If you haven’t heard of Yandex yet, the chances are you are either living under a rock or, probably, outside Russia. Yandex is a search engine that holds 65 percent of the Russian market share; whereas, Google stands at 35 percent. In 2010, the company launched its English-only web search engine, and of course, none of us noticed because we were too busy ‘Google-ing.’
It all changed last year when Yandex introduced its smarter form of ‘snippets’.
Ring a bell, doesn’t it?
Yes, we have all been hearing the term ever since Google introduced the Rich Snippets for its search results. How are they any different than Yandex’s snippets, and what benefits do each of them offer for local businesses?
Let’s find out.
Snippets – Simple to Rich
Snippets are simply the results you see in SERP. Look at the Google search results for the movie Arrow (TV Series). Notice the difference between the first result and the second one in the following picture.
The last one is a simple snippet with one main link that will take you to the relevant page. As for the first link, you can notice further links that offer you additional information about the movie collected from other pages such as the Wikipedia page of the particular member of the cast. These are ‘Rich Snippets.’
There are numerous types of rich snippets Google allows you to add to your business description; for instance, for the above search query, you will also find a listing with proper Rating Stars as seen below.
Rich Snippets are Google’s way of enhancing user experience especially when searching for local business. You can consider them as on-page mark-ups. They can help you dig for more relevant information without browsing through a lot of pages. For local businesses, they can actually help your listing stand out. It actually tells the users more about why the business is more relevant to their search query.
Again, notice the difference between the results for Used Toyota Prius. Which one seems more impressive? That’s right!
With rich snippets, vendors can display prices, restaurants can add a link to their menu and shops can add a link to various brands they offer. In short, rich snippets tell more about the specific search result as compared to simple snippets.
So far, Google’s rich snippets might seem like a winner, but as we said, Yandex changed it all last year.
Islands– Smarter with Snippets
Yandex was launched in 1997, but it wasn’t until recently that the name became popular in the global tech market. All because of one feature it introduced recently.
Yandex welcomed the spring of 2013 with a set of new smart snippets they called ‘Islands.’ Islands are hailed as highly interactive snippets that are bound to take user experience to a whole new level. Yandex Islands are designed to expedite engagement between the user and the site. It actually allows and encourages the user to take action directly from the search result page.
Fancy some Chinese food?
With Islands, you cannot only search for local restaurants serving Chinese food, you can actually make a reservation directly from the search page i.e. you won’t have to go to the website and browse a few pages before you are able to make a reservation. It is definitely a smarter way to save time. And imagine the same expedited process for everything ranging from booking a movie ticket to flight reservations.
So we have already looked for used Toyota Prius on Google. While Rich Snippets did make the listing interesting and impressive, it doesn’t make it as useful as this.
While this seems like a major win over Google. Let us not forget that Rich Snippets are only one of the features Google uses to enhance local search. Google + Local has already captured the attention of publishers and marketers and is currently a highly popular and effective tool.
Where Does Google Stand?
Since Yandex’s Islands are expected to add an edge to local business search, it is not just the rich snippets it is competing against. The two of the Google’s main players in the local search arena are Google Places and the Google+ Local Business Pages. Each have their distinct benefits but what really makes a difference is the way they work together to super refine the search for Google search engine users.
In order to understand how Google empowers local businesses, you need to understand how Google Places and Google+ work individually.
Google Places for Business
The first step to get your business in the listing is to simply have a website. If you are there on the cybersphere, the Google automatically registers the presence and show you in the listing. Of course, your ranking depends on how well you define your relevancy through SEO, but wherever you are on the listing, Google will show your link along with details and description. Google Places is a tool that lets you control that information. Also, Google Places is the right way to put your business on Google Maps.
Google allows you a lot of freedom when it comes to adding information to your business. You can add basic info that is different than the description of your website. You can add photos and even include reviews of your clients and customers. In short, you are able to offer more real-time information especially useful for users on-the-go. It will take them less time to determine whether you are the right and relevant choice or not.
Google+ Local Business Page
This is where Google gets a little confusing and a lot of businesses fail to reap maximum benefits just to avoid the confusion. The Google+ Local Business Pages seem pretty much the same, but that is perhaps how they are supposed to be. There are, of course, a lot of similarities but what matters is the difference.
The major difference between Google Places and Google+ Local Business Pages is the Social aspect. Google+ as we all know is the social network that was once hailed as the successor to Facebook. While it may not be able to make as huge an impact as was expected, it did changed the face of social media to some extent. That difference, as it seems, is more eminent for businesses rather than individuals. If anything, we can pretty much call it the love child of ‘LinkedIn’ and ‘Facebook’, but perhaps it’s still in its evolutionary phase.
The Google+ Local – The Collective Benefit
Google allows businesses to merge their Google Places and Google+ Local business page to create a single Google+ Local page. With Google+ Local you can simultaneously manage your business’s social profile and also the information that is available to your searchers. As a result, your search listing is likely to appear like a social profile instead of a simple snippet. You can further add rich snippets to make sure your users are impressed and encouraged to visit your page.
Sounds like a real advantage, but Yandex really takes it one step ahead.
Yandex– Offering Solutions not Searches
No matter how amazing Google gets on their local market turf, they are not close to Islands yet. This is mainly because Google has a limitation. Even with all the fancy information it impresses the users with, it is only a search tool. As for Yandex, it aims to offer solutions rather than just the searches,
Not only does it make the listing more impressive, it actually allows the users to answer the call to action right then and there. While is turning search results into more informative blocks, Yandex is making them more interactive and dynamic. Those guys at Yandex like to call these blocks Islands. Each search result is an island of its own. The snippet can be anything ranging from simple additional information, order form, purchase button or a schedule.
The Social Aspect
When comparing Yandex and Google, many people consider ‘Islands’ the only trump card in the former’s hand. However, the company seems to be slowly making its way up by overcoming its weakness one by one. In this aspect, one of the major shortcomings of Yandex as compared to Google was its Social Aspect. Google+ Local is largely powered by its social media aspect. Up till now Yandex was nowhere in this race, but now the tables are turning.
Recently, Yandex has joined hands with Facebook in order to add the social aspect of its search engine. Both the companies have signed an agreement according to which Yandex will be able to access all of the Facebook’s publically available data. The agreement, however, is only limited for data from users and businesses in central and Eastern Europe and Turkey.
This is not the first time Yandex has signed such an agreement with an international social network. The company already has a similar contract with Twitter. Access to such data from two of the biggest social networks in the worlds will allow Yandex to further improve the relevancy of their search. Not to mention, Facebook is far more popular than the network that supports the social aspect of Google search.
So with all these improvements, can we really say that we have finally looking at the successor to Google’s throne?
Yandex – Catching Up
Yandex is the undisputed king of Russian local search while Google dominates the largest share around the globe. The reason behind Yandex’s success in Russia was its ability to offer more localized experience. It was and still is far better at processing the Russian language as compared to Google. The engine was designed to cater a specific market where it simply had no competition and therefore, it succeeded.
In 2010, Yandex launched its English only search engine and that is when it all started. However, for a market dominated by one giant for decades, Yandex wasn’t any better than other competitors such as Bing and Yahoo. That is when it decided to beat Google at its best game, the local search.
Islands are undoubtedly the best examples of more interactive and informative search features. It is on par with the changing technology trend and consumer behaviors. It is more user-friendly especially for those who are always on the go.
However, while the technology is worth applause, one thing that Yandex needs is more users to utilize their smarter features.
Google – Will Catch Up
This whole piece might have sounded like an argument against Google, but I just cannot deny Google’s dominance and the reasons behind it. As for the quality and relevancy of search results, Google still has the upper hand. It is its popularity that mostly keeps its competitors at bay even if they come up with a feature as smart and innovative as Islands.
There is a vast chance that by the time businesses and users will actually realize the advantage Yandex offers with its Islands, Google will come up with something to top its local search. There is no doubt about the fact that we will soon be seeing a similar feature in Google as well. That doesn’t mean we are outright denying Yandex’s right to celebrate. The Islands have finally put Yandex among the ranks of major search engines including Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. However, if the Russian internet giant is really looking for smoother global growth, it definitely needs to speed up and stay ahead.