Optimizing for Yandex: Online Visibility in Russia

What is Yandex?

Yandex is a Russian search engine that was launched in 1997 with the purpose of resolving search queries in Russian. Since 2009, it uses MatrixNet, a proprietary machine learning algorithm that learns what people want and refines the SERPs based on the data collected.

It is also the web portal that acts as the largest media property in Russia which offers a wide variety of online applications to use:

  • Images
  • Video
  • Mail
  • Maps
  • AppMetrica
  • Translate
  • Browser

This integration gives users access to everything on the main page - accessible in one click.

Why should you optimize for Yandex when targeting the search market in Russia?

Largest Market Share in Russia

Yandex is the leading search engine used in Russia, commanding a market share of 58% in the country in 2015 while Google with only 34%. The search engine also has a strong presence in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

Language Focus

Yandex was created specifically for the Russian market and is more capable of understanding the complexities of the Russian language and syntax. Though Google is the leading search engine in the world that is able to display relevant search results, Yandex’s ability to filter results according to the query types, as well as provide better local results makes it the better option for Russia.

Mobile Outreach

In 2015, 37.2% of Russians accessed the Internet from their smartphones and 19.2% from tablets. With a boost given to mobile-friendly websites with Yandex’s algorithm ‘Vladivostok’, making your website optimized for mobile devices in Yandex will ensure a much bigger outreach.

How do you Optimize for Yandex?

Before discussing optimization techniques, here are Yandex’s guidelines for a quality website:


  • Create a website that is both interesting and useful in terms of content and services.
  • Consider your user base, demographics and your site’s content to match their needs. Your users are priority..
  • Only use links that are relevant and useful for your visitors - not for ranking purposes.
  • Design your site’s navigation well so users can easily find the information they need.
  • Select and use the best keywords that reflect your business and site content well. Having visibility on non-related keywords would result in users leaving your site quickly. (therefore increasing the bounce rate)


  • Create a website that has little or no original content.
  • Create doorway sites that exist only to redirect traffic to other websites.
  • Auto generate gibberish text.
  • Stuff keywords in your content.
  • Hide text and links on your website.
  • Advertise too much, including the use of pop-up, pop-under and click-under ads.
  • Provide links to other websites to boost their search rankings.
  • Present different content to visitors and search engine crawlers.
  • Have malicious behavior, infect users with malware, redirect them to infected domains, phish, etc.
  • Create multiple websites that represent the same business to get as many positions in the SERPs as possible.

Forums and advertising boards with a lot of non-moderated spam may also be excluded from the SERPs.

To get started with Yandex optimization:

  • Set up your robots.txt file properly
    • Yandex bots are known to be slower at crawling for new content when compared alongside Google - the reason being the different methods of indexing pages. Yandex is gathering new pages in one database, and only after filtering does it put them into users’ search results. On average, Yandex’s update takes about 7 days while Google constantly indexes new pages and sends them to search results simultaneously. However, Yandex respects rules set up in robots.txt so creating a sitemap will help Yandex index your content quicker.

  • Make your URL structure user-friendly
    • The URL structure practices for Yandex are pretty similar to Google:
      • Each page’s URL should be unique
      • Static URLs are preferred
      • Pick important keywords for the URL
      • Refrain from long URLs at best due to indexing
    • Though Yandex understands search queries in either Cyrillic or transliterated (Russian queries written in Latin characters) URLs well enough to provide similar search results, using Cyrillic URLs could be more friendly for your target audience - depending on the terms they use.
    • On the other hand, some content management systems (CMS) are known to have problems with Cyrillic characters in page URLs, so bear that in mind when deciding which to use for your URL structure.
  • Optimize your on-page elements
    • Yandex’s on-page SEO is very similar to Google, with an emphasis on:
      • RelevanceEnsure relevant keywords are used in the:
        • Title tag
        • Meta description tag
        • Meta keywords
        • ALT tags for images
      • Content:
        • Your web content should be unique and of high-quality. Good grammar has to be used as Yandex understands the Russian language very well. Just like Google, fresh relevant content released on a regular basis will take precedence in the SERPs.
      • Internal linking:
        • Create Internal links with optimized anchor texts within your content to create better accessibility and improve search rankings.
      • Site quality:
        • Ensure that there are no broken links, that all your pages work and HTTP statuses are configured correctly. This not only helps Yandex identify your website as a quality website, but it also provides a good user experience for your visitors.
      • Building a high-quality backlinks profile
        • Since September 2015, Yandex has imposed penalties for websites that pay for backlinks through black hat SEO agencies. Like Google, Yandex emphasizes on building backlinks using white-hat SEO techniques as quality link juice is vital to performing well in Yandex’s SERPs.
      • Having proper font sizes for mobile web pages
        • The font size of a mobile page should be at least 12px as Yandex considers that size to be mobile-friendly and will give your page a better ranking in the mobile search results. If the readability of your content on mobile devices is not optimized properly, the rankings in the mobile SERPs will be affected negatively.

Now that you have an understanding of Yandex and what to optimize for, start catering your SEO strategies for Yandex to gain better visibility in Russia. Reach out to your Russian target audience with Yandex.