November 23, 2011: just before a series of SEO conferences and events across the Russian speaking space Yandex released yet another version of ranking formula. For now it only affects “commercially oriented queries” (read SERPs for e-commerce sites) in Moscow region, but seeing the past developments with Google I believe I can make some bold assumptions about where Yandex is heading.
New Ranking Formula for e-commerce websites
As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, Yandex claims to understand and use site usability as a ranking signal. The new ranking formula takes it even further. According to their official statement (in Russian), the new ranking signals that are added are:
Trust towards the company’s website: well-known brand, contact information, customer reviews.
Design and usability: quality descriptions and images, product search, ratings, customer reviews, simple registration form.
Broad assortment: good selection of products.
Price: prices have to be set at a “fair” level.
Payment and delivery options: several payment options, various delivery options as well as “quick and cheap” delivery.
The new ranking algorithm was explained further at Optimization.ru SEO conference by Alexander Sadovskiy, who is sort of Matt Cutts of Yandex.
Sadovskiy said both online and offline components are important for “trust” from a user point of view. Yandex tries to give the users the result they are searching for, and therefore both online and offline factors will matter for site evalutation. The following elements of a website are considered to be an indication of a serious retail store:
– Redirect to https when processing payments
– Corporate email (not free mail service provider)
– Landline telephone number, or better several
– Office addresses with specified opening hours, directions to the offices’ location
– Easy access to product pages (within 2 clicks)
– Absence of intrusive advertisement
– Valid HTML code
– Good quality content
Some of these things are quite straightforward and obviously aiming against low quality and non-secure e-commerce sites to improve search quality. But to me it feels like Yandex is doing the same thing as Google did not so long ago.
Implications of the new algorithm for Yandex SEO for e-commerce sites
I find these new requirements mainly good for overall search quality. Great to hear that dodgy and phishing sites will not rank as easily and online shopping in Russia will be more secure.
I also some trends similar to Google’s previous changes:
1. Better rankings for strong brands.
The last couple of years Google obviously favors strong brands in its search results. It seems to me that Yandex starts doing exactly the same thing. It is already very difficult to rank new sites. Now I believe it will be more difficult to rank sites of small and medium size businesses, affiliate sites and any other kind of businesses that solely rely on SEO.
Among other reasons, search engines push brands in their search results, because they are more “trusted” by general audience and are less likely to do shady things when it comes to both selling products and SEO. This change will also force a lot of companies to buy Yandex.Direct ads after losing SEO traffic due to this algorithm change.
2. Importance of user-generated content.
The importance of user-generated content is not new to Yandex. Although it was not officially stated anywhere, I saw a positive effect of having corporate blogs and forums on indexing speed and overall rankings in some verticals. Now customer reviews will be a powerful ranking signal for e-commerce sites.
3. Importance of Yandex Market.
After following the Russian SEO conferences in held November-December this year, it seems that customer reviews from Yandex Market* will be regarded as an SEO ranking signal.
* Yandex Market is an analog of Google Shopping. It works practically the same way, apart from the fact that clicks are not free.
This new part of Yandex ranking algorithm will eventually attract more e-com sites into Yandex Market. Again, looks like it’s better for the user and at the same time Yandex benefits from it, financially.
Another thing that tells me that Market will play a more important role in Yandex SEO is that the new ranking formula includes “fair” product prices. It is, of course possible, that Yandex will index and compare all prices across all stores and product lines, but to me it seems more likely that the judgment of “fairness” of the price will be based on the data Yandex receives from the retailers advertizing on Yandex Market.
Yandex SEO in 2012
I believe that Yandex SEO as we know it today, will not exist by the end of 2012. SEO for Yandex is becoming very complex.
It won’t be enough to write an optimized copy and buy a few links on SAPE. SEO specialist has to think about customer’s needs to create the right type of content, understand customer’s preferences and surfing patterns to improve behavioral metrics.
To successfully rank in Yandex in 2012 it will be necessary to build quality sites, work on user interface and usability, create brand awareness and have a strong presence in social media. Basically, working with Yandex SEO is becoming very similar to working with SEO for Google.com.
I also believe that SEO for Yandex will become more integrated into companies’ marketing and there will be more interdependency between SEO, PPC, PR and Social.