In the end of November last year Yandex started marking mobile-friendly pages with “mobile version” label in mobile search results of all Yandex search properties. They also openly confirmed our suspicions that this was the first step towards making mobile-friendliness a ranking factor in the nearest future. And today is the day! Yandex just announced [in Russian] in their corporate blog that they are rolling out a new ranking formula that takes into account mobile-friendliness of a page when delivering search results on mobile devices.
As always, the new algorithm is named after a Russian city – this time Vladivostok, the capital of Russia’s Far East, where Yandex see the biggest share of mobile Internet users comparing to other regions in Russia.
Yandex defines mobile-friendly page as a page whose content (text, images, video etc) fits the small screen of a mobile phone, features vertical rather than horizontal scrolling, and is fully accessible on mobile devices (e.g. Java applets, Flash and Silverlight plug-ins are not supported by most of mobile browsers).
How do I know if Yandex sees my site as mobile-friendly?
Website owners can find out whether their pages are considered mobile-friendly by Yandex by using the testing tool in the new version of Yandex.Webmaster.
There is also a possibility to check the entire site by using diagnostics tool provided in the new version of Yandex.Webmaster.
Impact of the new search algorithm on Yandex SEO
Pages that are not optimized for mobile experience will not completely disappear from Yandex search results (i.e. Yandex does not apply any penalties or filters for poor mobile experience), but their position in mobile SERPSs will be lowered.
Although mobile-friendliness is just one of several hundreds of ranking factors in Yandex, it seems to be quite an important one. “The needs of our users is our top priority. We want to make sure it’s easy for them to interact with the webpages we deliver on any device“, says Yandex. This new algorithm gives companies willing to invest into site development a great chance to relatively easily gain competitive advantage in Yandex SERPs. According to Yandex estimates, less than 18% of Russia’s top 1 000 000 sites are mobile-optimized, despite the rapid growth of mobile Internet usage in the country.
The new algorithm is being rolled out in Russia today. Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey will follow shortly.