The recent statement of Matt Cutts during Pubcon about the possibility of being penalized for having too many ads on the page triggered a lot of discussions among SEOs this week.
Not many know, however, that Yandex made a similar announcement just a few weeks ago.
New Yandex ranking formula
In the beginning of October Yandex incorporated “site usability” into its ranking formula. While usability is a very broad term, Yandex gives some hints that the algorithm change is mainly about ad placement on the page:
“As a first step we learned to detect if ads distract the user or add relevant information and value. The ranking formula now includes several ad-related factors. We detect if the ads prevent the user from viewing the main content, if the ads overlay the content, and if the page containing these ads still interests the user. Resources, where the ads are placed in appropriate way, often rank higher than the ones overloaded with advertizing.”
Sounds very similar to the Google’s announcement, doesn’t it?
The graph displays how ad heavy pages rank on average in different search engines. The numbers on the axis are not actual rankings, but rather coefficients based on analysis of pages ranking for certain search queries. The queries selected for this analysis are mainly Music, Video and Software related, which are probably the most spammy and overloaded with ads categories.
According to this tool, ad heavy sites still rank better in Yandex than in Google.
What does this mean for Yandex SEO?
This change is really nothing new. I see it as a logical development of the recent anti-spam methods introduced by Yandex search team. First they gave a lot of importance to behavioral factors, then implemented a rule against keyword stuffing. The first time Yandex expressed their negative attitude toward pop-ups and pop-unders was already back in 2009.
All they are trying to do is to give the answers that people like, which is a very high priority for them right now as their market share in Russia began to decrease.
What I feel is very likely to be important after this new algorithm change is:
- Amount and type of advertizing on the page
I assume that pages with pop-up and pop-under ads as well as any kind of banners overlaying the text will be the most obvious candidates for a penalty. I also assume that too many blocks of AdSense or Yandex.Direct links, especially situated above the fold, will raise a flag too.
- Behavioral factors
Bounce rate from the page, time spent on the page, etc.
- Site load speed
This factor was not publicly mentioned anywhere, but I believe it is be one of the basic signals when it comes to usability.
- Quality and amount of content on the page
Unique content has been always important, and probably will be even more important now. It should not be overloaded with keywords. High keyword density will most likely hurt rand not help.
- Structure of the page
Yandex is very likely to look at navigation links and where they point, as well as how the content is presented on each page. By this I mean the usage of headers (h1, h2, h3 etc.), tags like <p>, <br> and other ways of formating like <strong>, <i>, font size etc. The bottom line is, the text needs to be readable.
All in all, I think this is not a significant change and it does not imply that the tactics of Yandex SEO needs to be revised. This is just another reminder that websites should be made for the user, and only then optimized for search engines.