The 2018 World Cup presents an especially unique challenge to online sportsbooks and affiliates - tackling the Russian search engine giant Yandex. And it’s not too late to act if you’re looking for World Cup content that will engage your Russian speaking audience in the Yandex SERPs. Waste no time in following these simple steps and you will drastically increase your chance of getting a good return on what will be the biggest sports event of all time.
Football is the biggest sport in Russia, and though gambling regulation is strict across the country, exceptions are made for sports betting. Unfortunately for offshore brands, the Russian government takes measures to ensure that local sportsbooks are promoted over foreign ones. Russian-based Fonbet is the number one sports bookmaker in the country - though Fonbet also operates internationally. That being said, around 40% of the 1.2 million Russians looking to bet on sports will gladly opt for an offshore bookmaker - but attracting them will require you to employ some Yandex SEO.
Wait...what is Yandex?
We often need reminding that Google isn’t the only search engine out there. Yandex is by far the most popular search engine in Russia, and its SEO falls outside of the comfortingly familiar world of Google. Around 64% of Russian internet users prefer the local engine to Google, with Yandex.ru being the fourth most visited website in Russia and the search engine being the fifth most popular in the world overall. Basically, your sportsbook will be missing out on a huge amount of traffic and conversion should it not be optimized for Yandex before the World Cup.
The main algorithm used by Yandex is known as MatrixNet (often compared to PageRank). This algorithm measures a site’s value through what it called a Thematic Index Citation (TIC) which is scored on a scale from 0 - 10,000. This score applies to a whole site and remains the same on every page. Reliability, quality and popularity are all taken into account by TIC in calculating a site’s score. By using a plugin called Yandex Elements, you can check the TIC score for your sportsbook.
Do I really need to get my sportsbook ranking in Yandex?
If you’re looking to engage with the Russian market then you should get optimizing for its prefered search engine. And whilst Yandex gets its primary traffic from Russia, the engine is also popular in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus and Georgia. Overall, Yandex runs around 8.7 million search sessions a day. With the World Cup approaching and with football-loving Eastern Europeans looking for a place to wager bets, you have every reason to increase your sportsbook visibility in Yandex SERPs.
The search engine is not drastically different from Google, but there are some things an SEO and marketer should bear in mind when approaching Yandex SEO. Without further ado, here are the five steps you should follow before you start optimising your site for Yandex in time for the World Cup betting frenzy...
1. Make sure your sportsbook adheres to Russian regulation.
For starters, you’ll need to make sure that your sportsbook adheres to all relevant Russian regulation unless you’re fine with the risk of your online sportsbook getting geo-blocked overnight without warning. Licenses are not the same for offshore sportsbooks as they are for local bookmakers. And although Russian authorities are looking to simplify online betting sign-ups with offshore bookies in time for the World Cup - it is still unknown whether the legislation will pass in time. Plan ahead for the hurdles you might encounter in getting your sportsbook the legal recognition it requires in the Russian market.
2. Create brilliant, localized content for a Russian audience.
It’s no secret that Google sees user behaviour as a ranking signal. For example, if users who search for ‘world cup host countries throughout history’ frequently click on a particular result on the first page result, only to click back to the SERP just a few second later, Google may interpret this as a signal that this webpage in question is not particularly useful for users searching this phrase. Bounce rate, and time spent on webpages, matters to Google (although not always). For Yandex, user engagement matters an even greater deal - engagement is an even bigger ranking factor than backlinks, in fact.
What does this mean for a sportsbook looking to rank in Yandex? Pay special attention to page layout, user-friendliness and quality of content, as every extra second a user spends on the website could make a difference. Your goal should be to decrease bounce rate and keep visitors interested in your on-page content. In other words, creating a strong user experience should be a top priority for any site looking to rank well in Yandex. This is not a foreign concept to any Google-focused SEOs who should already be operating under the principle that ‘content is king’. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between strategic SEO and top notch content when you have All-in Translations handle the creative side of your Russian market sportsbook. Content needs to be topical, original, engaging - and written or translated by native Russians who are experts in the fields of football and betting. Scratching your head at where you might find a content creator who ticks all those boxes? That’s what we’re here for...
Besides providing visitors with excellent content, strengthening user experience could also mean cutting down on ads, improving site load speed and simplifying navigation. Click-through-rate from SERPs is also an important signal, so keep meta descriptions pithy and enticing, but not too promotional. Mobile friendliness, on the other hand, is not as important to Yandex as it is for Google. Yandex.Metrica, the search engine’s official analytics tool, will nonetheless allow you to track visitors coming to your site from several different devices.
3. Prepare for SERPs that are slow to update.
In 2018, Google is continuously crawling sites and indexing new content. Providing you have internal links, backlinks and an optimized robot.txt pointing to your new content, you’ll find your content appearing in the SERPs fairly quickly. Unfortunately, this is not quite the case for Yandex as the search engine tends to be slower in finding and indexing content. Yandex updates its indexing for static pages just a few times a month, or a few times a day for blog posts and news outlets. This means two things. The first is that, with the World Cup fast approaching, you’ll want to start optimizing your Russian market sportsbook sooner rather than later. Yandex also values domain age more so than Google does, meaning a freshly created site may struggle to rank as well against older domains in Yandex.
The second implication of slower updates is that you may want to be more calculated and precise in when you go live with content. When optimising for Google, it’s not uncommon to continuously update pages over a period of days, or test out different meta descriptions in the SERPs before settling on the best one. This is a luxury that comes with knowing your updated content will soon be discovered and re-indexed accordingly. Keep in mind that the same luxury does not apply in Yandex.
Increasing your sportsbook crawlability in Yandex involves similar methods you’d employ for Google, just that these measures are especially important to keep the Yandex SERPs up-to-date with your content. Ensure your internal linking structure is solid and pay special attention to your sitemap. Google SEOs will be pleased to hear that Yandex also looks at robot.txt when crawling and indexing content.
4. Don’t be scared by Yandex PPC.
To use Yandex tools in monitoring analytics and creating PPC campaigns, you will need a Yandex email for registration. Don’t worry - this only takes a few minutes to create. Yandex offers a PPC platform called Yandex.Direct which boasts ‘contextual advertising’. Just like Google Adwords, Yandex.Direct looks to display ads to the most relevant users to maximise value of ads. So how does it differ from Adwords? Well, it doesn’t - not by much, and fortunately the ways in which it differs are easily overcome because Yandex.Direct is user-friendly and more basic than AdWords. That being said - Yandex.Direct also offers some features that AdWords lacks, such as automated suggestions on which keywords to not include for better conversions.
5. Build backlinks...if they bring traffic to your sportsbook.
Yandex, just like Google, has faced a lot of problem with black hat link schemes. In recent years, Yandex has taken vast measures to fight link manipulation, and its approach differs somewhat from Google’s. Google SEOs know that getting a link, for the sake of getting a link, can have value. Regardless of how many clicks the link gets, its presence on a high authority website will work as a boosting signal because Google interprets this as a vote of confidence and distributes the link equity accordingly. Links that generate traffic are also important for Google, but it’s clear that the emphasis on traffic-generating links is higher in Yandex. Non-clicked links, in turn, are less important.
This has big implications for link builders looking to boost their content on Yandex SERPs. Niche relevancy will play a larger role in link building, as will the naturalness of the link and anchor, as all link traits should be aimed toward getting clicks. Yandex-focused link builders should consider from where they are realistically going to get traffic and target these sites in their outreach. Interestingly, while this approach may have decreased prevalence of black hat links, there has been a surge in traffic manipulation by black hat Yandex SEOs.
6. Consider the advantages of geo-targeted SERPs.
For geo-specific search queries, Yandex aims to promote local businesses and deliver the most geo-relevant search results to users. This may not apply to a sportsbook business targeting a nation-wide Russian audience, but it may be worth considering how targeting specific regions with specific online sportsbooks could have a positive impact on your SEO. To rank regionally, you will need to use Yandex Webmaster Tools to input geographical settings, website business addresses, and manage regional domains for different websites.
Although there are many differences between Google and Yandex, you’ll be pleased to know that a lot of basic optimisation best practises remain the same across both search engines. Ready to maximise your sportsbook and bookie affiliate’s potential in the Russian market? As with Google, the first step of Yandex SEO starts with content - make sure your sportsbook is expertly localized for a Russian audience by getting in touch with All-in Translations today.
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