Yandex vs Google SEO: How to Get Search Traffic in Russia

16 June 2021

What Is Yandex?

Yandex (Rus. Яндекс) is a Russian international IT company, headquartered in the Netherlands that owns a search engine of the same name, a web-portal and web-services in several countries. It takes the leading positions on the hi-tech market in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Yandex is also one of the fastest-growing corporations in Russia.

The Yandex search engine is the most popular search engine in Russia, taking 60% of the total search engine traffic. The second most popular is Google at 37.9%.

As the first-string website in the CIS countries, Yandex offers its users various services based on the following platforms:

  • Webmaster is a tool for site admins to maintain interaction between the site and the search engine.
  • Metrica provides dashboards for analyzing user flow and behaviour, as well as site traffic.
  • YooMoney allows users to make electronic payments.
  • Direct is an online advertising platform on a bidding basis.
  • Wordstat provides free keyword research tools for landing page targeting. It also provides keywords by similar searches.
  • Sprav (Directory) is to offer local searches for places.
  • Mail allows users to create free mailboxes and provides uniform authorization for all Yandex services.
  • Market is a service where online sellers can display their products.
  • Zen is a news portal (one of the ways to increase your traffic using RSS).
  • Disk allows users to store in the cloud and share data with other Yandex accounts.

Yandex updates made it the most advanced system, so it gained popularity among users in CIS. The ranking algorithms of the Russian search engine are constantly improving since Yandex monitors core updates of competitors and, in particular, Google. Therefore, when planning a website optimization strategy in Russia, it is necessary to follow Yandex requirements to avoid penalties and achieve high rankings fast.

How Does the Yandex Search Engine Work?

Yandex does not officially explain all the criteria for site ranking. The development of the efficient ranking system and providing the most relevant search results performed by the machine-learning algorithm MatrixNet. According to some sources, over 800 factors analyzed when ranking to provide users with the most relevant pages for their searches.

Main ranking factors include:

  • Internal optimization
  • Content quality and search relevance
  • Referred backlinks
  • Behaviour factors and social signals

Even though the mission of both Google and Yandex is to provide users with the content that suits their needs best, they have different methods of evaluating sites.

The website ranking factors allow the search engine to evaluate site performance and the value of published content for users. SEO optimization is carried out in conditions of strict penalty filters, the inadmissibility of cheating and manipulation. The main rule of ranking in Yandex invariably remains: “Websites are designed for people first”. However, the site primarily is evaluated by machines. Therefore, when optimizing a resource, one should consider the satisfying user demands and the secrets of dealing with search bots.

Yandex vs Google: Top 7 Differences in SEO

Google as well, as Yandex is competing for users in different ways. These giants are focused on creating the best environment for users and their convenience. But despite their common goal, they still differ in how they rank sites. Sometimes the difference is minor: the same metric has almost the same effect on ranking. But in some respects, Google and Yandex differ significantly. That is why they can provide different SERP for the same search terms. To learn more about the latest Google algorithm updates, read our blog.

1. Meta Tags

Google features:

  • Meta Title – optimal is 30-70 characters. Also, note that only the first 12 words (on average) have a significant impact on rankings, and the order of their appearance also matters.
  • Meta Description – optimal 155-160 characters.
  • Meta Keywords are not taken into account when ranking. But the Google may incur penalties for spamming this meta tag, so it is best not to use it.

Yandex differences:

  • Meta Title – 30-80 characters, and no more than 15 words.
  • Meta Description is slightly longer – 160-180 characters.
  • Meta Keywords – can affect ranking by determining the page relevance to search terms. Assign no more than 5-7 words that best match the content of the page.

2. Differences in SERP Snippets

Some differences between Google and Yandex SEO is evident even when comparing the SERP appearance.

Yandex:

  • The title and description can be generated dynamically by algorithms based on the user search, so it is often possible to see text in a snippet from page content or other sources rather than from the meta title or meta description itself. While Yandex claims to provide the most appropriate description, sometimes it does not work well.
  • You can enrol visitors from SERP with your site fancy favicon.
  • Yandex can mark some sites with ‘the popular site’ or ‘the user choice’ badges by its user behaviour analysis. It also makes your site trustworthy and attractive for potential visitors.
  • The search engine can obtain 
  • The micro-markup data is not the only way to add a company address in the snippet. The search engine can obtain this on its own from the site Yandex.Directory profile.

Google:

  • Titles and descriptions are static and are usually taken from metadata unless tags are missing. In this case, tags usually generated by Google according to the content of the page. It allows website owners to deliver attractive descriptions on SERP and increase the click-through rate (CTR).
  • At the moment, favicons only displayed for mobile searches. The desktop version is under testing, and in some cases, website icons also visible. While it does not make much of a difference if you target Google or Yandex when promoting your site, the favicon is a must.
  • More micro-markup schemes are supported. E.g., ‘FAQPage’ schema for FAQ and step-by-step guides.
  • Featured Snippets are short snippets of text that appear at the top of Google’s search results to answer a searcher’s query fast. If you’re interested in learning more about Featured Snippets, make sure to read our Featured Snippets blog post.

3. Regional SEO

In terms of local SEO, Yandex and Google are significantly different. For sites with a regional domain (.ru, .ua, .kz, etc.), Google automatically assigns a priority country. The user will not be able to change this parameter later. If the domain zone is neutral (e.g., .info, .com, .org ), you can configure regional binding in GSC. But also only at the country level. You can provide geo SEO by completing Google my Business profile or inserting geo-targeted keywords into the page content.

When promoting the site on Google in several regions, the best strategy is to create sub-directories for each city. Note that these directories must contain unique content.

Yandex can also define the site regionality by domain zone and content. But unlike Google, it determines the localization of the site at the city level. Moreover, Yandex allows changing the regional binding (if it was determined incorrectly). You can change it via ‘Webmaster’ by selecting the city or country you want to rank. As an option, you can create a company profile in Yandex.Directory.

If you want the site to rank high across multiple regions, the best solution is to create additional landing pages on subdomains. This strategy is most effective.

4. Content Optimization

Content quality is becoming a more and more important factor for SEO. Both Yandex and Google agreed that the purpose of the text is a visitors reference only. Previously, for high rankings, it was enough just inserting a large number of keywords onto one page. Now, this does not work. You even risk being penalized for it.

IA algorithms can find relevant content to user searches, even if no 100% matches found.

You can rank high in Yandex even with short articles. At the same time, Google prefers long reads but allows for a higher keyword density. However, maintain a safe frequency of 3-3.5% so as not to get minorized. That applies to both Google and Yandex.

Also, search engines have different attitudes towards updating content on a site. If Google assesses the regular changes positively, then Yandex takes this into account only indirectly as an improvement in behavioural metrics.

The Yandex team announced that commercial factors affect website rankings. It includes various metrics that simplify the interaction of visitors with the site: information about the company, delivery and payment methods, contact information, easy navigation, user-friendly design, a wide range of products. While Google hasn’t made any claims about this, it also takes some of them into account when ranking.

Either way, content is by far the most valuable SEO tool. Both Google and Yandex will appreciate unique and well-written texts.

5. Backlink Profile

There are some differences in off-page SEO as well. 

For Google, backlinks are the most valuable ranking factors that prove a resource’s authority and credibility. SEO is impossible without link building efforts. Google takes into account both the number of referred sites and their ranking.

While Yandex attaches less importance to backlinks, they also matter. Its algorithms carefully check not only the quality but also the niche of the referring sites. Therefore, you need to be careful and consider these requirements when improving your backlink profile.

So, if you want to optimize your site for both search engines, you should carefully choose the domains that refer to your site, working on both backlinks quantity and their value.

6. Technical SEO

Google SEO differs from Yandex also in a technical aspect. But the difference is not as noticeable and significant as it might seem at first glance.

Due to the volume of mobile traffic, Google changed its approach to ranking and launched Mobile-First Indexing. According to this algorithm, search robots analyze first the site content when viewed from a smartphone and prefer fully adapted resources. In addition, Google tracks this indicator very precisely. To learn more about this topic, read our post on Google algorithm update.

Yandex is not so strict with slow sites that receive most of the traffic volumes from desktop devices. But this does not mean that improving the site performance is not affect the site rankings as it changes the metrics of user behaviour on the site.

Try to use every opportunity for technical improvement of the site and its SEO. This approach will have a positive effect on the site’s rankings in both search engines.

7. Penalties

Yandex is much stricter in penalties than Google. But that doesn’t mean that everything you do for Google SEO can go unpunished. To avoid the unpleasant consequences of incorrect actions when optimizing your site, you need to follow all the news and official announcements about new algorithms and core updates and, if in doubt, seek advice from professional SEO specialists with proven results.

What Does It Mean for Your Business?

It would seem that Google and Yandex have the same goal – to provide the most convenient search tool for users. But these companies consider this goal achieved in different ways. As a result, the same metrics are ranked differently in every search engine. 

And if someone does not take these nuances into account, he has a great chance not only not to get high rankings but also to lose his current positions.

If you are interested in expanding your reach on Yandex and in Russia, check out our SEO Consulting services page. Do not hesitate to contact us to learn more about how we could help you achieve your goals. Fill out a contact form to get in touch with our Russian native expert SEO team!

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