In this guide, I’ll take you through what Yandex search engine is, why it’s so important as well as why you should care about your site ranking for Yandex.
Google. You’d have to have been living under a rock not to recognise the name. In fact, the search engine has become so dominant in our lives that ‘to Google’ something is a recognised verb in its own right. The word Google has become a synonym for running an internet search. In fact, it has become so widespread it can be easy to forget that other search engines actually exist. But they do and one of the many questions we will answer in this article is what is Yandex.
You’ve probably heard of other big search engines like Bing and Yahoo, but have you heard of Yandex? This is a lesser-known, Russian-found business that specialises in internet products and is becoming increasingly popular around the world.
In this guide, I’ll take you through what exactly Yandex is, why it’s so important as well as why you should care about your site ranking for Yandex. In order to do this, I’ll look at the following questions:
- What is Yandex?
- Why did it become so popular in Russia?
- What are the key differences between Google and Yandex?
- Why should you optimise for Yandex?
- How do you optimise for Yandex?
What is Yandex?
Yandex is the name of a Russian company, founded in 1990, which specialises in internet products. Some of their products include email services, online advertising, app analytics, and even self-driving cars. But the company is best known for its search engine of the same name created in 1997. It is the biggest and most popular search engine in Russia today. In fact, in 2019 Statcounter revealed that Yandex had roughly 49% of the market shares there, in comparison to Google’s 47.53%. What started as yandex.ru has since gone global and an English version yandex.com has now been created.
Yandex works like many of the other popular search engines we’re used to – by inserting your query into the search bar and hit enter. A list of results for suggested websites and pages will then present itself. Videos and images may also appear depending on the nature of the search terms.
Essentially it works very much like Google and other mainstream search engines, though I will look at some of the key differences between Yandex and Google later in this article.
Key takeaway: While Yandex is the name of the company as a whole, it is also the name of its hugely popular search engine too. For the purposes of this article when I refer to Yandex I am talking about the search engine.
Why did Yandex become so popular in Russia?
Source: StatCounter Search Engine Market Share in the Russian Federation
There are a number of reasons why Yandex became so popular in Russia by overtaking Google – the firm favourite across the globe. To give you a better idea of why the site is growing in popularity, here are the key reasons behind Yandex becoming Russia’s number one search engine.
First, it is designed for the Russian language. Russian is very different from English. Creating a search engine with the main focus being Russian language lets Yandex interpret meanings and contexts of Russian speaking people better than any other search engine.
Russian android smartphones no longer have Google as their default browser after a deal was reached in 2017. Users now have a choice and can set up Yandex as their default search engine if they choose so.
Many don’t trust American companies. The challenges between Russia and America led many people to choose Yandex over Google. This is either because they don’t trust Google or because they’d rather support a product of their own nation.
Key takeaway: Yandex began growing in popularity because it was designed specifically for their language. Over the years the company has seized opportunities to grow in popularity, including making a deal with Google to open Android to other search engines.
What are the key differences between Google and Yandex?
While the basic functionality might be the same for Yandex and Google, there are some key differences between the two. Below we’ll look at seven of the most notable differences, some of which have to do with SEO and ranking on Yandex.
- Yandex focuses on regionality and local SEO more than Google does, running geo-dependent searches that only reveal relevant websites from a particular region. This means that people based in different locations will be shown different results. For SEOs this makes ranking local businesses a lot easier but on the flip side, ranking a site nationally could be more difficult.
- Seeing results and ranking improvements may take longer. This is because websites tend to be crawled at a much slower rate on Yandex than Google. You should bare that in mind when attempting to rank a website on Yandex and don’t be discouraged if it takes a little longer than expected.
- User behaviour (such as time on page) is a key ranking factor for Yandex. While Google also takes this into consideration, this is a key contributing factor for ranking well on Yandex. This makes optimising for search intent and creating engaging content extremely important for performing well.
- Link building is no longer a strong ranking factor for commercial queries on Yandex as it is on other search engines. That’s not to say that link building isn’t important to rank. You will still want to aim to build links that will pass relevant traffic to your website and that’s what Yandex will be looking for rather than purely just the metrics of the site that’s linking to you.
- Creation date and domain age plays a bigger role in ranking well on Yandex than it does on Google. Unfortunately there isn’t much of a way around this other than taking the time to create the very best content you can and play the long game.
- Yandex focuses on fresh, on-page content and takes offenses such as keyword stuffing a lot more seriously than Google does. Adding new, valuable content regularly is definitely a tactic that could reap benefits on Yandex.
- While Yandex has fewer Webmaster Tools than Google, it has a smaller, more responsive support team. This is useful for resolving any issues or penalties that your website may have fallen foul of.
Key takeaway: The functionality of these search engines might look and feel similar, but there are some key differences. Yandex places more importance on geo-dependent searches and when it comes to optimising – this can take more time. This is because the Russian search engine places emphasis on different things such as on-page content, user behaviour and domain age.
Why should you optimise for Yandex?
There are a number of reasons that you should be amending your SEO strategy to include Yandex. While this might feel like a lot of work, especially if you’re only just getting to grips with SEO for Google, below are just some of the most important reasons you should optimise for Yandex:
According to statistics from 2019, Yandex is now the fifth most popular search engine in the world. Despite this, so many people have never even heard of it, let alone bothered to consider it in their SEO strategy, which just seems crazy when you really think about it!
You’re targeting a Russian market
Whether you’re solely targeting a Russian market, or they make up a part of your target demographic, optimising for Yandex is the key to success. As this is the most popular search engine in Russia, it stands to reason that you would want to rank well there if you hope to be seen by the Russian part of your target audience.
It’s not just about Russia
What’s more, it’s not just about optimising in order to target a Russian audience. The search engine is also popular in a number of other nations including Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Turkey – and this popularity is only growing.
There is now an English version of the site
Following on from the previous point, Yandex has now branched out to create a .com site for England. This means the search engine is not only becoming increasingly popular in the East, but it is also making its way to Western nations. The increasing popularity of the site should be a red flag that businesses need to start considering Yandex in their SEO efforts.
Key takeaway: It’s clear that the popularity of Yandex is growing and it doesn’t appear like it is slowing down any time soon. Optimising for Yandex over other search engines does require some different processes. For this reason it’s vital that you begin thinking about optimising your website for this growing search engine.
How do you optimise for Yandex?
So now you know what Yandex is and why it’s a good idea to optimise for this search engine where should you start? As previously stated, optimising for Yandex can differ from Google, but some of the steps can also benefit your website across all search engines. Below we’ll look at best SEO practises and what you need to do to get results with this search engine.
But remember, just like when optimising to rank on Google, it can take a long time to rank on page one of Yandex. This is because they crawl sites less often and there are many ranking variables involved. So don’t panic if you don’t see results immediately, unfortunately this can be a bit of a waiting game. But here’s how to get things moving:
Content is key
Yandex places great importance on fresh and engaging content and therefore you need to put some real effort into your copy. The search engine tends to prioritise sites that provide the best answer for the user query.
And really – it makes sense!
So be sure you’re creating useful content that can add real value to your readers. Quality is also important to Yandex and the site has algorithms in place to scan all content. Any weak, replicates or over-optimised copy could get penalized.
The best way to avoid being snuffed is by ensuring you’re not stuffing your content with keywords unnecessarily and that it reads well. Remember, this is for humans, not robots. Be careful not to produce spammy content and definitely don’t copy and paste huge chunks of text. The search engine does not favour duplicated copy. The key is to create fresh and user-friendly content that Yandex and your readers will love.
User experience is everything
One of the biggest ranking factors for Yandex is user experience. Most importantly how long they stay on your pages.
By staying longer on a page, visitors suggest that your website is giving them what they need. So, in order to rank well, it’s a good idea to aim for a reduction in your bounce rates and increased average time on page.
One way of doing this is by updating the design or branding of your site. You should also create more engaging content and ensure you’re offering your readers what they want. Ultimately, if you enhance your user experience more people will engage with your site and in turn, you’ll rank better on Yandex.
Location, location, location
Yandex places greater importance on location than any other search engine. They run two types of searches as a result: geo-dependent and geo-independent. Those that are geo-dependent will focus on products or services that are localized. Geo-independent searches will offer results that could be relevant to anyone.
So how do you optimize for this? You need to specify your target regions using their Webmaster Tools. If you submit your website to the Yandex Business Directory you can better reach localized or region-specific audiences. The search engine also favours those that do this as it makes ranking these sites and offering the most relevant results much easier.
Don’t neglect the meta data
While Google does take meta data into consideration, Yandex takes this to the next level. In order to rank well on the Russian search engine, you need to make sure you’ve got your URLs, meta tags, page titles, description tags and canonical tags just right.
As with content, quality is of great importance here. Be sure you’ve chosen useful and relevant titles, done your keyword research and haven’t used duplicate canonical tags. It might feel like a lot to take in but get these details right and you’ll boost your chances of ranking well on Yandex.
Optimise for mobile
Due to the rise in popularity of smartphones and running searches from mobile devices, Yandex, like Google, places importance on your mobile site as well. So, you need to make sure that your site and webpages are optimised for mobile. Another thing to make sure of is that loading times on these aren’t too slow.
Key takeaway: SEO for Yandex can differ from that of Google and can take time to establish. But by focusing on user experience, creating great content and getting your meta data just right, you can begin laying the foundations for strong SEO and help your website to rank well on Yandex.
Although Yandex is clearly a very different animal than Google, SEOs shouldn’t be too concerned about these differences when it comes to ranking a website. At the end of the day they have the same overall goal as any other search engine. The goal is to provide their users with the best and most relevant results for their search. It’s clear that content and user experience are key factors in the success of any website on Yandex so make sure your copy is strong. Furthermore, ensure that your site is incorporating UX to provide the best engagement for its audience.
There are still similarities between the ranking factors of Google and Yandex. It’s entirely possible that the same overall strategy could result in your website ranking well in both search engines. As always the best approach is to put the experience of your target audience above any search engine or ranking factors. In such case, the organic traffic should naturally follow.
Written by Stuart Cooke, Founder and SEO Specialist at Levity Digital. He believes that although Google is still king of the search engines it’s still worth while to respect and even optimise for the others.