Yandex Search Engine Optimization : unique content, e-brand reputation, and visitor’s preferences are among the critical success factors most often associated with optimal page rankings in the context of Internet search results

Yandex.Ru is arguably the most popular search engine among Russian speaking Internet users within Russia, the GIS and abroad. According to Alexa Web Information Company, Yandex occupies the number one position in ranking by traffic in Russia, and the 22nd position worldwide. Inclusion in the Yandex Web catalog confers high praise upon one’s Internet source, which as a practical matter implies a high degree of credibility and reliability of one’s enterprise in terms of audience perceptions. Again, being listed in Yandex catalog is likely to mean one’s site will experience a significant increase in qualified traffic to at any given Internet site or portal.

For companies seeking to expand their Internet presence in Russian markets, desirous of reaching out to a Russian speaking audience, it’s important to become familiar with the Yandex search engine.

Getting listed in the Yandex catalog is a straightforward process. The first step will be to become “visible” by getting site pages indexed by Yandex. Doing so presupposes that one has a certain level of knowledge about how the search engine processes inputs, applies filters in order to be capable to optimize ranking of its Web site within search results. There are no official data from Yandex about their filters functioning, thus all the information provided in this article is based on empiric information from Webmasters and SEO Specialists.

Yandex : algorithm and filters

One filter systematically applied to all new Internet sites is known as «sand box». The principle is quite simple: No matter how good the content of your Web resource, the pages won't score top notch rankings in search results certain period of time. Usually period of “sand box” filter application is from six month to one year and a half.

Other Yandex filters are designed to select and deliver to Internet users the most relevant and quality content, while penalizing "Black Hat" optimization practices, and ranking higher those Web sites providing useful, loyal and up-to-date information.

Yandex’s original filter was implemented in order to clean search results of SPAM by detecting and banning doorways, satellite pages, pages overloaded with key words.

Since its introduction, Yandex has implemented several other filters: namely, their Redirect filter, Nepot filter, and Quality filter.

Yandex: Unique Content

Unique content is the most important factor in determining Web site rank within Yandex. Its Quality Content Filter aims to distinguish unique content from ones that appear to be “cut-and-paste” from other Internet sources, or texts automatically generated by programs or texts generated by translation programs. A scanning function designed to detect plagiarized content is integrated in the search engine algorithm. Internet sources using articles or parts of the articles pinched from other Websites risk being poorly positioned, and cannot expect to be found within the top tier of Yandex search results. This, in turn, means that such Web content become practically invisible and can be rarely found by Internet users through Yandex.

Yandex: Black hat Optimization Practices

The algorithm employed by Yandex is very "vigilant", i.e., aware, and thus can detect doorway, satellites Web sites, pages overstuffed by key words. Once Yandex discovers evidence that one’s Internet source contains either a hidden doorway or satellites, generally it will exclude the site completely or partially by storing at most 5-10 pages in its index. Under the latter circumstances, it might take several months to recover from Yandex "non-indexation".

Another source of blacklisting by Yandex stems from the use of large numbers of back links to one’s Web site, especially when such links appear over short period of time, particularly if the links are viewed as unrelated to the theme (subject) of your Web site. When this is the case, it can suggest that such links were artificially created and therefore appear suspicious in the eyes of Yandex.

Yandex’s “Nepot Filter” aims to detect "artificial" exchanged or sold links. Since the number of backlinks is one of the crucial parameters, which determines a site’s position in search results, certain Internet companies will provide platforms that enable the owner of Web sources to exchange, sell or buy links from others Internet sources. It should be noted that the Yandex algorithm has the capability to detect such backlinks and usually such links are treated unfavorably by not being taken into account in ranking search results.

Another Yandex filter, referred to as their “Redirect Filter”, serves to find Internet sites using javascript to redirect and alter the changing of the content of the parent window. In practice, this means that if the initial information in search results doesn't correspond to the information given on the Web site itself, then the search engine will assume that the site using Black Hat Optimization practice for gaining the traffic, e.g., an Internet user searched the Web to make a purchase like an buying MP3 but found himself on the “dating” Web site. A typical sanction in such instances is usually to be banned altogether from the Index.

Yandex: Audience Behavioral Factors and social e-reputation

In recent years, the analysis of “audience behavioral factors” has come to play a critical role in the way page ranking are determined.

The Yandex algorithm was evaluated to understand the interests of Internet audience towards your Internet source by analyzing the quality of your traffic. A 70% of bounce rate (bounce rate = only one page visited per visit, for time spent less then 30 seconds, sometimes up to 2 minutes) might be taken as an indication of poor content by Yandex, optimised only for search engine sweeps, but not likely to be useful for Internet users. On the contrary, if metrics shows several pages per visit, faithful visitors, pages saved in favorites, one’s Webside is more likely to get higher position.

At the same time, Yandex algorithm is very sensitive to Internet public recognition in social media, blogs, and other Internet sources and forums. It also analyse visitor’s preferences and rank the sites accordingly.

Yandex Ranking Indices "tIZ" and "vIZ" (тИЦ и вИЦ in Russian) are to measure E-reputation and Credibility of a given Web Source

There are two principal indices used by Yandex, "tIZ", and "vIZ", which can be translated as "Thematic Citation Index" and "Weighted Citation Index" respectively. These indices reflect the level of your source recognition by other Web players. For example, the number of back links and their weights, the trust level of referencing domain, the thematic of Internet source referring your site will be included in Yandex’s measurement and evaluation of search results thereby determining the proper ranking in search results.

The “Citation Index” is accounted as a some of weights of each back link referencing your Web resource. "tIZ" is used for Web sites qualification in Yandex catalog, and derives from weighting of back links from thematic sources. The “Thematic Citation Index” applies to the whole site (while, for comparison, Google “Page Rank” applies to each page of Web resource). The "vIZ" indicator shows back links from all sources, accounted per page, and impact directly the Web site position in search results. The more you have backlinks from referencing sources, and the more is weight of each page linked to your Website, the more “Citation Index” weight will be accorded to your site. If the the source referencing your site has been sanctioned on some reason, and your site will loose also some "tIZ", and "vIZ" weight.

At the same time, the metric criteria "tIZ", and "vIZ" gives some indication of the level of reputation and credibility of your Web source within the Russian speaking Internet community. The "Citation Index" takes into account also number and quality of external links in social networks, weighs the “quality” of these links, and shares of your pages in social networks.

Content Optimization with Yandex

As a practical matter, if Yandex’s algorithm analysis is based on unique content and behavioral data associated with Internet users (bounce rate, number of pages per visit, time of visit, social networking participation), it’s understandably advisable to perform routinely a plagiarism audit and content audit as well. Conducting a plagiarism audit will enable one to determine which pages are to be replaced either by copywriting or rewriting content. Audit tools like those employed by Google and Yandex can provide useful indications about the real interests of visitors to a site. Consequently you can rework and complete the pages orienting them around user interests, and delete the least popular pages.

There is also a “Yandex direct” service which provides the ability to quantify search data on the basis of key words which can be, in turn, a source of insights on how content might be adjusted to better reflect the interests of the viewing public.

In short, work on Internet site content optimization will mean to:

- Fill up of metadata (information about information) such as Title, Meta tags key words and description;

- Adjust content by using the most relevant key words related to your activity using synonyms and phrase derivation;

- Remove duplicate content or use robots.txt for CMS platforms;

- Provide information and articles optimized around Internet users interests;

- Provide rewrite or copy written articles;

- Pay attention to the ratio between the text and links;

- Privilege thematic content with semantic core;

- Privilege use of synonyms of your key words for not being penalized for "over-optimization";

- Pay attention to the ratio between the text and html code;

- Pay attention to the ratio between advertising and content.

- Be sure to include contact and legal information.

Other Factors Influencing Positioning in Yandex Search Results

Quality of server service is one of the factors that can impact your Web site positioning. The main criteria are a permanent access to your source and the speed of uploading.

Clean HTML code of your Web site has a positive impact on one’s positioning (properly written code simplifies indexation work and data display tasks for browsers).

In conclusion, Yandex uses common and fair rules in its positioning policy by placing a premium on one’s efforts to provide quality and original content to its users. By analyzing the interests of your audience, by creating “unique” and "user-oriented" content, and a “user friendly usability interface”, one can be assured of gaining enduring relationships with online constituents.