Are you considering entering the Russian market with your business?
If so, you’ll want to pay close attention to this guide on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Yandex.
While there isn’t a ton of difference between Yandex SEO and Google optimization, there are certain aspects that you’ll want to pay especially close attention to.
By doing so, you can help improve traffic from Russian website visitors and grow your overall sales and brand recognition within the country.
Ready to learn how to optimize your website for Yandex? Let’s get started.
What is Yandex?
Yandex is a very popular search engine in Russia. While residents of the country do have access to Google, most are not proficient in understanding English, which is why they prefer this alternative.
In fact, Yandex has been around since 1993. The name started off as a joke shortening of Yet ANother inDEXer — a reference to the sheer number of search engines coming out at the time.
Since, the platform has expanded to include tons of additional websites including their form of Yandex Mail, Yandex Maps, Yandex Translate, and several others.
Those hoping to gain more customers or a bigger influence in this market should consider Yandex a secondary focus to Google.ru, the Russian version of what we know as Google.
However, like many of the other smaller search engines in the United States, it is important to determine if optimizing specifically for it is worth the extra effort.
After all, Yandex brings new hurdles like language barriers, censorship, and the use of the Cyrillic alphabet into optimizing your page — which is often more work than a lot of brands want to really do.
Why is This Search Engine Relevant Today?
Yandex is relevant today for the fact that it is one of the more popular search engines in Russia.
In fact, it was more popular than Google for a long time. Today that division between the two search sites is about 55% of users preferring Google to 42.5% Yandex.
A third search engine — Mail.ru — comes in at 1.75% of the total market share.
As the country’s eCommerce market starts to grow, more retailers are opting to try to break into this market. Thus, Yandex SEO is important.
Furthermore, the Russian Antimonopoly Service deemed Google’s automatic use of the American search engine too restrictive on Android devices.
Thus, these phones now have an automatic option to switch to Yandex as the primary search website.
Competition is also much lower with Yandex versus Google.ru.
If you’re one of the first ones in your industry to break into the Russian market, optimizing your website now is a great way to stay ahead of what others are doing.
In case you do encounter an issue along the way, the Yandex search team is incredibly responsive and will likely get back to you much more quickly than you can expect with Google.
If you’re looking to expand your reach to more customers in this country, that means about a third of search users are already on Yandex.
Why Expand Your Global Website Reach Into Russia?
When it comes to talking about Yandex, it is important to realize why a company might want to expand its global reach into Russia.
The Russian market for eCommerce and other global services is relatively untouched.
Previously, certain restrictions made it extremely tough to sell to customers within the country and surrounding areas like Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and some parts of Ukraine.
Now, around 81% of the entire population makes an online purchase at least once a month. Based on statistics, that number is only expected to climb.
Considering Russia has the fifth-largest gross domestic product in the world, it is easy to see what companies around the globe are looking to jump into the marketplace.
Yandex SEO: 13 Tips on How to Optimize for This Search Engine
While Yandex is very similar to Google in nature, there are a few ways you’ll want to optimize your website to get the best results. Here are a few of our best tips.
1. Use Proper Translation
As anyone who has taken the time to learn can tell you, Russian is not an easy language.
If you’re planning on improving your Yandex SEO, you’ll need to have your website translated by someone very knowledgeable about the dialect.
Furthermore, you’ll need those pages to use the Cyrillic alphabet — not Latin.
2. Understand Russian Censorship
Russia is very big on censorship, which means Yandex is, too.
If you fail to meet their guidelines on content and message, you could be blacklisted.
The Russian Internet Restriction Bill explains most of what you need to know, including special considerations for target audiences under age eighteen.
3. Domain Age is Priority
Yandex SEO places a priority on domain age.
Now, this isn’t something you can really control as a webmaster. But you can improve other areas of your content and website to help ensure pages are indexed by the search engine later on.
4. Pay Close Attention to Local SEO
One area where Google and Yandex differ is when it comes to local search.
Yandex SEO places a higher emphasis on regional areas. The search engine does what’s referred to as geo-dependent searches, meaning it shows different results to those in specific locations.
5. Create Quality Backlinks
Unlike Google, Yandex doesn’t care about how many backlinks you have in total.
Instead, it places a higher emphasis on the traffic those backlinks are bringing you. For this part of your Yandex SEO, be sure to focus on quality over quantity.
6. Raise Your Time on Site with Quality Content
Yandex favors engaging, informative content.
In fact, they place a higher emphasis than Google on how long website visitors spend on your page.
The only way to get this up? With great content — both written, video, and audio — that makes people want to stay longer.
7. On-Page Yandex SEO
The right metadata is extremely important to Yandex.
This means spending a fair amount of time perfecting URLs, meta tags, image descriptions, page titles, and other areas with the right keywords.
By doing this, you can improve the way the search engine categorizes your content and indexes your page in their search listings.
8. Understand Your Commercial Relevance
One area that Yandex looks at that Google doesn’t have a ranking factor for is commercial relevance.
While this is only pertinent for eCommerce retailers, it is still an element that everyone should know.
Yandex takes into consideration elements like product range, prices, shipping, return policies, and overall website usability in determining how relevant your brand is within your given market.
Detailed product descriptions with regional information are also important to this aspect, too.
9. Mobile-friendliness and Page Load
Yandex actually beat Google to the punch when it came to ranking a website based on how fast it loads on a mobile screen.
Called Turbo Pages, the ranking factor is similar to Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages.
Yandex also places a high emphasis on overall website friendliness for smartphone users, meaning your user experience should take into consideration this audience.
As a side note, they also require all mobile pages to have a font size of 12px or higher to rank.
10. Remember Category Pages for eCommerce
With Yandex, the vast majority of search results on the first page are category pages — not product pages.
This means you need to focus your search engine optimization efforts on ensuring these category descriptions feature as much useful and informative content as possible.
11. Use Your Yandex Webmaster Account
As a major search engine, Yandex offers website tools via a fairly robust webmaster tools suite.
In this dashboard, you can check your analytics, see how well your pages are ranking, and configure your geographic targeting.
This is especially crucial if you’re not a local brick-and-mortar store and want to expand your reach nationally within Russia.
12. Eliminate Pop-Ups
Yandex is especially tough on those websites that use pop-ups.
That means you’ll have to find other ways to attract the attention of your visitors on landing pages and your homepage to help prevent getting blacklisted by this major Russian search engine.
13. Consider Creating a Separate Page for Russian Visitors
Expanding into a new global marketplace is never easy.
If you’re looking to improve your reach in Russia, you might opt to create a separate page or subsection for these visitors.
Now, we don’t recommend a whole new domain, which can keep you from ranking on Yandex. But there are ways to create geo-specific aspects of your content that make it easier for Russian visitors to explore for an enhanced user experience.
Yandex SEO isn’t much different from Google SEO, but there are some nuances.
By paying attention to the ranking elements and factors we’ve included here, you can help expand your brand’s global reach to a Russian audience.
Are you ready to learn more about optimizing your website for both Google and Yandex?
Here are a few excellent SEO tips to consider!