Google vs. Yandex in Russia

yandexAnd when you look at the figures it’s hard to argue with this. There are numerous possible reasons why this is so, but let’s cut to the chase and take a look at the main differences between the two search engines.

To explain how Yandex functions compared to Google, and answer some FAQ’s on how to best optimise a website for Yandex, we’ve divided the article into four parts:

  1. Ranking factors
  2. Page content & On-page optimisation
  3. Link-building
  4. Filters.

So, let’s get started.

Whenever SEO for the Russian market is discussed, it nearly always leads to a Google vs. Yandex debate. Most people however, would agree that Yandex is hands down the leading search engine in Russia.

Ranking Factors

According to Russian SEO-specialists, there are several groups of factors that influence Yandex rankings: site architecture and code, text content, links, user behavior and geographical location.

  • Site architecture refers to the basic requirements of website accessibility for robots. It means that the server must be available anytime; the website must be fast enough, and so on. Like Google, Yandex wants its robots have easy access to a website and so it’s best SEO practice to include robots.txt and sitemap.xml files within the code of a website.
  • Text content, as you would expect, refers to the actual text visible to users on a website. Again similar to Google, Yandex has cracked down on spamming and wants the text to be useful and human friendly. Over-optimised pages may be punished and lose ranking position.
  • Links: Some of Google’s well-known page ranking factors are PR and Page Authority. These factors determine the amount of link juice or power a link from a particular page will pass on to your website, subsequently boosting your pages PR and Page Authority. Yandex uses its own, but very similar, Topical Index Citation (TIC) to determine this. Simply speaking, The TIC of a page is the sum of the weights of the links that refer to that page or website, like Google’s calculation. The weight of a link however, depends on both, thematic similarity and geographical proximity of the linking website to the website it’s linking to. It’s worth noting that Yandex only takes into account links from websites included in the Yandex Catalogue, it also doesn’t take into consideration links that could have been posted on a website without the site owners control (e.g. forums, some blogs, boards, etc.). TIC is crucial for a websites Yandex Catalogue ranking as it is a moderated by the Yandex specialist database of the most trusted websites. Listing in this database can dramatically increase a sites Russian traffic.
  • User behavior is one of the most difficult ranking factors to influence. It takes into account how interesting and useful people find a website. This evaluates a websites unique visitors, the number of pages viewed, average time spent on a website and bounce rate. It’s almost impossible to control all of these factors and the way they influence a sites ranking. All you can do is make sure your website is human friendly and full of great content.
  • Geographical location: Yandex cares a lot about the quality and relevance of its search results in different cities and regions of Russia. To make their search results as relevant as possible Yandex takes into account the location of a website and allows users to search for companies and services that are offered in their area. In this case, all the websites affiliated to other regions are simply not included in the search results. A user’s region is determined by their IP address, whereas a website’s address is determined by the business address on the website itself. There are several different ways to draw Yandex’s attention to your business address and the simplest one is to just make sure that it is written clearly on your website. To be certain that it is taken into account however, it is best to register you website or businesses address with the Yandex Catalogue or Yandex Webmaster. This is extremely beneficial for companies that have offices or representatives in Russia.


Page Content & On-Page Optimisation

The general rules for on-page content are pretty standard:

  • Make sure that your text content is good quality and written for users, not for search engines.
  • Do not write long texts, they should ideally be between 300 and 3000 words and no longer than 4000 words, (longer texts are still acceptable but usually get lower rankings).
  • Do not over optimise with keywords in each line of the text. About 5-7% is the optimal keyword content ratio with 10% being the acceptable maximum.
  • Do not use bold or italic text too much;
  • Care about grammar, make sure it is correct.
  • Structure your information to make it more comfortable to read for users and more visible for search engines.

Yandex still isn’t perfect at recognising original content and is currently testing the anti-plagiarism services that it offers. Currently to indicate ownership of website content you need to first upload the content to the Yandex Webmaster database and then publish it on your website. In theory this will help to protect your content from plagiarism.seo-copywriteLink Building

Yandex now cares about links much more than it used to, much like Google and the recent algorithm updates. Now it wants links to appear naturally and is cracking down on link farms. When buying links you should choose websites carefully and make sure that they are relevant to your site. New websites that are younger than 6 months old should not get more than 30-50 external links per month; for the websites that are about one-year-old the recommended maximum number of new links is 50-100/month.

As for the links that you post on your website, Yandex prefers there to be no more than 5 links per page with up to 25 links being the acceptable maximum. In general, Yandex is slightly stricter than Google when it comes to link building.


What happens when a website doesn’t follow Yandex’s rules carefully? If Yandex decides that a website does not respect some of its search engine’s rules, it drops the site in question down its organic search results or in more severe cases removes it from its SERP’s altogether. The filters used by Yandex are:

  • Automatically generated content (AGC) – this filter forbids the ranking of websites that have automatically generated, copy-pasted content, illogical content or too many links posted on it.
  • “You’re the last” – This filter puts pages with useless content in last place in Yandex’s rankings.
  • “You’re spamming” – This filter is used for pages with low-quality content, these pages lose ranking significantly, the possible reasons are: huge texts (more than 4000 words), too many keywords (>10%), too much bold or italic text, grammar mistakes etc.
  • “Links explosion” – A filter that is used for the websites that significantly increase their number of external links in short space of time, Yandex assumes that the links where bought and ignores the website;
  • “Nepot” – is a filter that aims to find and exclude from index the websites that are used for random and paid links placement;
  • “Behaviour cheating filter” – This filter is used against websites that try to influence their user behaviour ranking by sending robots to visit the site and “increase” its usability and usefulness, the filter bans the offending websites and removes all the website’s pages from Yandex’s results.
  • “Affiliate filter” – This recognises websites owned by the same company that have the same thematic and lowers all of their rankings apart from the main site.

To avoid punishment, try to follow all of Yandex’s search engine rules and create useful content for your sites potential visitors and clients. If your website has already been hit by one of these filters, the first think you should do is to contact Yandex support to clarify what’s wrong. Upon hearing Yandex’s problems with your site you must correct everything that has made the website drop down their rankings and wait until Yandex robots index the website again. This process can take from a couple of weeks to a year or more, so, obviously it’s better to play by Yandex’s rules.

In general the Yandex algorithm isn’t so different from Google’s. It uses the same principles and logic, but at the same time it reflects more specifically on the Russian internet-industry, which is relatively young but developing at a fast pace.

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