SEO and SEM for Russian search engines

8 most common Yandex SEO penalties and filters

yandex-searchYandex SEO has become much more complicated during the last few years, and as new spam techniques evolved and found loopholes in new search algorithms, Yandex created new types of penalties and filters to fight them.

A few years ago I wrote a post on Yandex SEO penalties, but since then the list has become much longer. Let’s have a look at the most common types of penalties Yandex can apply to a website.

Common reasons for Yandex SEO penalties and filters

Yandex aims to deliver the best possible answers to its users’ search queries, and the sites that are not regarded as quality, sooner or later will be affected by one of the penalties or filters listed below:

1. Doorways

Definition: pages and sites, whose primary purpose is to redirect the user to another website, using links or redirects.

Potential penalty: removal from Yandex search results.

2. Cloaking

Definition: pages and sites that serve different content to users and search engine bots in order to manipulate search engine rankings.

Potential penalty: removal from Yandex search results.

3. Hidden text

Definition: invisible or hidden texts containing keywords in order to manipulate search engine rankings.

Potential penalty: removal from Yandex search results.

4. Low quality content

Definition: sites that contain duplicate content, machine translated content, poorly written content as well as any other type of content that does not create any value for the user. Most often the sites that are affected by this type of filter are created solely for selling links or advertisement placements, however in some cases the penalty can affect real brands / sites that neglected copywriting for too long.

Generally Yandex is very strict when it comes to content quality (much more strict than, and not surprisingly, content-relates penalties and filters are the most common when it comes to Yandex SEO. Multiple versions of AGS penalty – penalty against low quality sites – have been introduced during the years. The consequences of the latest versions of AGS can be very harsh, and the recovery process – time-consuming and expensive.

Potential penalty: full or partial removal from Yandex search results, drop in rankings, decrease of TIC (Yandex’s analog of Page Rank).

5. Affiliate sites

Definition: sites that are created for selling products and services provided by other sites within their affiliate programs.

With exceptions of those few affiliates, who actively work with content, reviews and social media, most affiliate sites have no real value to the user in the eyes of Yandex as they do not produce their own original content and do not provide any additional services.

Potential penalty: full or partial removal from Yandex search results, drop in rankings.

6. Over-optimization

Definition: text with excessive amount of keywords produced to manipulate search engine rankings (in other words, keyword stuffing).

Potential penalty: full or partial removal from Yandex search results, drop in rankings.

7. Simulating user actions

Definition: artificial simulation of user actions to influence website rankings.

It is a well-known fact that Yandex gives a lot of weight to so-called “behavioral factors“. Behavioral factors, such as, for example, SERP CTR, bounce rate back to the SERPs, average time spent on site etc., are used by Yandex in order to understand how users react and interact with a website. High SERP CTR and low bounce rate back to the SERPs tell Yandex that users find the site interesting, and vice versa.

Of course, Russian SEO industry quickly adopted to the algorithm producing multiple tools for artificial inflating of behavioral factors. While the tools are said to work well, Yandex is getting better and better at detecting artificial behaviors and punishing the cheaters.

Potential penalty: full or partial removal from Yandex search results, drop in rankings.

8. Excessive or intrusive advertising

Definition: sites that use intrusive advertising formats such as popup, popunder , clickunder and similar, which prevent users from viewing the main content of the website as well as advertising with “shocking” content.

Potential penalty: drop in rankings.

Actions for recovering from a Yandex SEO penalty

If you experience an unnatural drop in rankings or pages in Yandex search index, most likely a filter or a penalty has been applied to your site during the latest search index update. While most penalties are lifted once the issue causing the penalty is fixed, there are some that can take much longer time to identify and to recover from.

In those cases it can be helpful to reach out to Yandex support and ask for guidance. The contact form for SEO-related questions can be accessed via Yandex.Webmaster.


Some of the sites however, mainly doorways and other extremely spammy types, might never come back regardless of the rescue efforts.

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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