As we all know, both Google and Bing are using social signals such as tweets, Facebook shares, Google+ shares etc., as a component of their ranking formula. But very little, if anything, has been said about Yandex so far.
Preston Carey actually received this question at SMX London earlier this year and came back with a very vague explanation of a kind “kind of sort of but not really”.
Also, as we know, for the last year Yandex has been busy with tweaking their new algorithm based on machine learning and trying to understand what their users want based on their search behavior. Nothing is pointing towards social signals being important for Yandex SEO, but I believe social will play a bigger role in the future, and here is why:
1. Yandex keeps a close eye on Twitter in Russia
A year ago I wrote about the report on Twitter usage in Russia, which Yandex posted on their corporate blog. This year Yandex created a follow up and published updated stats with some nice infographics. The article, unfortunately, is only in Russian, but here are the main takeaways:
- there is over 1 million Twitter accounts in Russian
- there are 370 thousand tweets written in Russian daily; 85 of them are retweets, around 30% – replies to other tweets
- during the day there are only 64 thousand active users writing updates on Twitter (6,4% of all Russian accounts)
- there are less active accounts than in 2010, but they tweet more
2. Yandex offered a possibility to sign in into any of its services with accounts in any major social networks and sites
Russians are the most socially engaged nation in the world, and social networks own a lot of personal data about Internet users. Since all major Russian social networks provide advertising platforms with powerful targeting possibilities, Yandex has to compete with them for users and for adertising budgets.
Just like Facebook in the west, Russian vKontakte (recently rebranded to vk.com), MoiMor@mail.ru and Odoklassniki.ru own huge amounts of personal information, which is probably more reliable that “user intent” calculated by Yandex’s machine learning technology. I believe Yandex will have to look at social in order to stay competitive and keep the money flowing into Yandex.Direct (which is their biggest revenue source).
3. Yandex developed it’s own “Share” widget
Not many people know, but Yandex has its own widget for sharing infortmation in social networks: http://api.yandex.ru/share/. Obviously all the information about shares is recorded by Yandex.
4. Recently launched product “Yandex app search” incorporates social signals
Although missed by many press-release-rewrites, Yandex based their ranking algorithm for mobile apps not only on rankings in AppStore/ Android Market, but also on mentions in social networks.
The clients I’ve been working for were not active in social media, so I have no personal experience with this. Russian SEO society, known for being very creative when it comes to cheating search engine algorithms, recognizes that tweets (especially tweets from authority accounts) help to speed up crawling by both Google and Yandex. I have not come across any records of tweets, or any social media shares, helping to better rank in Yandex.
So are social signals important for Yandex SEO? Probably not that much at the moment. Will they be? I’d bet!