Yandex vs. Google – how to fix your SEO strategy to compete on Russian-speaking markets

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Enter Yandex SEO

After our article on Baidu PPC strategies, let’s have a look today an another region-specific leader: Yandex, leading the Russian internet search market since 2006 (about 60% market share in Russia today). While it has some elements in common with its American competitor Google, businesses operating in Russian-speaking countries need to understand a few specificities.

In fact, differences between Google and Yandex exist. Over time, they accumulated and became more and more noticeable in the last few years.

Search Engine Yandex Google
Frequency of algorithm updates Every 2 to 3 days – granular changes Less than 1/month – batch changes
Visibility of SEO criteria Clearer More hidden
Where to find algorithm updates tools.promosite.ru algoroo.com
Regional targeting Systematic Optional
Importance of  site age Always important Important during a test period
Time to indexing 2-10 days 1-2 days

Frequency of updates

One of the key concepts in search engines is the frequency of updates – updates that usually affect the Search Engine Results Page, or SERPs.

Yandex system displays its search results page statically after undergoing updates. The updates of Yandex are divided into many types, but the most important ones influence the ranking are:

– text updates

– reference updates

–  updates on behavioral factors

Google deploys its algorithm changes in batches –  7 so far in 2016. Yandex updates its algorithm in a more granular way, with many smaller changes several times a week. This means that the changes in SEO tactics will be more frequent, smaller tweaks with Yandex, and less important. On the other hand, the SEO tactics are likely to require less frequent, but more drastic adjustments.

Regional targeting

Yandex is more specific than your typical Google targeting. By default, it targets at a Regional level the same ads or copy that would be allowed to compete at a national level by Google.

Let’s say that you’re trying to promote car rentals based in Moscow. Google will let you compete nationally for a specific page, while Yandex will select the Moscow region by default. This means that if your copy is Moscow-centered, Google will make it easier to be displayed in Rostov than Yandex would. For Yandex, you need to create specific keywords that will target the Rostov region to perform better in that region.

Age of the website

For Google, the short age of a website only affects temporarily its chance to rank on the first page of search results. The famous and debated “Google Sandbox” places your site under scrutiny for a period of 6 months. A new site will have to suffer a “youth penalty” until it’s deemed trustworthy by the algorithm.

For Yandex, the age of the site is of greater importance.  Sites with a stronger visitor history almost always rank the highest on competitive keywords.

If your site is younger, worry not. Yandex will challenge their ranking by temporarily switching the order at periodic times. If you’re ranking #25, they might temporarily make you rank #2 and see what happens. If people click on you a lot more than they would click on the older website ranked #2, you will gradually progress in their ranking. It does not happen overnight: at the end of the day you might be back to rank #24, but you’re making progress already.

The Rate of Content Indexing

Google typically indexes a new website page in 1-2 days, while Yandex takes an average of 2 to 10 days. As a result, Google will reference your new articles before Yandex.

 Unique content

ACS, Yandex’s equivalent of Google Panda, fosters unique content and penalizes what is considered as spam. ACS even beats Panda at spotting rewritten content (not only copy) thanks to a superior understanding of Russian. Copywriters need be careful with their sources. Just like Google, it can also easily find image duplicates.

Collection of traffic on low-frequency queries

In Google, getting good traffic on low-frequency queries without having links is very difficult. For effective traffic acquisition, you need to start increasing your reference mass – or the number of links that are linking to your website.

Your website is also likely to benefit more from a few high-quality links that generate a certain traffic than the same amount of traffic generated by a lot of low-quality links.

Link Building Activity

Yandex can potentially cause SEO practitioners a bit more trouble than Google when it comes to link building. The Russian search engine closely scrutinizes the link between an anchor text and its associated links.

For example, if it realizes that you use 1,000 different links associated with 1 anchor text, it will likely penalize you. Make sure that you introduce a high degree of variation in your anchor texts to keep a higher rank.

Optimization Process

In Yandex search engine, the updates being less frequent, you can adjust your SEO tactics in batches. Google show the impact of your changes in a couple of days, but Yandex typically takes longer. This means that you must space out your updates and performance measurements as well in order to devise meaningful tactics. Yandex is harder to predict, but every week or 10 days seems to be an efficient cycle duration.

Nick Shkliar
Nick has a background in marketing and advertising art. Nick began his career in a small creative agency of the complete cycle in the creative department. 3 years of experience in cooperation with the design team. Nick speaks 4 languages: German, English, Russian, Ukrainian. Now Nick successfully works in the SEO department, and has high expectations and future development in the industry.

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