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SEO For Yandex: How Is SEO Done In Russia? Guide + Comparison With Google

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This is the first installment in a series of articles dedicated to exploring and researching each of the alternative search engines to Google.

Other posts in the series: Baidu , Naver

We all know that Google has an 88% market share when it comes to search engines. We all use Google.

Practically, all the focus of our SEO attention is focused on optimizing our website so that Google puts us as high as possible.

But did you know that apart from Bing , which is part of Microsoft, there are other alternative search engines?

I am a big fan of research and learning more about SEO , so in this article we are going to learn more about Yandex , or rather: the Russian search engine.

Note: You may never have to optimize your website for this or other alternative search engines, but it is undeniable that they are part of the remaining 12% of the market and that, at least, we should know what they are about.

What is Yandex?

Russia has 145 million inhabitants according to 2017 data.

Yandex is the most used search engine in Russia with 49% of the market share followed closely by Google with 47%.

Therefore, there are many who use Yandex.

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Yandex is also the largest technology company located within Russian territory.

Its abbreviation comes from “ Y et A nother I ndex er” and it is considered the 4th most used search engine in the world.

SEO on Yandex

Yandex SEO is vitally important for local Russian businesses and like Google, Yandex has a multitude of services aimed at improving the user experience.

Yandex Mail, Maps, Disk, Taxi, Translate, Market and Money are some of those services.

And of course, for SEO's it has its own Webmaster Tools.

I must say that although we are used to Google, I have been very, very impressed with this search engine.

The way of organizing content (beyond the algorithm) seems much more attractive to me than Google's.

But in this article we are not talking about design and look & feel. We talk about SEO.

And to talk about SEO we have to divide this article into several categories:

  • Technical SEO with Yandex
  • Updates & On-Page SEO
  • Off Page SEO
  • Backlinks or links
  • Local SEO
  • Mobile-SEO
  • SEO tools for Yandex
  • Key differences with Google
  • Yandex versus Google
  • Let us begin.

Technical SEO

Like Google, Yandex shares a series of characteristic elements of technical SEO.

Note: It took the meta description from one of my pages and not from my blog. Cloudy.

These are vital elements when building a website in Russia.

  • SEO Title
  • meta description
  • Keywords in URLs
  • internal links
  • external links

All these elements have their relevance and are highly considered by the Yandex algorithm.

As with other search engines there are a number of factors that are relevant to ranking.

In addition to optimizing the elements that we have discussed above, there are other factors to take into account:

  • Authority (yes, it also plays an important role here)
  • Engagement
  • domain age
  • Content
  • Adapted for mobile devices (Mobile-Friendly)
  • Geolocation

(We'll look at this in detail later when we discuss the main differences from Google.)

As with other engines, it is very important that in order for Yandex to index your page properly we have to upload our sitemap to Webmaster Tools.

Also, it is worth clarifying that Yandex's indexing process is quite slow compared to Google's.

Yandex updates

Why do I want to talk about Yandex updates?

Like any search engine, Yandex is constantly evolving trying to provide the best results for its users.

Through the updates, the intention of Yandex and its progress over time can be perfectly understood.

We will see factors of On Page SEO, Off Page SEO, Mobile SEO and links that have affected this search engine for all these years.

And to talk about updates, we have to start by mentioning 8-SP1.

8-SP1 (2008)

It appeared in 2008 because sites with older domains, despite being extremely inferior in terms of content, ranked much better.

The update focused on giving new sites more opportunities to fight for a place on the front page.

Due to this algorithm there were also changes regarding the consideration that Yandex has on backlinks.

The algorithm launched a series of processes that caused the power of the links to decrease markedly .

AGS Filter (2008-2015)

One of the most special Yandex updates that originally started in 2008 and was officially updated until 2015.

It was very important to determine which pages are low content or duplicate content and to affect the positions according to their content.

It also became more intelligent to detect pages that only generated links and that did not have any significant value.

Minusinsk (2015)

This algorithm update came after an attempt by Yandex to start ranking websites regardless of whether they had links or not.

From what has been known this was a failure and Minusinsk appeared to update the algorithm and warn all those who were using Black Hat SEO techniques.

Vladivostok (2015)

The official approach towards the importance of having responsive websites adaptable to devices occurred in November 2015 with the inclusion of Vladivostok.

Websites that did not offer a good mobile experience were affected and this is how webmasters were forced to take the Mobile SEO factor as one of importance for rankings.

Palekh (2016)

In this new official update, Yandex aimed to improve results based on the user's search intent, better known as Search Intent.

Note: I wanted to talk about the updates because they seem extremely important to understand the current state of complexity of the Yandex algorithm.

As we can see, the steps taken by this search engine are very similar to those of Google.

They have advanced towards the personalization of results, towards mobile friendliness and towards search intent.

They have detracted from ranking factors like links and domain age.

And above all, they have opted to improve the experience according to your location (we will see more of this when we mention the differences with Google).


  • All about Google BERT, the new Google update

SEO for Yandex: The key differences with Google

Perhaps the juiciest part of the whole post: What considerable differences does Yandex have vs Google?

I was able to find several peculiarities that differentiate it from what Google is today.

1. Less secrecy

Nowadays, Google SEO has to carry out experiments and come up with theories about certain positioning factors.

Many of these factors are extremely well known (and some have been recognized by Google).

However, in the Google world there is a secrecy that the Yandex world does not usually have.

  • Yandex is much more transparent about its updates.
  • It gives you more information about relevant SEO factors and how

to improve your website.

2. Geolocation

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Google also has geolocated results, but Yandex places extreme emphasis on this.

In fact, for the same search (depends on the region you are in) but you can get vastly different results than another user in another part of Russia.

This introduces the concept of geo-independence of results.

This notably affects Local SEO.

If you want to search for “air conditioning repairman” and you are in Madrid, surely on Google you have to google “air conditioning repairman madrid”.

However, in Yandex it is enough with “air conditioning repairman”.


Because Yandex does a better job of understanding your location and your interest in getting a service within your region.

This has pros and cons. On the one hand, the work of SEO becomes much more difficult because it has to aim to attack region by region within Russia.

However, the user experience is much better and more accurate.

3. Links and their value

For Yandex links are not as important as for Google. And this is another of the biggest differentials between both algorithms.

More than the links, for Yandex the engagement that the link generates matters. That is, if no one clicks it and if it does not provide value for the user to receive information, then Yandex will not give it importance.

And this leads me to one of the most important ranking factors in Yandex…

4. Behavior and engagement

We know that in Google, metrics such as the average duration of the session and the bounce rate are some factors that the company takes into account to rank.

If you want to do SEO for Yandex, I tell you that user behavior within the site and engagement are some of the most important factors for SEO success.

And as you might guess, Yandex is smart enough to know when behavior is being manipulated.

It severely punishes the use of pop ups to reduce the bounce rate and ads to achieve the same effect. The same with creating fake comments and spam.

All this motivates websites to get good user interaction metrics, which they can analyze in Yandex Metrica.

Basically the Yandex version of Google Analytics.

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5. Age of domain

Despite the efforts of update 8-SP1, the older your domain is, the more SEO power you will have.

Obviously, this is not the only metric that matters, and it is the combination of ranking factors that will give you the first position or not. But it is proven that greater seniority implies greater chances of positioning yourself.

And the content? Is it important for Yandex?

And it is. Of course.

Compared to Google, Yandex is quite strict with the quality of the content and that is why it states that its sites, if they want to rank well, cannot have:

  • duplicate content
  • Over-optimization of keywords
  • spam

Likewise, the rules are the same as with Google.

That is to say: quality content that answers user queries in the best possible way.

Therefore, it is essential to draw a good SEO strategy for your content.

SEO tools for Yandex

As the tool fanatic that I am, I couldn't miss a section dedicated to the best SEO tools for Yandex.


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Wordstat is one of the paid tools that Yandex offers and one of the favorite tools to do keyword research optimized for Yandex.


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Yes. You can also use Ahrefs to perform keyword searches on Yandex.


  • Mega-guide to understand Ahrefs thoroughly

Mail.ru Keyword Tool

Mail.ru is the third largest search engine in Russia with a market share of approximately 8%. And, like many other search engines, it offers useful tools for SEOs who want to optimize their websites.

As you can see in the image, it is a tool very similar to Google's Keyword Planner but in a Russian version.

Note: Obviously all keyword tools work for Yandex, however, the search intent of Russians is not the same as the rest of the world. Even the language changes, the way of expressing oneself too.

Comparing results from Google vs Yandex

To finish with this content, it seemed like a great idea to compare the results that one can obtain in Google vs. those that one obtains in Yandex.

Performing a search with ecommerce intent

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It's funny how in the first screenshot of Yandex I can see 6 results and in Google 2 and a half because of the FAQ box, which is part of one of Google's SERP elements .

What is true is that Google seems much more optimized, it offers results for shoe brands, related ads and its results give me a certain security.

Yandex seems to prioritize EMD (Exact Match Domain) showing results that contain exactly what Yandexié (the alternative to “googled”).

It makes a lot of impression to see how the Yandex results are automatically opened in a new tab unlike those of Google.


  • Ecommerce SEO Guide

Looking for companies in Yandex

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Carrying out searches for companies (in this case semrush) my idea was to understand how both search engines differ in the cases of companies, celebrities and personalities.

On the Yandex side we get on the first page:

  • 1 ad
  • 8 organic results officially related to semrush
  • A review website
  • Softonic
  • 2 more ads

On the Google side we have on the first page:

  • 1 ad
  • 4 organic results related to semrush
  • 1 FAQ box
  • 1 box of results from the official semrush twitter
  • 1 Rich Snippet from “Latest News”
  • 1 Backlink tutorial
  • video box
  • Wikipedia


Honestly, after seeing this I find more and more differences.

I love the way Yandex Browser renders results, not its optimization of results.

It is clear that Google is a few steps ahead in this regard, although the huge number of rich snippets can be harmful to the user's eyes, and I do not see how relevant it can be (eg, the tweet box).

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