Yandex has always been there to give answers. But then there comes a moment when giving answers becomes ‘not enough’. A large portion of the five billion searches that come from almost 100 million Yandex users each month are looking for a solution rather than an answer – people want to pay a bill, check-in for a flight, book a show or a visit to the dentist.
Using all our knowledge and expertise, all these years we have been developing products and technologies to figure out what it is exactly that our visitors are looking for and offer this to them in our search results. But even the most relevant of search results doesn’t always give a solution. Even if you can see in search results a link to the website where you can potentially book your movie ticket, you still need to click through to this site and possibly even browse a few pages before you find the booking form.
We have been thinking about offering web users a shortcut precisely to what they need, and we came up with a new concept of a goal-oriented search platform.
Yandex's new search platform embodies our new approach to search and website engagement, and features an attention-based search results page, where each search result is a standalone block of interactive information – an Island. These blocks are the first step to the user’s search goal and can be anything from factual information to purchase buttons or order forms.
While web users can instantly see and choose the best and most relevant solution to their problem, Islands enable website owners to directly connect with their visitors and enjoy handpicked target audience. Any website would like to see an interested visitor and about 15-20% websites on the Russian internet are using interaction to improve the quality of website experience for their visitors. Our new search platform embraces website owners catering for the interests of internet users. We are offering them an opportunity to choose what information from their site should be featured on Yandex’s search results page. Through our Yandex.Webmaster service, using a free and easy toolset, website owners can markup their pages and see what their Island will look like on Yandex’ search results page right now. Or see whether they need an Island of their own at all.
Right now, Islands are triggered by the same search algorithms as regular snippets, but we are working on giving websites an opportunity to tune their interactive snippets to specific search parameters, such as search terms, user’s search history, their location, and even their device. Prospectively, Yandex users looking for ‘The Great Gatsby’ on their personal computer will see a ‘film review’ Island, those searching for the same on their mobile device will find an Island with the show times at the closest cinema and a booking form, while an Internet-connected TV viewer will receive an Island with a pay-per-view page to purchase this film. This is the next step in Yandex Islands’ future development.
Yandex’s ranking is not affected by Islands, as such. A website’s natural position, however, does depend on the quality of the user experience it provides. The better is the website, the more popular it is with the users, the higher is the ranking. It is quite possible that web users may like a website more because it has an interactive snippet, but the mere fact of having such a snippet won’t propel a website to the top of the search results page.
By introducing the goal-oriented search, Yandex facilitates interaction between web users and websites. Our mission is to offer solutions to people’s problems by openly sourcing the best of the web and delivering it to web users. We would like to attract the actual content generators and publishers and see them actively participate in this process.
We are rolling out our new experimental search platform, Islands, first, for the eight million of Yandex users in Turkey. Yandex Islands is now publicly available at yandex.com.tr on personal computers and tablets in this country. The mobile version is expected to see the light later this summer. This is the first time we are launching a new search platform on a relatively new market, without first trying it out at home.
The Turkish market is not only new, it also has a young and open-minded demographic, which, we believe, is hard to scare by innovation. The new search platform’s success is largely in the hands of website owners and web publishers. We will focus on educating them about the benefits and possibilities of Yandex Islands in a series of free workshops, which will be open for all and where any website owner can learn how to make an Island of their own. Detailed instructions for creating interactive Yandex snippets for specific website categories, such as hotels, restaurants, airlines, or car services, will soon appear on the Yandex Islands specification pages.
Our users in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan will see their own Yandex Islands some time later this year.