SEO and SEM for Russian search engines

How to optimize for Yandex: SEO ranking factors

After the lame talk about SEO for Yandex Andy and Rand gave at SMX, I thought would be good to write something more practical; how it works with Yandex for real.

Recently I wrote a short update on new algorithm and technologies Yandex uses to rank websites, and these are the practical tips on how to optimize for Yandex in the age of Krasnodar, MatrixNet and Spektr.

Yandex SEO is in a way quite similar to Google SEO, but with a twist

SEO for YandexJust a couple of years ago, before Snezhinsk, Yandex SERP was quite easy to manipulate. All you needed is links, and everything would do: footers, side bars, sites about dogs, sites about kitchen furniture or plastic windows. All you needed is quantity. Links were easy to get through link brokers like and alikes.

In 2009 Yandex started to tweak their algorithm to get rid of spam and provide their users with good information, just like any other search engine. The algorithm has become very complex and, as they claim, intelligent. The technology behind it is called MatrixNet, which is in essence a technology of machine learning. Yandex learns what people wants and refines the SERPs based on the learnings.

Just like with Google, nobody knows all the factors taken into consideration by Yandex. Just like with Google, there are best practices that work.

Onsite SEO for Yandex

Onsite SEO is very similar to what you would do for Google: content is the king and all that…

Relevance of the page to the search query: keywords in Title and Meta Description tags; keywords in Meta Keywords tag (does not really help much in my opinion, but some people would argue), keywords in ALT tags for images.

Content: the content should be unique and of a good quality. It is vital to maintain good grammar, as Yandex is very good with understanding Russian language. Just like with Google, it is important to update the website with fresh content on a regular basis. And lastly, create clusters of pages for similar keywords to strengthen the relevancy.

Internal linking: Yandex likes internal links in content. Do not rely solely on navigation and footer. Place internal links with optimized anchor texts into the content.

Site quality: do everything to keep the website healthy. Make sure that there are no broken links, that all pages work and 404 error is configured correctly. Make a good use of your robots.txt. This does not only help Yandex to identify your website as a quality resource, but also provides good user experience for the visitors.

In the latest versions of the algorithm the weight of onsite SEO factors seems to be increasing.

Make sure to not over-optimize the page. Avoid keyword stuffing and thin content. Just like Googel, Yandex does not like that.

Offsite SEO for Yandex (aka link building)

Link building in Russia is a pretty wild and aggressive area. Two years ago I attended an SEO conference in Moscow, where Yandex representative declared from the stage that they are aware of the fact that 90% of all links in RuNet (aka Russian internet) are paid, and that they are going to fight that.

Sape Russian Link BrokerYet, this year browsing job listings in Moscow I stumbled on a well-paid SEO job in one of the leading Online Marketing agencies in Russia, where one of the main requirements was “profound knowledge of the main link brokers and their features”. Links are being bought openly via link brokers; and it works. I honestly prefer not to use platforms like and have a more personal approach, but nevertheless, what you need to keep in mind doing link building in Russia is:

Do not get links from low quality sites which are clearly made for the purpose of selling links. It does not really work anymore.

Do not get links in footers and other spammy areas. That does not work either.

– Aim for on-topic websites, i.e. sites in your vertical. That will help to improve you rankings, build authority and increase TIC (aka Page Rank of Yandex).

Aim for quality websites: good content, respectful domain age, good number of indexed pages, high TIC, no or very few sold links on the website.

– When getting links via brokers, you are often required to pay for a period of time (e.g. month, year etc.). That is generally not great. Try to get links that will stay on the website forever, e.g. in news and articles. It looks more natural both in terms of placement and stability of link growth.

MiralinksFrom my experience, links from newspapers work pretty well. You can either approach their PR people and pay a lot of money to be placed in a good section; or buy articles in some hidden sub-categories via platforms like Miralinks.

Make sure your links look natural, like they were placed by webmaster and for the readers, and not by SAPE script and for Yandex.

– Some Russian directories are still good, for example Yandex Catalog.

Behavioral factors taken into account by Yandex’s ranking algorithm

With implementation of Matrixnet, behavioral factors has become an important part of optimizing websites for Yandex. The SEO community is uncertain, which metrics Yandex looks at and where they collect the data.

Obviously Yandex has it’s Yandex.Metrika (analytics package, similar to Google Analytics) and Yandex toolbar, but I don’t know if this data can be reliable for them. I couldn’t find any numbers regarding the percentage of sites using Yandex.Metrika. For what I know, Google Analytics is quite popular in Russia.

Many SEOs speculate about behavioral factors, but the most common opinion is that the most important ones are:

– CTR from the SERP

– Average time spent on the page after the click from the SERP

– Bounce rate from the page back to the SERP

So the tips are classic: write compelling titles and descriptions, create interesting content and provide good user experience.

The quality of your SEO efforts, both onsite and offsite, will be rewarded by Yandex with trust and higher rankings!

Anna Oshkalo

Anna is a blogger and online marketing consultant specializing in SEO and SEM for Russian search engines. To see more of Anna's posts, follow her on Twitter, or LinkedIn.

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13 Responses to “How to optimize for Yandex: SEO ranking factors”

  1. steven says:

    Thank you Verona for all the useful info! Just found out you are writing again, great! Glad I am not the only one who found that video on seomoz utterly lame….Just landed in Almaty and will try to find a job here once my Russian is up to speed. Do you think there are options for english-speaking seo’s in Russian market? It looks rather limited.

  2. Verona says:

    Hi Steven,

    Thanks for the good feedback! I can’t say much about labor market in Russia or Kazakhstan, because I haven’t lived there for many years now. I’d guess, like in any non-English speaking country, finding a job in English there is rather difficult, but I don’t want to discourage you. Good luck with everything in Almaty!

  3. Max says:

    Could you explain a bit more in detail waht the difference is compared to SEO targeting Google? My feeling is that most of the factors you mentioned are equally important for both G. and Y.


  4. Verona says:

    Hi Max, the main difference, I’d say, is the type of links you need to get. Yandex evaluates websites in a different way than Google, and has its own “page rank” called TIC (you can see it if you install Yandex toolbar for FF). It’s not uncommon that sites with high TIC will have low PR and the other way around. So the links should be coming from the sites valued by Yandex (i.e. trusted domains with high TIC), rather than sites which you’d consider good doing SEO for Google.

  5. 53.12north says:

    Thanx for all these tips and info.
    Just this week signed up for Y webmaster tools in english- guess there’s quite a queue as still not indexed. If you ever take the Finnlines ferry from St.P. to Hull to visit Horncastle, look me up and there’s a free coffee house visit . . .!

  6. Anna says:

    Thanks for the offer ) Will keep it in mind!

  7. […] to the ranking algorithm. Whilst buying links is still openly allowed, Yandex have announced that the quality of this link, the relation to your site and also the natural feel of a link will all play a bigger part in 2012 onwards.We’ve now also learnt that Yandex will actually […]

  8. says:

    The best article about seo for yandex! Great work, the seomoz video was lame indeed. Great job Anna

  9. says:

    I have a question though. If someone begins to buy links massively, i guess this will rank him well in yandex but may receive a penalty by google. How can we balance off site optimization for both G and Y?

  10. Anna says:

    Hi! Thank you for the kind words! Reg. links, it is important to keep a good balance. Massive artificial linking can cause problems with Yandex too, as a matter of fact. From my experience, quality works better than quantity in the long run, for Yandex as well.

  11. Yannis says:

    Hi there Anna. I cannot tell you how useful this was to me. Thank you.

  12. Anna says:

    Glad to hear you find my blog helpful, Yannis!

  13. […] Imagine you own an online store in Russia. One of the things you do to get your store to the top of Yandex’ search results is that you produce great content to build links, right? Wrong. You buy them. Yes, you BUY them. A lot of them. As a matter of fact, 90% of all links in Russia are paid. […]