Yandex, the leading search engine in Russia has had a strong focus over the last few years on back-links. As a result some area of search had become very badly affected by link spam.
The Yandex approach to the issue has been a sector by sector implementation of a ‘no back link’ update that changes the algorithm to not consider SEO back links as a ranking factor. This has had a major impact on the types of SEO work carried out on Russian language websites and websites targeting Russia.
The verticals initially impacted in March 2014 were some obvious ones of SEO, real estate and health and beauty, which are competitive search verticals in most countries with high internet usage. Others are more surprising in the ‘first set’ and include clothes, home appliances, travel and legal services.
The next set of verticals targeted by Yandex in the ‘no back link’ update include automotive, finance, industrial machinery and furniture.
So do back-links count at all in Yandex?
Yes, it seems some still do, even in the competitive verticals such as real estate. But they have less of an impact.
Removing the focus on bank links increases the importance of on page content, specifically how this is marked up and written, but also on the usability and visitor behaviour that search engines can increasingly see via their metrics, as well as social traffic and even Yandex advertising.
Yandex, like Google provides a free analytics tools, with the most popular being Metrika. Many web owners consider this a free tool for them to use to see visitor behaviour. It can also be seen as a free way of the search engines obtaining valuable search data, and this data can be used to impact search rankings. This suggests that worthless visitors can actually now be harmful if they lower the measured usability of a website.
Best Russian SEO strategy
Currently within the Russian search market, the best SEO strategy varies from one vertical segment to another. A medium-long term strategy will be more cautious with back-links in any vertical on the assumption the ‘no back link’ algorithm will roll out to all sectors. And a good strategy for all sectors might be to consider using Yandex Direkt ads publisher. But most important is a focus on qualty content and well written code, plus natural promotion via social media.