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Yandex SEO: a beginner’s guide

Continuing our introduction series to some of the search engines you will encounter as you expand your digital marketing into different countries, in this blog we focus on Russia and the dominant search engine in this market, Yandex.

In Russia the search landscape is dominated by Yandex, which also has some market share in other Eastern European countries and Turkey.

Local and personalised search
Yandex is one of the most localised and personalised search engines in the world. The majority of users are signed into Yandex when searching due to the popularity of mail.ru as a mail service in Russia. As a result of this, understanding the location of your target market in Russia will be useful when assessing and setting up your SEO campaign. If you are already active in Russia and receiving traffic or making sales in Russia some analysis of your analytics and sales databases can show you the cities which are driving the most traffic, so you can make sure your site is favouring people in the right city. You can also use Yandex Webmaster Tools to set your site to favour a specific geographic location.

Yandex tips
Yandex works better with Russian Cyrillic text compared to Latin scripts and as such having websites in Russian only is recommended for Yandex.

Yandex is very sensitive to the quality of this content too and is still using Keyword Density as a measure of keyword usage on a page, a concept which Google dropped years ago. Ideally you’re looking for about 7%. Don’t overuse keywords as keyword stuffing can be seen as a negative and could result in Yandex thinking your site is spammy. Likewise Yandex doesn’t like machine translated content.

Yandex does tend to prefer a .ru ccTLD but will index .com domains – it’s worth investigating the search results for the industry you are in to ensure that you are targeting the right domain strategy for your Russian competitor landscape.

How Yandex differs from Google
More than any of the other search engines we work with, Yandex does experiment with features and updates which differ from Google.

Links
A really good example of this is how Yandex changed how it was using links in its algorithm. In December 2013, Yandex announced that it was no longer going to use links as a ranking factor for commercial queries, rolling out this update in larger cities first. The main reason for this change was the high number of poor quality links with .ru domains which were around at the time.  There was an extensive history of some pretty spammy link building activity on these .ru domains – particularly the use of exact match forum links and spun content – both of which Google had cracked down on some time before. In fact, many UK businesses performing link removal activities were finding high numbers of their .ru domains linking to them.

So in 2014, Yandex began to roll out their removal of links from the algorithm, starting in Moscow and St Petersburg. However, following this beta trial of an algorithm change, Yandex announced that from May 2015 they were going to put links back into the algorithm. Yandex at this point further clarified the status of links confirming that good quality links would count positively towards your visibility but that links acquiring or providing low quality links would be penalised.

Mobile
Yandex was the last big search engine to launch a dedicated mobile friendly algorithm update.

In November 2015, Yandex started labelling search results as being “mobile friendly” and later, in February 2016 they launched the Vladivostok mobile SEO update, which actively rewards mobile friendly sites. As part of the launch they provided some guidelines about what would not be seen as mobile friendly:

  • Content which doesn’t fit a small screen
  • Horizontal scrolling
  • Java Applets, Flash Video, Silverlight plugins, all not mobile friendly

Make sure your website is mobile friendly when building your Russian SEO campaign in much the same way as you would for other markets.

Yandex and site changes
Yandex is notoriously slow to crawl websites. As a result, the timescales you are used to seeing with Google crawling your site won’t be the same in Russia.

So when you change content, launch new pages or even migrate your website don’t expect Yandex o be picking up on what you have changed in a couple of days, it could take longer. And when you’ve migrated a website you could find it isn’t visible at all during a period of time whilst Yandex reviews and re-indexes your content.

This is just a brief intro to Yandex, there are more issues which need to be considered as part of your SEO strategy for optimising your presence in Russia and Yandex using countries.

To find out more about Yandex and how Oban International can help you with visibility in the Russian market please contact us.