic, Korea. They have potential to grow. Yandex share is growing due to that Rambler is losing its share, Google and Yandex both take up the users.

In English they have the verb googled, why we don’t have yandex something?

In Russian we have to use endings foe verbs. So it will sound like Яндекснуть (yandexnut’). Hard for the Russian ear.

What about mobile search, who is leading here?

Mobile search in runet is still not occupied and doesn’t have a leader. And still there are 5 times more owners of mobile phones in Russia than Internet users. So there are potential searchers.

Google has the potential to be the leader here as it can have agreements with mobile phone producers like Nokia, or telecommunication companies like MTS or Beeline (Google can simply pay for entering this market). Several local projects feel good on mobile market like Wap start. Some companies even sell context ads, Mobile direct.

About Nick Wilsdon

Nick Wilsdon works as a Content and Digital Strategy Consultant He manages online campaigns for the UK's leading telecom, finance and FMCG brands.

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