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SEO for Yandex:
7 things you need to know

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Although Google optimization is becoming more and more popular in the Russian-speaking market, there is another SEO approach that you should familiarize yourself with if you’re interested in optimizing your content for Russian-speaking users. Welcome to SEO for Yandex.

Yandex, one of the most popular search engines in the region, attracts a good deal of online users in Russia (60%), Belarus (30%), Kazakhstan (20%) and the Ukraine (10%)*. You read that right: Ukrainians are still among Yandex’s users, even though the search engine was banned in the Ukraine in 2017 due to political tensions.

Plus, there are Russian speakers throughout Europe, North America and the world at large who are very likely to turn to Yandex to browse the Web or go shopping online.

Whether you’re looking for new potential customers or investors, you’ll want to make sure that your target audience can find your website in the search results. That’s what SEO is there for. You likely already know about SEO, and you’ve probably already optimized your website for English or another language.

But if it’s Russian speakers you’re after, ignoring Yandex could cost you over 50% potential users. The good news is that Yandex and Google are based on very similar SEO principles; there are just a few differences you should keep in mind when trying to get your website to rank in the Yandex search results.

To make things a little easier for you, we’ve prepared a list of things worth knowing about Yandex SEO.

1. Content always matters

As far as content is concerned, Yandex can be rather picky. Not only does it prioritize sites that provide the most complete and relevant answers to queries — but it pays a lot more attention to quality. Yandex uses several algorithms to scan content quality and, once it’s spotted content that’s not up to snuff, will penalize the site.

To stay in Yandex’s graces, stay away from copy-pasting, and don’t over-optimize your content. Keep in mind that spammy content and duplicates are not favored here either. Spend enough time developing a transparent, user-friendly structure for your website and fill it with quality content that helps your target audiences get the information that’s most useful to them. Besides, everyone in content marketing knows content is king.

2. Know where your target group is located

Although Google and other search engines offer geo-targeting features, Yandex places greater importance on it. Think about it: Russia is a massive country, so it makes sense to hone in on smaller regions. Yandex offers two types of searches: geo-dependent and geo-independent.

Geo-independent searches are those that could be relevant to anyone, regardless of where they’re located — a music-review website, for example, or the website of an international organization.

Geo-dependent searches, on the other hand, focus on products or services that are so localized they can’t be found anywhere outside of a particular region or city. Think of your local beauty salon or events that might be going on nearby.

By specifying your target regions through Yandex Webmaster Tools and submitting your business to the Yandex Business Directory, you’ll be well on your way to making sure your very localized and region-specific target audiences find the information they’re looking for and that your marketing campaigns function the way you want them to.

4. The older the better

Let’s talk about your domain. Have you just recently launched a brand-new website? If so, you may face some challenges down the road, or will at least have to be very patient for your website to bubble up to the top of the Yandex search results. That’s because Yandex favors domains that have aged well, like a good wine.

If your website’s already been around for a while, you’re probably fine. But if you’re new on the scene, you might consider purchasing a domain that’s been around for a lot longer and using that as the basis for your new website.

3. Engage your users

The best way to know your website content is great is if people engage with it. Anyone who’s ever recommended a product or service to friends or peers, or even binge-watched a TV show for days on end, knows this. Yandex’s search engine algorithms know this, too.

While backlinks are an important factor for ranking on page one Google, they’re not as important for Yandex, which puts a heavy emphasis on analyzing user-engagement metrics to determine the relevance and quality of content.

Ultimately, Yandex wants to make sure that the results are relevant and enjoyable to its users. With Yandex.Metrica, you can analyze how users coming to your website engage with your content and see how and where you can optimize it to enhance the overall user experience.

By enhancing the user experience, the more people will engage with your site. And the more people who engage with your site, the higher you’ll appear in the Yandex search results.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions:

5. Like Dostoyevsky, Yandex is all about the meta

Sure, meta tags are important for Google, too. But comparably, Google doesn’t take them as seriously as Yandex. In fact, if you don’t get your meta tags, title and description tags, URLs and canonical tags absolutely right, you might find yourself in trouble like Raskolnikov found himself in Dostoyevsky’s novel. In short, have your webmaster put these up on your priority list:

Title and description tags
While titles can be a little bit longer for Yandex than Google, it’s a safe bet to stick around the 60-character range. For descriptions, go with around 160 characters. But be careful: Like we mentioned above, quality is key. If you automatically generate these texts without reviewing them for quality, they might disappear from SERPs.

Meta keywords
It’s very important each page has at least a few target keywords. Although Google’s pretty much done with the meta tag for keywords, Yandex, like Baidu, still values them.

Canonical tags
Remember how we mentioned that Yandex doesn’t like spammy content? Duplicates, of course, could be considered spammy. So, make sure your canonical tags are all in order.

Since we’re going after Russian speakers, your URLs should appear in Cyrillic for the Russian-speaking regions you previously geo-targeted.

7. No trash links, please

You probably weren’t expecting this one, but Yandex scrapped backlinks as an overall SEO requirement for ranking in its search engine results. Of course, cross-linking is still important, but again, user engagement is essential for ranking with Yandex.

So, if you incorporate links into your website, make sure users will find them interesting and engaging. This will increase traffic. And the more traffic and engagement you have in Russia, the higher you’ll rank on the first page.

6. How legit is your business?

As a business, there are four factors you’ll have to consider if you don’t want to lose out on the market in Russia:

  • Trustworthiness,
  • Usability,
  • Design quality and
  • Service quality

It doesn’t matter what type of business you are, trust and service quality are essential to any business transaction. Usability and design quality, of course, enhance the experience customers have with your brand platform.
These factors translate into a number of basic requirements you’ll need for Yandex to recognize you as a business acting in the best interest of its customers. In short, you’ll need to provide and offer the following:

  • Detailed contact information,
  • A shipping service if you’re selling products,
  • Company profiles on various social media channels,
  • Detailed product descriptions,
  • A customer-service team that customers can reach out to with ease,
  • Clearly listed prices and
  • A return policy

The Russian-speaking world is a valuable market

Don’t miss the opportunity to spread your content and presence in the Russian-speaking world. Yes, there are a few differences to Google SEO, but having your webmaster implement those few additional steps into your Yandex SEO marketing strategy will be worthwhile.

Mobile friendliness

It’s no secret that search engines prefer sites that are mobile friend. It’s common knowledge that Google ranks mobile-friendly sites higher than those that are not. In fact, as of July 1, 2019, Google has made mobile-first indexing the default for all new websites. But Yandex also places high value on mobile-friendly sites.

In 2015, Yandex began labeling mobile-friendly sites and then launched an update called Vladivostok, which regulates mobile search results. Luckily, there’s a tool that webmasters can use to see how mobile friendly their sites and pages are; you can find it over at the Yandex Webmaster portal.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are more things you could consider for ranking with Yandex. Or which translators you’ll want to hire to recreate your quality content in such a way that it’s still engaging for your Russian-speaking target audience.

If you’re also interested in expanding your business into or launching a marketing campaign in the Chinese market, check out “Baidu SEO: 14 things you need to know.”

*Percentages of specific countries’ unique overall traffic.


Should I implement Yandex Webmaster on my site?

Implementing Yandex Webmaster on your site can be highly beneficial, especially if your target audience consists of Russian-speaking customers. By integrating Yandex Webmaster, you can significantly increase site traffic and attract more potential customers. At iSEO.works, we specialize in assisting businesses with the implementation of Yandex Webmaster, as it forms an integral part of search engine optimization (SEO) specifically designed for Yandex. Therefore, considering the unique advantage it offers to target Russian-speaking customers, it is highly recommended to implement Yandex Webmaster on your site.

How does Yandex Webmaster check for site security?

Yandex Webmaster utilizes an impressive feature known as Site Security to thoroughly check websites on a daily basis. By conducting regular crawls, the webmaster tool actively scans for potential security threats and rule violations. Once any issue is detected, it promptly notifies the website owner or administrator through the diagnostic section. This valuable alert system ensures that you are always aware of any security concerns or violations on your website. With this information at hand, you can take appropriate actions to resolve the problem and maintain a secure online presence.

What features does Yandex Webmaster have for optimizing websites?

 Yandex Webmaster offers several features for optimizing websites. One key feature is the structured data validation, which checks if the metadata on all website pages is correctly recognized. It supports various schemes, including Schema.org, microformats, HTML microdata, and Open Graph. Additionally, the validator ensures that the markup meets Yandex services requirements.

The tool also includes a mobile compatibility audit, allowing users to identify which pages need to be mobile-optimized. Factors considered during the audit include the specification of the viewport, the presence of horizontal scrolling, readability of text on mobile, and the presence of Flash elements. This feature helps website owners understand the necessary optimizations to improve the mobile user experience.

Another notable feature is the Search Queries tool, which enables users to upload a list of keywords and group them using filters. Consequently, when a user’s search query contains one or more of these keywords, the website will be displayed in the search results. This feature helps improve visibility and attracts relevant traffic to the site.

Yandex Webmaster also offers a Site Security feature, which monitors websites daily for security threats or rule violations. If any such issues are detected, users are promptly alerted in the diagnostic section. This feature ensures website owners remain aware of potential threats and enables them to take appropriate measures to address any security issues.

Moreover, Yandex Webmaster provides detailed information about changes in the site’s status after each search. However, to access statistics without restrictions, the use of the Sitemap file or Turbo pages technology is required. These statistics can be downloaded as an archive for future reference and analysis.

In summary, Yandex Webmaster offers features such as structured data validation, mobile compatibility auditing, search query analysis, site security monitoring, and comprehensive website statistics. These features empower website owners to optimize their sites, enhance user experience, improve security, and gain insights into their website’s performance.


How does Yandex Search Console compare to Google Search Console?

 Yandex Search Console, although not as widely known as Google Search Console, offers similar functionalities to webmasters. The tool provides valuable reports and data to optimize websites and improve search engine rankings. A key feature of Yandex Search Console is its structured data validation, which ensures that the metadata on all website pages is correctly recognized. This validation includes support for Schema.org, microformats, HTML microdata, and Open Graph, just like Google Search Console. Additionally, the Yandex validator checks if the markup adheres to the requirements of Yandex services. Overall, while Yandex Search Console may have a smaller user base, it offers comparable features to Google Search Console in terms of optimizing websites for search engines.