Yandex SEO: Tips, Tools, Ranking Factors, and More

Yandex might lack the sort of global reach that Google has. But in the Russian market? Oh, it’s definitely giving Google a run for its money.

So, if you’re trying to appeal to Russian audiences, there’s no way around it: You need to focus on Yandex SEO as much as (if not more than) Google SEO.


How can you optimize your site for Yandex? Do you really need to worry about 1,900+ ranking factors? Well, that’s what this guide will walk you through!

The Truth Behind the Leaked Ranking Factors

If you’ve been following Yandex recently, odds are, you’ve heard about the source code leak.

Now, that leak was the talk of the town for a while. For one, it showed that there are quite a few similarities between Google and Yandex. So, if you’re optimized for Google, you won’t have to put in much extra effort to please Yandex.

Yet, the leak intimidated some site owners. After all, the document lists 1,922 factors. That’s a whole lot of boxes to check!

The good news is that many of those factors were labeled “unused” or “deprecated.” So, realistically, we’re talking ~690 potential factors.

The list covers factors like PageRank, keyword inclusion, text relevance, host reliability, and user behavior.

Top 3 Yandex SEO Tools

Before digging into the optimization tips, we need to get familiar with a few native tools.

How to Optimize Your Website for Yandex: 7 Golden Tips

We don’t want to lull you into a false sense of security or anything. However, Yandex SEO should be relatively easy, especially if you have experience with other popular search engines.

With that in mind, let’s check out some vital tips for your Yandex-specific SEO strategy.

1. Assigned Regions Matter (But Not for All Sites)

Local SEO is a huge deal on Yandex.

Search queries are split into two categories: location-dependent and location-independent. Services (think taxis, gyms, etc.), personalities, products, and events usually fit into the first group, making up 15–30% of all searches on Yandex.

If your site caters to any of those location-dependent niches, you’ll want to let Yandex know where you’re based. This way, it can show your pages to users in your target regions when possible.

Actionable Tips

Here are two ways to share your geo-targeting information with Yandex:

  • Specify a region on the Webmaster tool.
  • Add your company’s information to Yandex.Business.

That said, both of these steps don’t guarantee anything. You’re only asking the engine to consider your pages for geo-targeted searches, and Yandex will still dig around and see if the information you sent is accurate.

To get a better shot at passing Yandex’s region moderation, make sure your contact and delivery information are in an easily “visible” spot on the site. Try to be as specific with the address as possible, down to the street level.

It’s also recommended to add multiple addresses if your business runs in more than one location. Then, choose a broad region that covers all these locations. “Russia” could do the trick for a lot of cases here. But, of course, you can always use subdomains for different regions.

Keep in mind that the Russian search engine might take your IP and domain registration into consideration as well. Even the areas you mention in the content itself matter!

Exceptions to the Rule

If your location doesn’t really matter to the average user, don’t bother with region binding. That’s mostly the case for general content websites.

Did Yandex mistakenly assign your site a region? Send a report and ask the search engine to remove it.

To do that, head to “Region” under the “Display in the search” section of the Webmaster tool. Then, tap on the “No region” option and save the changes.

The update could take up to two weeks, though. So, be patient!

2. Yandex Really Cares About User Behavior

There’s a bit of a debate about whether Google uses visitor behavior as a ranking factor.

But Yandex has a much more clear stance about the topic: User behavior is, in fact, an important search engine ranking factor.

They even ask site owners to work on “usefulness” (among other aspects) to boost their rank.

Actionable Tips

Nothing will help you analyze user behavior and identify problematic pages as much as Metrica. Usually, looking at session replay, CTRs, and heat maps is a good place to start.

You’ll also need to keep an eye on user actions on web server logs, focusing on:

  • Traffic source
  • Target pages
  • Search queries
  • Technical parameters (operating system, browser version, etc.)

Warning: Don’t resort to manipulating user behavior via tactics like “click-jacking.” It’s just not worth the penalty.

3. Google No Longer Monopolizes Mobile Searches in Russia

Not all that long ago, Google had a strong hold over mobile-based searches in Russia.

As you might have guessed, Google owns Android and could easily leverage the operating system’s popularity in the region to push its apps and solutions.

At least, that was the case for a while.

However, things changed after the company had to settle with Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS). This settlement meant that Android users were presented with “choice screens” and had more power over their default search engine.

Suddenly, Yandex took a significant chunk of mobile searches—its market share was nearly 58% in 2022!

So, if you want to make it in the Russian market, making your site mobile-friendly is a must.

Actionable Tips

Here’s how to keep the Yandex mobile bot happy:

  • Choose a simple web design with a large font.
  • Check that all multimedia elements load quickly.
  • Avoid using Flash-powered interactive sections. HTML5 is a better choice.
  • Make sure users don’t have to scroll horizontally.

Don’t forget that the Webmaster tool has a mobile optimization checker that you can use to evaluate specific pages or the whole site.

You can also add the mobile version of your site to Webmaster to monitor the indexing statistics.

Yandex SEO

4. The Indexing Bot Could Need Some Boosters

Speaking of indexing, you might hear people saying that Yandex is sluggish compared to Google.

The thing is, you can always nudge the process forward if you notice that the search engine is taking its sweet time.

Actionable Tips

Yandex lets you request reindexing for new/updated pages.

However, if you want to encourage the robot’s organic indexing process, you need to:

  • Keep your sitemap updated.
  • Add a Metrica tag to the site and link it to your Webmaster tool.
  • Link to the new page from parts of the site that are already indexed. The Check URL Status tool can help you identify indexed pages.

5. Yandex Isn’t Super Forgiving With Black-Hat Linking Tactics

Yandex is trying hard to hit back against link manipulation—so much so that, for a while, they dropped backlinks as a ranking factor for verticals like real estate, travel, and legal services.

Granted, they quickly backtracked and brought links back to the search algorithm for all verticals. However, they decided to look at backlinks as both negative and positive ranking signals.

So, you want to avoid fraudulent linking strategies like the plague.

The Russian search engine penalizes low-quality “doorways.” That’s when you create a page or site with the main purpose of providing links.

Plus, the Minusink algorithm cracks down on sites with bought SEO links.

Actionable Tips

Natural, organic linking is the way to go.

Put SEO aside for a moment and think as the content author. Is this link actually relevant? Is it something you need the reader to check out? If so, go for it.

Pro Tip: That’s not to say you have to kill advertising links, though. The trick is to mark those links with the “nofollow” attribute.

6. Snippets Can Be Particularly Helpful for eCommerce Sites

Much like Google, Yandex also features snippet blocks on the SERP. Using semantic markups, the bots can also identify product descriptions, prices, etc., and display them in the snippet.

Some people believe that mentioning product details, return policies, discounts, and shipping availability can also boost ranking on Yandex. These little bits of info can improve site quality.

Actionable Tips

Use supported schemas like “Product” and “Offer” to boost your snippets.

Just keep in mind that Yandex can ignore your markups if it finds your site low-quality.

7. Publishing High-Quality Content Is Key

Content quality can make or break your SEO strategy on any search engine.

Lucky for us, Yandex makes “quality” more tangible. The Webmasters tool literally provides a Site Quality Index (SQI).

A lot of factors can affect your SQI value, from seasonal changes to technical hosting problems. Yet, one major aspect is whether your pages help visitors with their goals.

Actionable Tips

To cover all the tips, tricks, and recommendations for creating high-quality content, we’d need a separate guide (or two).

But here’s a simplified list to use as a starting point:

  • Set clear, skimmable structures for your content.
  • Use visual aids (images, videos, and infographics)
  • Be smart with your target keywords. Yandex will warn you if it detects stuffing.
  • Write catchy titles. Note that Yandex is generally more forgiving with the length than Google (70–80 characters are okay).

Important Algorithms for Yandex SEO

Interested in the technical side? We’d recommend reading more about these updates:

UpdateDateFocus Area
Palekh2016Neural networks
Vega2019Intelligent search

Final Thoughts

Optimizing for Yandex shouldn’t be hard if you’re already familiar with Google’s SEO guidelines. You still need to tackle on-page and off-page aspects, but user behavior will play a bigger role.

Thankfully, Metrica and Webmaster should help you out.

Published on: 2024-01-10
Updated on: 2024-01-27

Avatar for Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands is the SEO Director at SEO North, a company that provides Search Engine Optimization services. As an SEO Professional, Isaac has considerable expertise in On-page SEO, Off-page SEO, and Technical SEO, which gives him a leg up against the competition.