As search engines develop, a bunch of SEOs always tries to find ways to cheat the system. Over the years link buying (aka building) has been one of the most abused SEO tactics. In Russia it became more extreme than in other markets — bulk link buying is a general practice most SEO agencies would offer you even today. It is not a secret to anyone; even Yandex themselves said that they know for sure that about 90% of links in Russia are “SEO links“. So let’s take a closer look at Russian link building practices.
Common link building practices for Yandex SEO
The biggest difference between Russian SEO and Western SEO is probably the attitude towards link building. While western SEOs are mostly trying to play by the book and come up with new creative ways to get inbound links, in Russia SEOs are mostly trying to cheat the search engines. Yandex has been much kinder than Google towards paid links, so link trade in Russia turned into a million dollar business over the years.
Revealing Russian link brokers
Even today, Yandex SEO work is, to a large extent, about link building. The wast majority of SEOs are buying links through multiple link brokers. Russian link brokers are very advanced. Unlike their .com counterparts, they are not link networks, but rather marketplaces with thousands of independent sites offering link placements. Russian link brokers are genius products; although links are bought and injected into web pages automatically, there is no trace of that in the HTML code, and the level of detail available for choosing link placements is astonishing. Below is an example of what the interface might look like:
Or something like this:
This makes Yandex SEO work less time-consuming than what we are used to in the West, however, needless to say, the quality of links is not great, and the placements are far from naturally looking. Carelessly buying these Russian links will most likely result into link profile that consists of footer links, links on pages with thin content, hidden links, links from spammed used-to-be-good abandoned sites, sites under penalties, you name it.
If you decide to go for one of Russian link buying services, this footer link could be yours:
Or this footer link:
Or one of these six:
Automated Yandex “SEO”
For those, who does not have knowledge or time, there are completely automatic link buying services in Russia. All you need to do is to add keywords, configure some settings, define budgets, and the service will buy links on a daily basis on whatever sites it thinks are good for you. As you can imagine, the quality of these links is not great.
What does Yandex think about the common SEO practices?
In their Webmaster Guidelines Yandex says that links are “one of the oldest and most important factors in estimating the trust level for a certain site as a source of information”. Yandex also clearly states [in Russian] that they do not approve of paid links, and that buying links to manipulate search results can harm both buyer and seller. However, unlike Google, Yandex does not apply any severe penalties to link buyers. Sellers can get penalized, by, for example, getting pages de-indexed, but if they don’t sell too many links and don’t accept too spammy or irrelevant sites, they are also fine.
What does Google think about the “Yandex SEO” practices?
Google.ru is more tolerant than Google.com towards link spam. The reason might be that there are very few sites in RuNet that do not have a spammy backlink profile, and if Google would penalize them all, there would be nothing left to show in search results :) Penguin penalties are very common in Russia, but local SEOs often care about Google as much as we care about Bing.
Google and Yandex SEO-friendly link building
Neglecting quality in link building, and by that ignoring Google, is not the best approach. Depending on the vertical, Google has 25-35% of all search traffic in Russia, which you don’t want to miss. Besides, Yandex values quality links too. The overlap of Yandex’s and Google top 10 is about 25%, partly because Google often includes Yandex services in Top 10, and Yandex doesn’t, and partly because Google does not rank high sites with spammy inbound link profiles. Ranking well in both Yandex and Google is not hard if you are willing to invest a bit more time and effort. Here are the basic tips on how to be successful in both search engines:
1. Build natural inbound link profile Do not use exact anchor texts all the time. Branded links, images, long tail combinations and non-optimized anchor texts should stand for up to 80% of the inbound link profile.
2. Aim for quality sites in your vertical Links from topically-related sites with good content are valued highly by both Google and Yandex. Sites that have high TIC and PR at the same time are rare, but they are be the best to get links from.
3. Produce unique and high-quality content for your own site Content is king even in a highly commercialized Russian SEO environment. Good content will draw good inbound links and well as keep users interested. To help the search engines to determine your authority as a content writer, use Google authorship markup and claim your authorship through Yandex Webmaster.
4. Work on usability and design Similarly to good content, good design will attract links and users. Besides, both Google and Yandex (Yandex much more so) use behavioral factors in their ranking formulas.
5. Be active in social media Social media is important for multiple reasons. Not only it is a good way to engage with your audience and/or spread your content. Twitter presence can help you speed up indexing (which is especially important when working with Yandex as search engine does not crawl sites very fast) and vKontakte groups often rank top 10 for quite competitive keywords in both Yandex and Google.ru.