Yandex Translate is here… Google translate has brought instant online translation to the everyday user. Its quality is varied (at best) but its speed and improvements are ever-impressive. However, does it work for my website in Russian? Yandex now have their own fully launched (previously in beta) translation tool and in a market that Google already struggles in – can this local translation tool bring down goliath?

Google and Online Translation

For those of you that don’t know – very briefly – this is how online translation tools work. Translation tools focus on words and sentences to provide back the most commonly used expressions for said word/sentence online. So as well as using dictionaries, tools like Google translate are matching up your sentences to those which already exist online. It’s a process of “statistical machine translation”.

Google Translate has always been the strongest in this area, now covering 64 languages. The tool supports instant translation (through its interface), phonetically input, webpage translation, document translation and most impressively, an experimental text-to-speech system (TTS) is available for several other languages, powered by the eSpeak.

But recently we saw the “break-out of beta” launch of Yandex translation tool and Google should be worried!


Yes, at present the tool is limited to interface activity only and yes you can only translate from or into Russian – but that is what makes this tool so strong. Yandex is currently beating Google for search engine market share in Russia. Why? Because it is able to provide better search results through a better understanding (and therefore relationship) with the Russian language. If it applies the same logic to its translation tools – then surely we’ll have the same result?

Let’s run a trial, I’ve placed the following into both tools:

“Университет Ньюкасла входит в двадцатку вузов Великобритании, выпускники которых особенно востребованы работодателями, и предлагает своим студентам отмеченную наградами службу планирования карьеры, которая поможет им выделиться среди других кандидатов.”

Google translate came out with:

“University of Newcastle one of the twenty universities of Great Britain, graduates are particularly in demand by employers, and offers award winning service to students planning careers that will help them stand out among other candidates.”

Yandex translate came out with:

“Newcastle University is among the top twenty universities of Great Britain, the graduates of which are particularly in demand by employers, and offers its students the award-winning service career planning, which will help them to stand out among the other candidates.”

Despite a slight issue with “award-wining service” placement, I think Yandex translate provides a much stronger and more grammatically correct translation. Other trials show the same result each time, that Yandex Translate understands the Russian language better than Google.

So why is this in Global SEM?

Good question! I’m sure many of you are thinking that this is more about content and translation and less about search marketing. Well… it is. But it is still very important to SEO. The quality of your translation and the accuracy of your page content does affect your rankings in Yandex. With numerous terrible Google translated web pages out there, Yandex has been forced to take the steps to actually monitor your website for linguistic quality as well as all other ranking elements we know about.

But this doesn’t mean that you should use Yandex.Translate to translate your site. Please don’t!

Back in the day, I ran my Russian homework through Google translate and it’s fair to say, the grade reflected the effort I put in (solid F). And whilst now you might get an E or perhaps even a D for your homework, the fact is the issues still remain. Machine translation doesn’t work and especially doesn’t work for websites.

Your website gets a D by using Yandex.Translate and perhaps an E from using Google Translate; that is your ranking. You cannot then question why you are not an A in search. Quality translation avoids embarrassments and improves search ranking. And I haven’t even gone into the issues of content placement, web design, keyword optimization etc. etc.

My advice is to get a strong international marketing agency on board and make them translate your website, re-design your site and optimize it for Yandex. Then sit back and relax knowing that you have potentially just ‘cracked’ a very lucrative Russian search market.