Yandex Hacked! Here’s what we learned about Google…

Yandex Hacked!

On January 25th, the complete source code for Russia’s search engine Yandex was leaked online. It has been leaked by an employee of Yandex named Alex Buraks. Many are calling it the most interesting thing to have happened in SEO in years. In this article, I’m gonna break down everything there is to know about this leak, the shocking ranking factors that were revealed to us, and how you can use it to your advantage to get more traffic on Google.

You can download the factor list from here-

Download factors

The document you’re seeing here is a full list of 1,922 ranking factors in the Yandex search engine. To understand this article, first, you have to see this document. So first of all, download this and check it out.  If you don’t download it, then you will not understand anything about this article.

Why is this so important?

Although Yandex isn’t Google, we can still learn a lot about Google by studying the source code release, more than ever before. According to Alex Buraks ( who leaked these factors), Yandex is chockfull of ex-googlers. They built it as a Google clone and the same SEO tactics that work for Yandex work for Google. If you compare Google versus Yandex results, they’re about a 70% match.

In addition, Yandex is a RankBrain equivalent machine learning algorithm called MatrixNet, and the first damn ranking factor in the leaked document is lo and behold, PAGE_RANK. The same algorithm that made Google Google. That said, take all of this with a grain of salt. Google and Yandex both have machine learning driving their results so there’s more to these 1,922 ranking factors. That said, this is the best insight we’ve ever seen into how these algorithms work.

Now, how do you determine what you’re reading? Let’s look at ranking factor number 135( open the ranking factor file, and you will see many ranking factors and their total list.)

ranking factors of yendex

The name of this factor is denoted by the CppName FI_IS_WIKI. The description of it is in Russian but with a quick trip over to Google Translate, we can see that it means this page is from wikipedia.org. Oh, so yeah, Wikipedia gets a ranking bonus.

I also found this cool Yandex Search Ranking Factor Explorer which already has translated the descriptions into English.

yandex search ranking factor explorer

You can enter a word like social and can see the three ranking factors related to having a verified social network account, traffic from social networks, and social network players. Also, I’d like to give a big shout-out to Alex Buraks whose epic tweet thread I’ll draw upon a lot for the key points in this article.

There’s a lot to discuss so here’s how I’m gonna break things down. We’ll start with the ranking factor highlights

that have to do with traffic. Then we’ll get into user behavior and how that relates to search performance. Then your best friend, backlinks. After that, we’ll get onto onsite optimization, technical SEO, and some miscellaneous factors that don’t make sense at all.

But first, let’s look at some greatest hits. Michael King looked at the weighting of the ranking factors from the worst negative ranking factors to the best positive ranking factors. Let’s look at some of the highlights, starting with the worst of the worst.

FI_ADV has the highest negative ranking weight and it has to do with how much advertising you have on your page.

If you have a page layout like this, it will make your viewers throw up in their mouths and the search engine will too. FI_DATER_AGE is a negative ranking factor if your article is over 10 years old or if its age can’t be determined. So get date metadata in your content.

yandex ranking factors

FI_COMM_LINKS_SEO_HOSTS is a negative ranking factor when you have more than 50% commercial anchor text. Now onto some of the most positive ranking factors.

FI_IS_COM gives a ranking boost to .com domains. I guess that settles that debate.

yandex ranking factor

FI_QUERY_DOWNER_CLICKS_COMBO is a combination of click-through rates in something known as FRC. We’ll explore this later.

yandex ranking factor

And this last one, URL_DOMAIN_FRACTION gives a ton of ranking love to the presence of the keyword in the domain name.

Traffic

Let’s take a deeper dive into the category of traffic, which I find super interesting because many SEOs don’t think about traffic as a major ranking factor.  Alex Buraks’ translations revealed some interesting findings.

yandex ranking factor

This basically means the more traffic you have, the more ranking power your site has. That’s super clear. That’s why you should always target easy keywords first, and get their small traffic before moving on to more challenging keywords. 

ranking factor

And check this out. Ranking factor Beast Host Means Pos, cool name. It means that the average position your site has for its keywords is a ranking factor. Don’t try to go for keywords that are out of your league. You’ll rank poorly for them, which will hurt your overall site’s ability to rank.

yandex ranking factor

The next one is a trip. If the percentage of traffic you get from search engines is too high, that can be viewed as a negative ranking factor. You actually don’t want to have 100% Google traffic. If your website is getting social media traffic or you’re buying ads, that’s a good thing. Both of these situations show that a real business is being run, not just a spammy SEO project. 

yandex ranking factor

This is further confirmed with a ranking factor of 1087, which gives you a boost when you have a higher percentage of direct visits. When people type in wordpressjournal.net and go directly to my site, that means they return visitors and fans of my content.

yandex ranking factor

It’s also confirmed with a ranking factor of 1367 which awards sites with a healthy percentage of traffic from social networks. After all, if it’s talked about on social media, there must be something noteworthy about the site. That’s why I always put an emphasis on having a social media presence on my projects. 

User Behaviour 

Now let’s get into user behavior ranking factors. The first one is super important as I’ve been talking about it a lot recently on this blog. Google wants your content to end the user’s search journey.  That’s why when you hit back on your browser. you’re sometimes asked, “how easy was it to find what you wanted on this site?” Yandex feels the same. You get rewarded when they can determine that your content was the last destination in a chain of hops. 

So do what you can to answer the search query fast and clearly in your content. We touched upon this before, but when visitors return to your site, specifically within the same month, that’s a positive ranking factor. One of my favorite ways to get visitors back to my site is with an email list and email marketing, every time you publish new content, send an email to your list to get your fans back to your site and read your content. I have a special bonus module on email marketing in the Affiliate Lab so make sure to check it out.

Next, just look at how many of these ranking factors have CTR and click-through rate in the name. Make your titles interesting and clickable from the search results. 

 

Backlinks

Now we get to everyone’s favorite SEO subject and that’s backlinks.

yandex ranking factor

Ranking factors 84 and 85 give weight to the percentage of good links you have versus the percentage of bad links you have. Unfortunately, they don’t define good links versus bad links but if you ask me, stick to links from quality websites with traffic and never sleep on methods like digital PR link building, which I’ll get to in an upcoming article, so make sure to visit us again. 

Another way to define good links is to get them from the top 100 best websites ordered by page rank or at least get links from sites that they’re linking to. Link age is also a ranking factor. That’s why you should always add link-building to your SEO plan from day one. Also, don’t worry about getting multiple links from a website you’ve already got a link from. 

They get discounted. Alex found another interesting one as well. Backlink anchors contain all the words of the query. How I interpret this is if you’re trying to rank for best cat shaver and you have one link with the anchor best products and another link with the anchor cat shavers, between the two of them, you have the full keyword. nice. 

Then we verified social accounts as a ranking factor. So maybe there’s an actual benefit for Twitter Blue now outside of showing off. 

 

Onsite Optimization

Let’s move on to onsite optimization, the most extensive of these ranking factor categories- RankArtroz. If you have poor-quality content on your site, that will actually bring down the rankability of the high-quality content on your site.  So go back to that crap you wrote five years ago and give it a content refresh. The Google helpful content update guidelines say the same thing, any content, not just unhelpful content on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in search.

Next, we have some damn specific ranking factors related to URLs. Don’t have digits in your URLs. Don’t have too many slashes in your URLs. Too much directory hierarchy is a bad thing. And thank you, Captain Obvious, put keywords in your URLs. We also have a word count, which seems to be important, and as Alex pointed out, the age of your content, as well as the last update date, are important as well.

So write content sooner rather than later and update it frequently, Make sure to link your main pages, like your homepage and your pillar hub pages to any other important content you wanna rank.  Embed maps on your page if relevant. For example, a travel website reviewing a hotel would be wise to embed a map. Or for my sites, I’ll put map embeds on my contact and about pages.  And for the love of all that is holy, make sure your website doesn’t have any broken video embeds. There are plenty of WordPress plugins that will scan your site for these. 

Technical SEO

Next, let’s get techy with it with some technical SEO ranking factors. Reduce the number of 400 client errors and 500 server errors on your site. The search engines will think you’re a bum. Reduce the crawl depth for any page you care about ranking. 

In general, no important page to be more than two clicks away from the homepage, and if you leave a page orphaned from internal links completely, you might as well leave it for dead. 

 

Miscellaneous Ranking factors

Now let’s get into some miscellaneous ranking factors. Got any traffic from Wikipedia? That’s a ranking factor, believe it or not. Do people bookmark your website? That’s a ranking factor too.  In case you don’t know how to do that, head over to wordpressjournal.net. Click the star next to the search bar on Google Chrome and you’re all set. 

site bookmark

And here’s a  random factor for commercial websites. So if you’re an affiliate marketer like me and can’t understand why is this website ranking over me? Blame the search engine RNG. As we discussed before, Yandex is not Google and it’s been further pointed out that 244 of these ranking factors have been removed and 988 have been depreciated or upgraded. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the release of Yandex’s search engine ranking factors provides valuable insights into the factors that search engines consider when ranking websites. While the factors may differ slightly from those used by other search engines such as Google, understanding Yandex’s ranking factors can help website owners and SEO specialists to optimize their websites for better rankings in search engine results pages. By applying the insights gained from Yandex’s ranking factors, website owners can improve their website’s visibility and increase traffic to their site. Ultimately, this can lead to increased engagement, conversions, and revenue for the website.

But the point is we can still learn more from this leak than has ever been revealed before. Thanks for reading. Make sure to check out our other articles for more just like this one.

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