Yandex is Russia’s most popular search engine with a 62% market share, and also has a stronghold in Poland, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Turkey. Google is still a major stakeholder in the Russia market, but if you are marketing in Russia, you should optimize for Yandex first, Google second.
Yandex has several SEO requirements that differ from other search engines, which makes SEO in Russia a different ball game. This also makes Yandex one of the most interesting search engines to optimize for because it’s different from what SEO professionals tend to work with day-to-day.
Here are 11 things you need to know about SEO for Yandex:
1) Russia’s Business Market
If you work at a company outside of Russia, you probably don’t get very many requests for Yandex SEO. That’s because Russia has its own SEO agencies that specialize in Yandex, and most Russian companies do not operate outside of Russia. Because of this, most Russian companies hire agencies within Russia. There is a very good chance you may go your entire career without ever having to optimize a site for Yandex unless you live in Russia or one of its bordering countries.
2) MatrixNet & Thematic Index Citation Score
MatrixNet is Russia’s page priority algorithm (similar to PageRank). MatrixNet measures site popularity and the sum and relevancy of backlinks to determine a thematic index citation (TIC) score, which plays into MatrixNet. Rather than scoring on a scale of 0-10 like PageRank, TIC is scored on a scale of 0-10,000. The TIC score is also the same for every page on the website rather than on a page-by-page basis. A TIC score quantifies the importance of a piece of content, which is included in SERPs to help users determine the quality and credibility of the content. A plugin called Yandex Elements will allow you to see the TIC score for sites with a score higher than 10. TIC scores are also influenced by rationality of content and inbound links.
3) Yandex Indexing
Yandex’s index is re-calculated a few times a month for static pages, and several times per day for blog posts, whereas Google constantly crawls and indexes content. Yandex also respects rules set up in robots.txt. Creating a sitemap will also help Yandex index your content quicker.
Local SEO for Yandex is highly targeted towards a user’s metro area. Local search results are delivered to users in more than 1,400 cities, resulting in users having very different search results depending on where they are in Russia. Of course, this is mostly only true to geo-specific search queries. For companies with regional businesses, you’ll need to set up regional preferences in Yandex Webmaster Tools, add preferences to Yandex Catalog, and use regional domains or subdomains along with region-specific content.
5) On-site SEO
The on-page factors and what is most important differs greatly from Google. Here’s what Yandex looks at, and how much weight they place on each factor:
- Heading tags – very important
- Title tags – very important
- Regional domains – important
- Keywords in URLs – very important
- Internal links – somewhat important
- Importance of single pages – somewhat important
- Importance of whole domain – very important
- Length of content – somewhat important
- Anchor text optimization – not important
- Domain age – very important
- Domain trust – very important
- Importance in link diversity – very important
- Side-wide inbound links – not important
6) SERP Snippets
Unlike Google, how your search listings appear in SERPs isn’t quite as easy to influence.
7) Anchor Text
Having a lot of variations in anchor texts of inbound links is very important. This doesn’t mean you should build a bunch of links with optimized anchor text. You should still build links naturally, but having some diversity in the anchor text will help.
8) AJAX Indexing
AJAX content is able to be indexed by Yandex, but it needs to be coded in a certain way for Yandex’s spider to crawl it effectively. See this guideline for information on how AJAX content should be implemented.
9) Social Media and Online Dialogue
Although the impact of social media signals is unclear for Yandex SEO, forum posts, comments, and blog posts seems to help improve SEO performance. Russia also has a few social media networks that are not popular outside of the country including: VK, mail.ru, and Odnoklassniki (OK). As with any social media network, creating and promoting your content can result in inbound links and online dialogue about your brand.
10) SEO Results
Early success and quick ranking is easy to achieve in Google, but not nearly as much in Yandex. Since Yandex’s indexation is slower and the algorithm takes much more time to rank a piece of content, you will need to focus heavily on showing long-term results.
11) Yandex Quality Guidelines
Much like Google and Bing, Yandex offers website quality guidelines that should be followed to improve SEO. Here’s a brief run-down of what Yandex recommends for creating a quality site:
- Create interesting and useful content
- Put users first, search engines second
- Only place links on your site that will be useful to users
- Make your site easy to use
- Make sure the keywords you target match your site’s content, and that the context is correct for search queries
Just like every other search engine, Yandex has its own guidelines of what not to do.
Here’s a list of what Yandex considers to be black hat tactics:
- Shallow, low quality, or duplicate content
- Doorway sites redirecting users to other domains
- Auto-generated text
- Keyword stuffing
- Hidden text or links
- Excessive advertisement
- Linking to other sites to increase their rankings
- Link farming
- Malicious behavior
- User behavior manipulation
- Groups of websites by the same webmaster offering the same products or services being used to cannibalize search results
Sounds familiar, right? These are pretty much the same webmaster guidelines used across most major search engines.
Yandex SEO isn’t much different from doing it for other major search engines. The priorities of ranking factors are a bit different, indexation isn’t as quick, and local SEO differs greatly, but over all, it is still pretty simple to optimize for Yandex.
All screenshots taken September 2014