The new search algorithm Minusinsk that brought links back into Yandex ranking formula has been live for about a week now. The first implications of it were spotted by Russian SEO community a few days later: several hundreds of websites in various verticals were penalized for aggressive link buying.
Today at YaMasterskaya conference held at Yandex HQ the search team revealed some more details about the new algorithm, first wave and upcoming second wave of penalties and explained how to avoid problems connected to using spammy link building techniques in the past.
Inbound links penalties explained by Yandex
Ekaterina Gladkih from Yandex Webspam Team held a presentation about the events that took place before and after Minusinsk went live.
After the new search algorithm was announced by Alexander Sadovskiy on April 15 at ByNet conference in Minsk, a certain number of webmasters received warnings via Yandex.Webmaster, where Yandex informed them about the fact that their websites have too many paid inbound links and stated that if the situation would not improve, their positions in organic search results would be lowered. According to Ekaterina, 37% of those sites reduced the amount of SEO links, and in most cases their positions and traffic remained stable.
As for the other 63%, the first wave of penalties had affected 488 sites in total. Organic rankings of these sites dropped by around 20 positions. Ekaterina also pointed out that there will be more waves of penalties coming soon, and this time without any warnings.
Yandex shared some examples of sites that successfully survived and didn’t survive the first wave of Minusinsk.
Travel website with 2148 SEO links (95% of the total amount) removed 70% them after receiving the warning. Traffic and rankings remained stable after the launch of the new algorithm.
A website in the restaurant vertical with 857 inbound links, more than 98% of which were paid SEO links, did not take any actions after receiving the warning. Their traffic from Yandex significantly decreased on the 15ht of May.
Yandex view on effectiveness of link-related penalties
Historically Yandex tried to punish link sellers rather than link buyers. The methodology did not prove to be very effective: low quality sites got penalized, new ones kept popping up and links kept being traded. Even after Yandex had removed the links altogether from the ranking formula the amount of paid links dropped by only 16%. Link buying kept going strong.
Shortly after the introduction on Minusinsk and the first wave of penalties the amount of SEO links in Yandex database decreased by 21.7%.
The amount of link buyers in Top 10 results for a set of search queries that Yandex has been monitoring in this experiment decreased by 12.5%.
Yandex sees these results as a success and hopes that webmasters will start spending less time on buying links and more time on improving content and user experience on their websites.
Other important facts about Yandex SEO link penalties
1. Yandex claims that paid SEO links cannot be used for negative SEO. There is mechanism that protects site owners from such actions of dishonest competitors.
2. Organic links are good and positively influence site rankings.
3. Minusinsk is applied to groups of sites at a time. If a site did not get hit by the first wave, it might get hit in the second, third or forth waves.
4. Yandex has no plans for creating a disavow tool. Paid links need to be removed manually.
How picky Yandex will be is hard to say. For those, who bought links via Russian link brokers, we strongly recommend to start removing / cleaning up those links ASAP, starting from the cheapest and spammy-looking ones.