How To Configure Regional Settings For Yandex SEO
Everyone knows that Russia is a very big country. Not everyone knows, however, that Yandex has a very advanced local search technology that is able to deliver local SERPs to all 83 regions of the country.
Yandex started actively working with local search results in 2008-2009 and has been perfecting the formula ever since. In the past I wrote several posts about regional SERPs and how to change theregional affinity in Yandex Webmaster, but haven’t really touched the topic of how to correctly configure regional settings for Yandex SEO from the beginning. This is what this post is about.
Regional settings are important if you work with so-called “geo-dependent” search queries, such as “Italian restaurant”, “flower delivery” and other product and service that can be purchased locally. If you are dealing with geo-independent queries, for example “online games” or “pasta recipes”, no need to worry about regional affinity at all.
According to Yandex’s own recommendations (in Russian) on how to deal with regional settings for websites, the basic actions for the site owner should be:
1. Provide full company address, including post code, and contact phone numbers, including area code for the relevant region, on the website.
2. Assign the relevant region via Yandex Webmaster and Yandex Spravochnik (Yandex’s product similar to Google Places).
3. If a business operates in several regions, provide full contact information for all regional offices.
Although Yandex does not explicitly advises so, it is always good to submit a website to Yandex Catalog and assign relevant region there as well.
Even though Yandex claims that it is possible to have several regions associated with one website, there seems to be a limit. For example, Yandex Catalog allows only 7 regions to be connected to one listing.
In cases when a company provides services in all (or a large number) of regions, the most common practice is to create directories, subdomains or even separate websites for each of them.
The procedure for assigning region to each directory or subdomain is the same as described above.
Here are some good examples of how large websites handle their regional-specific sections:
1. Region-specific directories
2. Region-specific subdomains
Yandex SEO strategies for multi-regional websites
Be as local as possible. Write region-centered content, for example, use “restaurants in Moscow” instead of just “restaurants” in your text copy, try to use local terminology, where applicable.
2. Domains and URLs
No matter how the regional sections are organized (directories, subdomains or separate domains), the name of the region should be present and prominent in the URL. This will help Yandex to classify the site correctly.
Russians often use abbreviations for region/ city names such as “spb” for St. Petersburg, “msk” for Moscow, “nsk” for Novosibirsk. It is fine to use them in directory / domain names; Yandex will understand the meaning.
http://www.kras.mts.ru/?fromgt=1 for targeting Krasnoyarsk
http://pyaterochka.ru/shops/ekaterinburg/ for targeting Ekaterinburg
http://www.tomsk.tele2.ru/ for targeting Tomsk
http://www.sportmaster.ru/store/490/ for targeting Vladivostok
Local links are very important when it comes to ranking in regional SERPs. Make sure to register the company in local directories, and make sure than all incoming links you acquire have the right regional affinity.
The capital is the toughest region for Yandex SEO. Depending on keyword difficulty, you might even want to assign region Moscow to your homepage to be able to match the competition.
Yandex favors brands in search results, compares prices
November 23, 2011: just before a series of SEO conferences and events across the Russian speaking space Yandex released yet another version of ranking formula. For now it only affects “commercially oriented queries” (read SERPs for e-commerce sites) in Moscow region, but seeing the past developments with Google I believe I can make some bold assumptions about where Yandex is heading.
New Ranking Formula for e-commerce websites
As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, Yandex claims to understand and use site usability as a ranking signal. The new ranking formula takes it even further. According to their official statement (in Russian), the new ranking signals that are added are:
Trust towards the company’s website: well-known brand, contact information, customer reviews.
Design and usability: quality descriptions and images, product search, ratings, customer reviews, simple registration form.
Broad assortment: good selection of products.
Price: prices have to be set at a “fair” level.
Payment and delivery options: several payment options, various delivery options as well as “quick and cheap” delivery.
The new ranking algorithm was explained further at Optimization.ru SEO conference by Alexander Sadovskiy, who is sort of Matt Cutts of Yandex.
Alexander Sadovskiy at Optimization.ru (image credit to SearchEngines.ru)
Sadovskiy said both online and offline components are important for “trust” from a user point of view. Yandex tries to give the users the result they are searching for, and therefore both online and offline factors will matter for site evalutation. The following elements of a website are considered to be an indication of a serious retail store:
– Redirect to https when processing payments
– Corporate email (not free mail service provider)
– Landline telephone number, or better several
– Office addresses with specified opening hours, directions to the offices’ location
– Easy access to product pages (within 2 clicks)
– Absence of intrusive advertisement
– Valid HTML code
– Good quality content
Some of these things are quite straightforward and obviously aiming against low quality and non-secure e-commerce sites to improve search quality. But to me it feels like Yandex is doing the same thing as Google did not so long ago.
Implications of the new algorithm for Yandex SEO for e-commerce sites
I find these new requirements mainly good for overall search quality. Great to hear that dodgy and phishing sites will not rank as easily and online shopping in Russia will be more secure.
I also some trends similar to Google’s previous changes:
1. Better rankings for strong brands.
The last couple of years Google obviously favors strong brands in its search results. It seems to me that Yandex starts doing exactly the same thing. It is already very difficult to rank new sites. Now I believe it will be more difficult to rank sites of small and medium size businesses, affiliate sites and any other kind of businesses that solely rely on SEO.
Among other reasons, search engines push brands in their search results, because they are more “trusted” by general audience and are less likely to do shady things when it comes to both selling products and SEO. This change will also force a lot of companies to buy Yandex.Direct ads after losing SEO traffic due to this algorithm change.
2. Importance of user-generated content.
The importance of user-generated content is not new to Yandex. Although it was not officially stated anywhere, I saw a positive effect of having corporate blogs and forums on indexing speed and overall rankings in some verticals. Now customer reviews will be a powerful ranking signal for e-commerce sites.
3. Importance of Yandex Market.
After following the Russian SEO conferences in held November-December this year, it seems that customer reviews from Yandex Market* will be regarded as an SEO ranking signal.
* Yandex Market is an analog of Google Shopping. It works practically the same way, apart from the fact that clicks are not free.
This new part of Yandex ranking algorithm will eventually attract more e-com sites into Yandex Market. Again, looks like it’s better for the user and at the same time Yandex benefits from it, financially.
Another thing that tells me that Market will play a more important role in Yandex SEO is that the new ranking formula includes “fair” product prices. It is, of course possible, that Yandex will index and compare all prices across all stores and product lines, but to me it seems more likely that the judgment of “fairness” of the price will be based on the data Yandex receives from the retailers advertizing on Yandex Market.
Yandex SEO in 2012
I believe that Yandex SEO as we know it today, will not exist by the end of 2012. SEO for Yandex is becoming very complex.
It won’t be enough to write an optimized copy and buy a few links on SAPE. SEO specialist has to think about customer’s needs to create the right type of content, understand customer’s preferences and surfing patterns to improvebehavioral metrics.
To successfully rank in Yandex in 2012 it will be necessary to build quality sites, work on user interface and usability, create brand awareness and have a strong presence in social media. Basically, working with Yandex SEO is becoming very similar to working with SEO for Google.com.
I also believe that SEO for Yandex will become more integrated into companies’ marketing and there will be more interdependency between SEO, PPC, PR and Social.
Yandex will write your Titles and Meta descriptions
I never really focused on writing about Meta tags for Yandex in this blog, mainly because it seemed just too obvious to me. Now, however, Yandex has implemented a change, which is totally worth mentioning!
Which Meta tags matter in Yandex SEO
We all know that Google and Bing do not pay attention to Meta keywords and Meta description tags, while Meta description is still very important for catching searcher’s attention in busy SERPs. Yandex however never, from what I know, made any public statements with regards to these tags.
In Yandex Webmaster Help they state the following:
Yandex robot takes into account the content of the following tags:
<Meta name=”Keywords” content=”…”/> — may be taken into account when the robot determines if a page matches a search query;
<Meta name=”Description” content=”…”/> — contents of this tag may be used in snippets (site descriptions that appear on the search result page);
Seeing this one can assume that Meta keywords and Meta description play a role in Yandex SEO, but how important are they?
Yandex and Title tag
It is a must to have a well-written title containing keywords. Yandex uses title tags in their ranking algorithm. Very important part of your on-site optimization strategy.
Yandex and Meta Description Tag
The influence of Meta description tag on site rankings is quite unclear. Very often Yandex prefers making up its own snippets instead of the Meta description you specify. From my personal observation, well-written Meta description summarizing the page and containing main keywords has a good chance to appear as a snippet in search listings and therefore should not be ignored. Just like with Google, treat it as a field where you communicate the benefits of visiting your page.
Put time into writing good Meta descriptions for your pages. This probably won’t directly affect your rankings, but can help to increase CTR. Mind that behavioral factors are a part of Yandex ranking formula, so obviously higher CTR = better behavioral factor = better position!
Yandex and Meta Keywords tag
Same as with Meta description tag, I never noticed strong correlation between including Meta keywords and improving rankings on Yandex. If you analyze a SERP for any search term, I bet you will find all sorts of approaches to Meta keywords from stuffing it with all possible keywords to completely ignoring them.
I recommend to optimize Meta keywords, just to indicate that the page is relevant, and will do so as long as Yandex does not confirm that it ignores Meta keywords the same way Google does.
As Yandex reported earlier this week, they changed their approach to creating page snippets. Before snippet headlines were selected based on what was included in the title tag. Now, if Yandex finds the information in your Title tag irrelevant (i.e. not containing the keywords relevant to the search query) the snippet will be constructed from Meta description and headings or other parts of text copy on the landing page.
This announcement received very mixed reactions from the Russian SEO community. According to one of the industry experts interviewed by SearchEngines.ru, most of the new snippets look pretty good, however for long tail queries they often make very little sense.
This change is very important as it directly affects one of the few means we’ve got for improving behavioral factors. The only tip here is to write good Titles and Meta description for all pages and constantly monitor what shows up in your snippets.
How to optimize for Yandex: SEO ranking factors
After the lame talk about SEO for Yandex Andy and Rand gave at SMX, I thought would be good to write something more practical; how it works with Yandex for real.
Recently I wrote a short update on new algorithm and technologies Yandex uses to rank websites, and these are the practical tips on how to optimize for Yandex in the age of Krasnodar, MatrixNet and Spektr.
Yandex SEO is in a way quite similar to Google SEO, but with a twist
Just a couple of years ago, before Snezhinsk, Yandex SERP was quite easy to manipulate. All you needed is links, and everything would do: footers, side bars, sites about dogs, sites about kitchen furniture or plastic windows. All you needed is quantity. Links were easy to get through link brokers like Sape.ru and alikes.
In 2009 Yandex started to tweak their algorithm to get rid of spam and provide their users with good information, just like any other search engine. The algorithm has become very complex and, as they claim, intelligent. The technology behind it is called MatrixNet, which is in essence a technology of machine learning. Yandex learns what people wants and refines the SERPs based on the learnings.
Just like with Google, nobody knows all the factors taken into consideration by Yandex. Just like with Google, there are best practices that work.
Onsite SEO is very similar to what you would do for Google: content is the king and all that…
– Relevance of the page to the search query: keywords in Title and Meta Description tags; keywords in Meta Keywords tag (does not really help much in my opinion, but some people would argue), keywords in ALT tags for images.
– Content: the content should be unique and of a good quality. It is vital to maintain good grammar, as Yandex is very good with understanding Russian language. Just like with Google, it is important to update the website with fresh content on a regular basis. And lastly, create clusters of pages for similar keywords to strengthen the relevancy.
– Internal linking: Yandex likes internal links in content. Do not rely solely on navigation and footer. Place internal links with optimized anchor texts into the content.
– Site quality: do everything to keep the website healthy. Make sure that there are no broken links, that all pages work and 404 error is configured correctly. Make a good use of your robots.txt. This does not only help Yandex to identify your website as a quality resource, but also provides good user experience for the visitors.
In the latest versions of the algorithm the weight of onsite SEO factors seems to be increasing.
Make sure to not over-optimize the page. Avoid keyword stuffing and thin content. Just like Googel, Yandex does not like that.
Offsite SEO for Yandex (aka link building)
Link building in Russia is a pretty wild and aggressive area. Two years ago I attended an SEO conference in Moscow, where Yandex representative declared from the stage that they are aware of the fact that 90% of all links in RuNet (aka Russian internet) are paid, and that they are going to fight that.
Yet, this year browsing job listings in Moscow I stumbled on a well-paid SEO job in one of the leading Online Marketing agencies in Russia, where one of the main requirements was “profound knowledge of the main link brokers and their features”. Links are being bought openly via link brokers; and it works. I honestly prefer not to use platforms like Sape.ru and have a more personal approach, but nevertheless, what you need to keep in mind doing link building in Russia is:
– Do not get links from low quality sites which are clearly made for the purpose of selling links. It does not really work anymore.
– Do not get links in footers and other spammy areas. That does not work either.
– Aim for on-topic websites, i.e. sites in your vertical. That will help to improve you rankings, build authority and increaseTIC (aka Page Rank of Yandex).
– Aim for quality websites: good content, respectful domain age, good number of indexed pages, high TIC, no or very few sold links on the website.
– When getting links via brokers, you are often required to pay for a period of time (e.g. month, year etc.). That is generally not great. Try to get links that will stay on the website forever, e.g. in news and articles. It looks more natural both in terms of placement and stability of link growth.
From my experience, links from newspapers work pretty well. You can either approach their PR people and pay a lot of money to be placed in a good section; or buy articles in some hidden sub-categories via platforms like Miralinks.
– Make sure your links look natural, like they were placed by webmaster and for the readers, and not by SAPE script and for Yandex.
– Some Russian directories are still good, for example Yandex Catalog.
Behavioral factors taken into account by Yandex’s ranking algorithm
With implementation of Matrixnet, behavioral factors has become an important part of optimizing websites for Yandex. The SEO community is uncertain, which metrics Yandex looks at and where they collect the data.
Obviously Yandex has it’s Yandex.Metrika (analytics package, similar to Google Analytics) and Yandex toolbar, but I don’t know if this data can be reliable for them. I couldn’t find any numbers regarding the percentage of sites using Yandex.Metrika. For what I know, Google Analytics is quite popular in Russia.
Many SEOs speculate about behavioral factors, but the most common opinion is that the most important ones are:
– CTR from the SERP
– Average time spent on the page after the click from the SERP
– Bounce rate from the page back to the SERP
So the tips are classic: write compelling titles and descriptions, create interesting content and provide good user experience.
The quality of your SEO efforts, both onsite and offsite, will be rewarded by Yandex with trust and higher rankings!
Yandex SERP updates analyzer
This used to be the case with Google before as well, but it is still happening in Yandex. As I mentioned in one of myprevious posts, every 2 weeks or so Yandex rolls out a big update and the SERPs change noticeably within 1-2 days. Compare the bars on the graph (vertical axis indicates percentage of change in the SERPs):
I would like to introduce you to a great tool to monitor these Yandex updates – Update Analyzer (available in English!). The tool was developed by the biggest Russian SEO company Ashmanov and Partners, which is also famous for organizing of the main Russian SEO conference Optimization.ru and a big SEM event eTarget.
The tool monitors and quantifies a number of parameters across all search engines used by Russian people, including even smaller ones, such as GoGo and Aport. While I have never figured out how to use Spam level or SEO-pressing, I use the SERP udate analyzer for Yandex on a regular basis.
Keep in mind that during the SERP update sites tend to disappear and reappear in the SERPs. If a strong competitor or yourself is missing from the search results, it is very likely a Yandex SERP update is in progress. Do not freak out. The update takes 1-2 days and after that the SERPs come back to normal. I recommend to check the updates stats every now and then to avoid such stressful situations!
Yandex penalizations and filters
02.21.10Posted by Anna in 10 lessons of Yandex SEO, General Yandex SEO0 Comments
Have to tell you guys from the beginning that none of my clients was even penalized or banned from Yandex. I had problems with particular pages a couple of times, but never with an entire website. But since it is an important thing to know and I get many questions related to Yandex penalties, I will write about the most common cases, which my fellow webmasters have been facing.
In my personal opinion, if your website is relatively old (3-4 years) and full of good content, it is very hard to get penalized by Yandex. After the recent changes in its search algorithm, Yandex started to push up brands and big highly trusted sites and at the same time newly born websites get into trouble much more than before.
Here is the list of the most common Yandex search filters. Please feel free to add more to the list!
– AGS-30 (or older version AGS-17)
Automated filter against bad quality websites (mostly applied to websites created for selling links without any value to Internet users). When this filter is applied, most of the pages of the site get banned from Yandex (according to the SEO community about 10 pages are usually left).
The name of this filter comes from a Russian machine gun, which looks like this =)
Existence of this filter was announced by Yandex itself on their corporate blog.
– Link spam
Penalty for selling link. Can be applied to a single link (i.e. links are discarded and do not pass any value), single page (page is banned from Yandex) or the whole site (the whole site banned from Yandex).
– Keyword stuffing
Extremely high keyword density. Pages get banned from Yandex.
– Malicious java redirects
– Duplicate content
Pages with copied or badly re-written content get banned completely or lowered in the SERPs.
Yandex has been always very good with understanding Russian language and its linguistics. I believe that it is one of the reasons why it is dominating over Google in Russia. Even though Yandex SERPs have been historically easier to manipulate, the search results are in many cases much more relevant that those of Google.
In the last months Yandex started to pay more and more attention to content and its quality. The technology of defining the initial source of content was improved significantly and duplicate content penalty has become much more common. Texts with grammar mistakes will never rank high either.
– Sites with pop-under banners are intentionally lowered in Yandex SERPs and carry less or no value as a link source. This was announced by Yandex in their corporate blog some months ago.
– Too little keyword variation in anchor texts of incoming links can cause a penalization, however Yandex is for the moment much more tolerant than Google.
– Unnatural link growth can cause a penalization, although again, Yandex is much more tolerant to this than Google. However, a link from 40 000 pages from a spammy forum will hurt for sure.
Final note. Yandex massively updates SERPs more or less every second week. During these updates it is quite common that some sites disapper and reappear in the SERPs. Do not panic if this happens. It is very likely the site will come back to the old positions ithin a couple of days, if you have not done anything dodgy..
Yandex submission and Yandex cache – How to get indexed by Yandex
The first question you need to ask yourself is “Have I actually submitted my site to Yandex at all?”. That you can do here:http://webmaster.yandex.ru/. Just type in the URL. Otherwise, you will be eventually indexed if someone links to you… which can be a bit tricky if your site is nowhere to be seen in the SERPs..People will never find it in the first place =)
Then it gets even trickier.. Yandex crawler can be really slow! Sometimes it takes a week, sometimes a month before it comes back to your site.
And even trickier: there is no way to see Yandex cache date. The best you can do to see if the page is indexed at all, is to search for a snippet of the text from the page in quotation marks.
If you have a current date or news feeds on your site, there is a “smart” way. You can seach for the snippet and view the saved copy as follows:
Check the date o the saved copy. That is when the page was cached by Yandex last time.
08.16.09Posted by Anna in 10 lessons of Yandex SEO, General Yandex SEO7 Comments
inShareYandex Webmaster tools (also called Yandex Webmaster panel) is a highly useful tool for all Yandex SEOs. It is good. It is free. It is an (surprise! ) almost exact copy of Google Webmaster Tools, hence it won’t take much time to figure out how to use them.
Yandex webmaster tools can be accessed here: http://webmaster.yandex.ru/. To submit your site there just go to “My sites” tab (see the screenshot below) and type in your URL. Then, just like in Google Webmaster Tools, Yandex will need to verify your site and will ask you to create a .txt file on the server or add a Meta tag to your index page. Verification goes usually very quickly. Most of my sites got verified within an hour.
How to add Yandex Webmaster Tools
Now, you are verified. What can you use Google Webmaster panel for?
1. General info: pages in the index, yandex quotation index (TIC), last date of crawling the site.
2. Structure of the website in the eyes of Yandex.
3. You can submit your sitemap.
4. Index information. It includes number of indexed pages on your site, number of links pointing to your site (the number Yandex sees – great info!) and a number of internal links.
Backlink checking interface is not very convenient to use, I have to admit. You can see number of links pointing to your site and number of domains, however there is no easy way to see which domains link to you from more than one page. It does not show the URL of the page your link is place on, but only the URL of the index page. Besides, unlike Google, Yandex does not let you download the full list of your backlinks.
Backlink checking interface in Yandex Webmaster tools
5. Now the fun part – tooolzzz =) What do we have here?
– There is a robots.txt editor. Needless to explain.
– You can tell Yandex to use capital letters when displaying your domain name in the SERPs (e.g. http://www.SearchEngineOptimization.ru instead of http://www.searchengineoptimization.ru). This can be applied in case capitalization of these letters will improve user experience.
– Yandex Webmaster Tools provides a possibility to assign the website to a certain region. This option is relatively new. It was introduced after Yandex launched its new search algorithm Arzamas in March 2009 with an ambitious attempt to implement and automize geotargeting.
– There is a possibility to edit site links (or Quick Links as they are called in Yandex). This option is also very new and got some (although rather brief) coverage in the western SEO blogs.
I really like this one, because unlike Google, Yandex gives you certain control over your site links. First, it offers you several options for the anchor text. Second, you can delete a a page from site links if you don’t want it to be there. “Enabling them”, as Search Cowboys wrote, however, is tricky. Yandex gives you about 6 pages it can consider to be your site links. These pages you can enable or disable, that is true. But you cannot enable any page you want in the site links… Too bad =(
The Quick Links are supposed to be updated every week. If you change pages or anchor texts using Yandex Webamster tools, it will be implemented in the next update, so do not panic when your changed do not go live. Just be patient.
Patience you always need when working with Yandex
All in all, Yandex Webmaster panel is a useful tool to have in your SEO package. Go and get’em!
Writing Meta tags for Yandex
Meta tags is an old topic discussed and argued about in hundreds and hundreds of blog posts. We all know that good Meta Title and Meta description can improve click-through rate from the SERPs and help rankings.
Writing Meta tags for Yandex, however, is a bit special. What you need to know is that Yandex only displays your Meta title and not Meta description! Instead of Meta description is pulls a random piece of texts from the ranking page. How Yandex chooses the snippet is a mystery.
Some Russian SEOs speculate that it is usually a piece of text on the page with the highest keyword density that ends up being your Yandex Meta description. I would argue with that. I have seen many times how completely irrelevant words appeared in the snippets (e.g. copyright or year from the footer etc.). Besides, the snippet changes every 1-2 weeks.
Once I met a Yandex representative at some SEO conference, and he told me that Yandex has employees, who manually go through websites and select snippets. He also mentioned that Meta description is too easy to manipulate, and it can mislead their users… Well… =) I wouldn’t trust that one
I also noticed that the quality of snippets vary among segments. That is, if you are in finance or law, your snippet is more likely to make sense than if you are in gambling (yeah.. no search engine likes spam).
The conclusions from all this:
1. Write catchy Meta titles. People will see them and react.
2. Yandex does not display Meta description. Try to display the best information in the title.
3. Make sure all texts on your pages are proper. Write good grammatically correct and selling copy! Remember that any random snippet can end up in SERPs!
Russian link directories and press release sites – good and bad
There are dozens of services and scripts offering to register your site in hundreds of directories (one of the most common is called 1PS). There are also directories working with reciprocal linking. Well well… This seems to work in Russia, and people keep doing it, however linking to all the link farms will lead to penalization for link spam.
My personal opinion: stay away from spammy directories. Might work today, but won’t work tomorrow. Focus on getting into few, but valuable ones, which will give your site trust in the eyes of search engines and searchers, and maybe even some traffic. Here is some to start with:
http://yaca.yandex.ru/ – link directory of Yandex. Being listed there will boost your quotation index and attract visitors (as valued by Yandex as DMOZ by Google).
There are two ways to get it: to pay or not to pay and hope for the best. Paid listing is a matter of days. It costs around $400. Site might however be rejected due to bad quality. YaCa guys are strict! Free listing is a matter of luck. You can apply and wait for several months. They never inform you about their decision.
http://list.mail.ru – link directory of the biggest email service provider and news/ entertainment portal. According to their rules, only charity organizations, educational institutions and such’s sites can be accepted for free. Commercial sites have to pay, but then again, if you pay – you get a direct link in return. Traffic from this directory is almost zero.
http://top100.rambler.ru/top100/ – link directory of Rambler, another local search engine.
I also recommend look for directories in your specific niche.
Bonus : a big list of Russian press-release sites: http://forum.searchengines.ru/showthread.php?t=345469. I just found it in a forum. Haven’t check them yet, but at least some must be good =)