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Over the past months of 2022, the Russian market has undergone a lot of changes caused by sanctions and imposed restrictions. It is certain that these economic and political events affected online products as well. The situation has dramatically changed the market of games and applications, as a result of which various VPN services have taken leading positions in the segment.
This is quite understandable because the Russian audience, accustomed to Tik-Tok, Instagram* and other platforms closed in Russia, still continues to actively use them. And it also continues to read news from the sources officially recognized as foreign agents in the Russian Federation (for example, Meduza **).
If at the end of February 2022, 16 VPN products entered the TOP 100 of the most downloaded apps in Russia on iOS and 8 - the TOP 100 for Android (data data.ai ), then in March 9 services were already in the TOP 10 together with Telegram (analytics of the Statista service), which indicates a new, important trend for the market - the longer popular online resources are blocked for the Russian audience, the higher the popularity of VPN services will be.
Source: Statista, March 2022
In other words, the Russian online market has become one of the most promising in terms of VPN products. It is not surprising that many developers have started to actively present their services in Russia. Therefore, a serious competitive environment has formed on marketplaces, therefore it has become ineffective to “enter” the market without competent promotion. VPN companies have different approaches to this issue, using various advertising channels and tools.
RMAA experts, who are working in this segment, shared their expertise in promotion of VPNs in Russia in order to explain how advertising resources can be used efficiently.
Opinions of experts on the ASO effectiveness vary. Generally speaking, this tool shall ensure the app visibility in relevant queries of users on marketplaces. Three important elements help to achieve this indicator:
Moreover, other factors such as app ratings, visual content design, localization, quality, etc. can influence the efficiency in optimizing. You need to understand that ASO, like an advertising campaign, requires careful elaboration and constant optimization, since the positions of competitors are changing, and therefore user requests and the popularity of sets of keywords.
Perhaps ASO could be considered the only effective tool if there were not as many competitors on the marketplace as there are now. Besides, popular apps are not so easy to “shift” in ratings, since they have already “won" a pool of loyal users. Especially, this point concerns VPN products, which are now the most popular on the online market in Russia.
ASO is a good addition to promotion, but not the most important thing. The main objective of optimization is still a competent presentation of the product on the marketplace. While the advertising campaign should “lead” users to it by link.
Landing page has proven to be a successful tool for any digital campaign, especially when it comes to online products. The main function of the landing page is to encourage the user to a certain action:
Many experts consider the landing page a key tool to promote a brand, but in the case of VPN services, this is not exactly true. Since users usually search for the app data directly through marketplaces or through searches on Google and Yandex, which also “go away” to marketplace pages with a link to download the app.
However, the landing page of a VPN product can be effective depending on what elements it contains.
First of all, a landing page shall be in Russian to promote on the Russian market. That is the most convenient alternative for users. In addition, this “removes” the need for a Russian-language description of the application on marketplaces, which is a significant advantage for developers whose audience is not only on the Russian market.
Thirdly, the landing page can be used to describe the benefits of a product if the service involves a paid subscription. The audience has to be explained what they need to pay for and what benefits they will receive.
For example, on the landing page of Surfshark, one of the most popular VPN applications in Russia, options for paid service packages, as well as other useful apps from the company that are included in the subscription price (virus protection, for example), are described in detail. Thus, the client understands that the Surfshark service is not just a VPN, but a whole online package to protect users on the Internet. That allows the company to distinguish from the main competitors.
Any successful advertising campaign begins with their analysis. Since VPN services have formed a fairly serious competitive environment on the Russian market, it is more than ever necessary for development companies to be able to “stand out” by attracting the attention of the audience.
What aspects you should first pay attention when analyzing competitors among VPN services:
This data will allow you to create a successful marketing strategy for promoting the product to a Russian-speaking audience.
This marketing tool has a number of advantages related to search queries. Advertisements attract attention of the right users, and furthermore, increase their level of loyalty to the product (because they use similar queries). The mechanism of operation is quite effective, since contextual advertising works on keywords entered by users themselves while searching. That is, in fact, you only show ads to an interested audience.
In March 2022, Russian-speaking users searched for information on VPN services on Yandex about 9.5 million times. This is 6 times more than in February 2022 and 10 times more than in March 2021. In April, interest in services slightly decreased, but still remains several times higher than the pre-crisis level.
Source: Wordstat.Yandex, June 2022
Considering that at present advertising on the Google search in Russia cannot be displayed, Yandex Direct is getting one of the key channels to promote VPN services.
Contextual advertising can also be called the most important in promoting an online product aimed at interested users. In order to “expand” the coverage of an advertising campaign and capture other audience segments that may be interested in VPN, you need to enable additional tools.
As a rule, advertising on social networking websites is aimed at a wider audience. If contextual tools make it possible to reach those users who are ALREADY interested in the given product, then social networks - those who MAY be interested in it.
Considering the fact that VPN apps are publicly available and relevant online services for various categories of customers, promotion on social networking websites can and should be used. At the same time, - take into account the peculiarities of the Russian market.
On March 4, 2022, Roskomnadzor restricted access to Facebook* and Twitter on the territory of the Russian Federation. Then TikTok and Instagram* were blocked, and on March 21, Meta* was recognized as extremist and its activities in Russia were banned. In this context, Youtube developers gradually began to close monetization of Russian channels on their service, and Google - ad accounts. Besides, some apps (like Spotify) have left the market.
That is, the audience is ready to use a VPN for these services, . Accordingly, advertising of VPN products should be used on those social media that are currently popular and open to access for Russian users.
One of these services is Telegram, which holds leading positions in downloads along with VPN apps. A significant advantage for promotion in the messenger is the steady increase in loyal users and the possibility to broadcast ads thanks to different mechanics.
At the same time, the question arises - which telegram-tool for advertising is the best to use?
There is no point in creating your own Telegram channel dedicated VPN app: it is expensive and time-consuming. Telegram Ad Platform does not allow to use third-party links (and they are important for VPN advertising) and limits the advertising message to 160 characters. It will also take time to understand Telegram exchanges.
But the purchase of advertising on popular channels will be more effective. It is only enough to understand which channels are the relevant audience on. In case of promotion of VPN products, the question is quite simple, since they are used by a fairly large percentage of the Internet audience in Russia.
In other words, the main task is to find popular Telegram channels designed for different users. The topics of which may cover:
The same scheme can be used when promoting on another popular social resource in Russia - VKontakte. The only difference is that it gives great opportunities in the presentation of an advertising message. At the same time, the choice of the target audience can be directed not only to broader coverage, but also can be focused on narrow segments: by interests, members of certain communities who are interested in certain topics, etc., as well as by retargeting website visitors and lookalike audience.
example of advertising integration of the Atlas VPN service on VKontakte
VKontakte can be considered one of the most versatile tools for promotion on the Russian market, since it includes many options. On the other hand, Telegram has a large percentage of loyal audience and is one of the most downloaded resources in Russia (along with VPN) so far.
Thus, the promotion of VPN on the Russian market will be effective in two key areas. The first is through contextual advertising on Yandex (for an audience interested in VPN products). The second is through the popular social networking websites Telegram and VKontakte, covering various categories of users.
But there is another additional option.
It is impossible to imagine any advertising campaign aimed at services for a wide audience without promotion through opinion leaders. A huge number of loyal users on the Internet still listen to their advice. This can also be used for VPN products. Again, taking into account the peculiarities of the Russian market during the period of sanctions.
Through the end February 2022, such services in Russia were Youtube, Instagram* and Tik-Tok. Over several years, they have proved to be one of the most efficient resources to deal with bloggers and promote various products through them. But now two of them have been completely blocked for the Russian market.
Youtube, compared to Instagram* and Tik-Tok, has limited, but not suspended its activities in Russia. Currently, bloggers still have the possibility of fund raising through user support, as well as self-publishing of ads in their videos.
Of course, promotion through opinion leaders in such limited conditions is impossible to imagine for some products or services that were previously actively advertised on the platform. But for VPN services, this tool remains effective.
Firstly, the Russian audience of Youtube channels still continues to watch them. Correspondingly, with the right choice of bloggers, the opportunity to “reach” the potential VPN users is as high as when promoting on VKontakte or Telegram.
Secondly, bloggers consider that the native approach to advertise a product plays an important role in advertising. Having supported it with different bonuses, free period of use or personal discount on the service from a blogger, you can expect an increase in users interested in VPN.
Thus, Youtube as a tool of promotion through opinion leaders can serve as an additional source to attract the attention of the audience to the VPN product on the Russian market.
In the conditions of the sanctions policy against Russia concerning the blocking of many popular online resources, most users are actively interested in VPN applications. This trend is still ongoing, as evidenced by the ratings of marketplaces.
Currently, VPN developers have the opportunity to get a huge percentage of Russian users as regular customers. However, it is almost impossible to successfully enter the market without advertising promotion of a product in conditions of highly developed competition.
Therefore, a campaign to promote a VPN service in Russia may include the following tools:
1) ASO and everything related to it - to increase the app rating on marketplaces;
2) Russian-language landing page to highlight benefits of VPN for the audience;
3) Contextual advertising on Yandex aimed at users interested in the product;
4) Purchase of advertising on Telegram channels - to expand the audience of the campaign;
5) Advertising on VKontakte to work with different groups of potential customers;
6) Youtube and native VPN advertising from opinion leaders will increase audience loyalty to the product.
Hence, the promotion does not affect any advertising tool, but combines several solutions. Which of them to choose and how to set up an advertising campaign in support of an online product? RMAA experts are ready to answer these questions, as well as find the best option for you to promote VPN on the Russian market, taking into account all its features and different approaches to the target audience.
* The social network is recognized as extremist and banned in Russia.
** Recognized as a foreign agent in Russia.
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Author of the RMAA Agency Blog