Written by Anastasia Kurmakaeva
Table of contents
Google’s and Yandex’s search algorithms share tons of similarities in terms of ranking factors and signals they take into account to display pages in their search results, based on their quality and relevance for the user. Both actively work against content over-optimisation, Black Hat SEO, and other optimisation shortcuts, which are considered negative –to put it mildly–, aiming to cheat search engines into granting top positions to undeserving websites.
Shady techniques aside, what we’re interested in exploring in this post are the main differences between Google vs. Yandex SEO, especially if we’re looking into working on an international SEO campaign for our website. Depending on our target audience, we could try and please both, a task that might result slightly headache-y for us. We could be ranking at the very top in Google for certain keywords, while the Russian search engine doesn’t even spare us a glance, let alone considers our page relevant. For that reason, it’s important to carve into our mind the details and small disparities we will find between these two search engines.
Let’s start with the domain. For Google, owning a domain starting with or containing a keyword continues to be a relevance factor. Yandex, however, couldn’t care less for the name you choose to register your domain with. On the other hand, it does consider very important the use of ccTLDs, especially if we’re optimising for search queries made from anywhere in the Russian Federation. You can be certain that domains with the .ru extension will take the icing on the cake (obviously, as long as they are relevant for the search query).
Content and keyword density
Yandex is extremely strict when it comes to content quality and originality, as opposed to its size. As a matter of fact, a correctly optimised text between 400 and 600 words in length is ideal, and it will be much better valued than posts consisting of thousands of words. As for keyword usage, Yandex doesn’t like over-optimisation one bit. Try not to exceed a 3-5% keyword density within your texts, and be especially careful with keyword stuffing. If you go beyond 6-8%, you could face some real consequences in your rankings.
Copied and pasted content from other websites, poor translations or content too similar to other pages won’t get indexed. You can use this simple tool to measure the keyword density percentage for any URL, or directly input a text to be analysed.
Content quality and originality is one of the most important aspects for Yandex when it’s evaluating your website.
Your website’s age
Yandex starts paying attention to a website’s age starting from only 1 year after the date on which the first page was published. Google, however, prefers websites at least 2 years old or more. We can conclude that both search engines are more likely to display in their search results more senior websites, with Yandex being more benevolent, as it considers websites to be more “mature” faster.
Titles and descriptions
While it’s true that for both search engines a good title is key, Yandex still sort of considers keywords to be relevant when used in the description meta tag. We recommend putting some effort into writing good descriptions and including keywords in them whenever possible.
The Yandex algorithm still uses the description meta tag as a ranking signal.
As opposed to Google’s crawlers, which are constantly crawling and indexing new pages, Yandex can be rather slower in this process. It can take weeks, and even months to index static pages. However, it’s important to note that if our website takes way too long to be indexed in Yandex, it won’t hurt to make sure we’ve “notified” the search engine regarding the new content through Yandex.Webmaster.
A correct internal linking structure is well-loved by Google, but Yandex is mostly indifferent to it. Inbound links coming from other –external– websites, should be selected carefully, and their anchor texts should not be over-optimised. Pay special attention to this, as the latest Yandex algorithm update, Minusinsk, has been recklessly penalising websites that use low-quality links.
Traffic quality and bounce rate
Yandex doesn’t distinguish between websites generating a lot of traffic or none at all. If according to its criteria your website is relevant, you will appear in the top results (and, thus, will get more organic traffic). Yandex is also more lenient with bouncing visits, and it doesn’t get alarmed until a website reaches 90-95% bounce rate figures. Google, on the other hand, can consider your website less interesting if you go over 75%.
Penalties and black list
Google is much more generous when it comes to penalties, once a website has corrected the aspects its algorithm considers negative. On Yandex getting blacklisted by its algorithm will most likely leave an imprint on your website for a long time. We must be careful with the measures we take in our SEO strategies to keep the Yandex algorithm happy with our site.
In summary, finding good balance between both search engines is possible, although occasionally it might seem like a small puzzle. If you’re planning to internationalise your website to cater to the Russian market, in this article you already have some helpful tips to get it started.