Back in December last year Yandex revealed it would trial a new ranking algo for commercial queries in the Moscow region.
The most exciting part of the algo would be toning down the backlink signals and boosting the usability signals.
They went ahead with the changes on 12th March and now one month on the results are stable enough to draw conclusions.
I recently published research looking at a few commercial niches "Before" and "After" but here's a short recap of what happened:
- Yandex is good at analysing landing pages, it understands what type of a landing page the visitor expects to see within a certain niche.
- Because of the previous observation, large chunks of over-optimised text have stopped working for most of the commercial queries. If a visitor expects to find property listings and you're giving him an optimised text about benefits of buying property, you won't rank well on Yandex.
- Interactive elements help. Well-positioned interactive elements/tools help to keep the visitors on site.
- Being a real business helps. Behaving as if you're a brick-and-mortar business (phone numbers, addresses, testimonials) seem to have a positive effect on ranking.
- Internal linking matters. Most winners had an optimum number of navigation links (and good site hierarchy), whereas the losers had cluttered footers and busy navigation bars. In some cases nofollowed navigation links were observed on the losers' sites.
- Sites publishing Yandex Direkt ads (alternative to Google Adsense) seem to have a priority.
- Too many ads above fold (unless they are Direkt ads) may negatively affect ranking.
- Sites feeding user data back via Yandex Metrika (alternative to Google Analytics) occasionally suffer a drop in rankings, especially if they're likely to feed back negative signals about visitor satisfaction.
Overall, despite the alleged prioritisation of Yandex Direkt publishers, I think their SERPS have improved quality.
If this experiment is successful, do you think Bing or Google might attempt something similar?