Revealing The Secrets To Russian SEO – Yandex SEO Made Simple

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There isn’t a lot of information available about Russian or Yandex SEO written in English.

Russian SEO is a very interesting topic as Google is not the number 1 search engine in Russia, that throne belongs to Yandex.

What is even more interesting is that Yandex has recently made huge changes to the algorithm with less focus on links and more focus on user behaviour and authority.

Could this be a sign of things to come in the English variants of Google?

Introducing Evgeniy Garkaviy

Who better to teach us about Russian SEO than Russian & Ukrainian speaking Evgeniy Garkaviy from Temi.

He previously wrote about landing page optimization best practices on the blog which was very popular.

This time he is teaching us about  Russian SEO & ranking in Yandex!

What Is Yandex?

Yandex is the biggest Russian search engine.

That is why if you want to start an online business in that country, you should focus on Yandex and not on Google.

I do not mean that you should forget about Google but most people use the Russian search engine for searching.

Let me show you some benefits of Yandex in comparison with Google (in Russia):

  • More than 57% of Russian Internet users turn to Yandex as their main search engine.
  • Very similar to Google, it is easy to use.
  • When you do SEO for Yandex, your site also ranks in another popular search engine –
  • Ecommerce sites rank very well in Yandex.

Region is Very Important

Last month, I saw this post by Harrison Jones talking about ranking in Yandex.

However in that post Harrison did not mention regions.

When doing SEO for Yandex, you should clearly identify your region. In Russia people usually promote their sites for big cities like Moscow or Saint Petersburg.

Since the country is very, very big it is not easy to find a business that covers Moscow and Vladivostok at the same time. The distance between these two cities is more than 9,000 km.

Take a look at the percentage of people in different regions who use Yandex and Google-

google and yandex

As you can see, more than 70% of people in Moscow use Yandex. In some regions it falls to almost 50%. I used Kaliningrad as an example because its people use both search engines evenly.

For international SEO, there is no point in using Yandex. However, you can use it for Russian speaking countries such as Ukraine, Belarus or Kazakhstan.

  • In Ukraine 33% use Yandex
  • In Belarus 45% use Yandex
  • In Kazakhstan 25% use Yandex


Why is region so important? In Google, people from the same country see the same search results for a single keyword except local listings, paid results etc.

When using Yandex, people from different cities see the different search results. It means that if you use the keyword “раскрутка сайта” [in English “website promotion”], you will see different results if you search from Moscow and if you search from Saint Petersburg.

Here is how it looks:

Keyword “раскрутка сайта” in Moscow region-

Yandex Moscow


The same keyword “раскрутка сайта” for the region Saint Petersburg-

Yandex Saint Petersburg


As you can see the results above are completely different for the same country.

 That is why it is very important to know your region before doing SEO in Yandex.
When searching in Yandex Russians usually type a keyword with + region. For example “ppc services in Moscow” or “buy shoes in Rostov”.

Links ARE Still Important With Yandex SEO

In the end of 2013 the Yandex team at the Moscow conference announced that links will not be a ranking factor for commercial queries.

A new ranking algorithm was launched in 2014, but still Russian SEOs do not have a clear idea about what to do with links.

According to the latest research after removing link influence from ranking factor; 68% of all websites that were analysed dropped in rankings and only 24% showed increase in rankings.

Now this algorithm applied only to Moscow and in some other regions-


  • Sites with backlinks from relevant niche
  • Sites with many indexed pages


  • Sites with no relevant backlinks
  • Law sites (this niche is very competitive in Moscow and many sites used Black or Grey Hat SEO)
  • Sites that used links from SAPE (one of the biggest link networks in Russia)

Personally, I think that such changes in algorithm ranking lead directly to increases in Yandex PPC spending.

If you are in a very competitive niche then you definitely must use keyword rich anchors. No anchor links have a very low impact on rankings.

Also, if you are promoting a website in a separate region then it is better to get links related to your region [see the winners above].

Key Difference – Yandex Updates

One of the most important differences between Google and Yandex is that with Google, new pages/sites in SERP appear or disappear in real time whereas Yandex has 3 types of updates:

  1. Links update
  2. Content update
  3. Update of behavior factors

Very often your site will drop or increase in rankings following some of those updates. It means that if there were not updates for a few days, then everything remains the same in the search results.

You can track Yandex updates at or

Sometimes you can see what happened when your site was dropped from the top 10 and in a few days after an update, reappear in the top 10 again.

The Right Way To Optimize For Yandex SEO

So let’s take a look at the right way to optimize your site to rank in Yandex.

On Page Optimisation

  • Unique content
  • Interesting text written for people
  • Do not spam with keywords. Too many keywords in the text is not good
  • Regular content updating
  • Social sharing
  • Internal linking

Off Page Optimisation

  • Build links to your site slowly and naturally. In Russia there are very good link networks, so it is not difficult to buy quality links
  • Build links from quality sites (see the on page tab)
  • Use different sites but related to your niche

User Behavior

  • Encourage users to stay at your site as long as possible
  • Users do not leave your site after reading 1 or 2 pages

What You Must Not Do

  • Too many keywords on a single page. It is more dangerous than in Google
  • If it is an ecommerce site, then you should have shipping, payment, delivery pages etc
  • Do not insert invisible text
  • Do not use content that is not unique
  • Avoid duplicate pages
  • Avoid empty pages
  • Avoid using footer links

As I previously stated Yandex SEO is very similar with SEO for Google. Still there are more very important things that you should know. Site promotion in Yandex is not fast.

If you have a business in Moscow, then you should plan for at least 1 to 2 years before seeing real success.

If you are building a site from scratch and want to be successful in Yandex, then you must know this formula-

yandex seo backlink formula

Technical Optimization With Yandex SEO Tools

Yandex has its own Webmaster Tools very similar to what we have seen in Google Webmaster Tools. It is where you can run into problems if you are not fluent in Russian because the service is completely in Russian and there is no way to change the language.

I recommend hiring a person who is familiar with Yandex Webmaster Tools who can set everything up properly. Yandex Webmaster Tools has almost the same tools that Google Webmaster Tools has such as robots, sitemap, etc.

If you are promoting your site for the Russian market and doing everything correctly then it is possible to get good rankings in both major search engines: Google and Yandex.

Let me show you an example. This site is multilingual and not very old.

Their Russian site is ranking very high in and in for the same keyword “сайт знакомств для путешественников” or “travel dating” in English.

Number 9 in Yandex


And number 3 in Google

google rankings

If you know the region then…

If you know in what region you would like to promote your site, then you should do the following:

  1. Set up the region in Yandex SEO Tools
  2. Submit your site in Yandex Sprav –, similar to Google Maps
  3. Add your region in a H1 tag
  4. If possible include it in the URL
  5. Your content must mention the region
  6. Add it in your description tag because it could be your snippet

Site Age

Yandex loves old resources which is not a big surprise.

However it is more difficult here for a new website to overtake an old site quickly.

So you have to spend time building a trusted resource.

Unique Content

In this field Yandex is even better than Google in identifying Russian content that is not unique.

The language is very difficult and each word has many variations.

Therefore it is very important to discover content that is not unique. Yandex even has an algorithm similar to Google Panda called АГС that is used to filter out low quality content.

Yandex has its own guidelines for webmasters that is available in English and may be quite helpful in certain situations.

Wrapping It Up

If you are looking for exposure in Russia or Ukraine then you definitely want to make your website Yandex SEO friendly.

Gaining good rankings in Yandex is not as easy as it once was.

Until recently, the Yandex SEO algorithm was quite similar to Google’s and was heavily weighted on links and authority of incoming links rather than relevancy.

 Yandex recently changed its algorithm in a big way.

One of the new changes that upset many webmasters makes it almost impossible for new websites to rank better than established brands.

It seems no matter which search engine you try to optimise for – you are always playing a global game of cat and mouse!

Thanks for reading :)

Frequently Questions Asked?

What is Yandex SEO?
Yandex is a search engine created in Russia. Just like for every search engine it exists ways to optimize your website to please their algorithm and as such, Yandex SEO includes all the strategies you can use to do so.

Is Yandex better than Google?
It depends. If you’re looking to reach a Russian audience, Yandex is better. Indeed, Yandex is the most popular search engine in Russia and was specially created for the Russian market in order to deal with the very specific Russian search challenges.

How do you optimize Yandex?
If you want to learn how to optimize your site for Yandex, just read the full post. It explains how Yandex is different from Google and includes a bunch of tips and strategies you can use to optimise your site for Yandex.

What algorithm does Yandex use?
Yandex uses its own algorithm, which means that it is different from all the other search engine algorithms out there.

Who uses Yandex?
Yandex is most used in Russia where it was originally created.