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Interesting Info From the Yandex Ranking Factor Leak
Russian search engine ranking factors revealed
Search engines keep their official list of ranking factors close to their chest.
The reason is obvious: if everyone knew exactly what they had to do to get to the top of the SERPS, then it would be much easier to game the system.
Google and other search engines don’t want SEOs to manipulate their algorithms. They want sites to “naturally” do the right thing to rise to the top (lol).
Google has confirmed some of their most obvious ranking factors (links, topical relevancy, etc.), but for the most part they’re secret. SEOs have figured out what works through trial and error, but at the end of the day it’s always going to be a bit of a guessing game.
That’s why the Yandex leak is such a big deal.
Last week, a disgruntled employee of the Russian tech company leaked their source code repository as a torrent. Within that repository was a full list of the 1,922 ranking factors that their search engine uses when evaluating websites.
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Most interesting ranking factors from the leak
A lot of the leaked ranking factors are common sense: links, content age/freshness, topical relevancy, etc.
But a few of them surprised me. In the interest of time, I’m going to focus on the ones that are most interesting to me/less obvious.
The leak info is in Russian, but Twitter user Alex Buraks did a good job of translating many of the ranking factors. I’m going to heavily rely on his work for today’s article.
Paid traffic affects your rankings
This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. Why wouldn’t search engines favor people who spend money with them?
Getting traffic from Wikipedia improves your rankings
Wikipedia nofollows all of their external links. Despite that, SEOs have been spending tons of money on links from everyone’s favorite online encyclopedia, assuming that it’ll make their site seem more “legit” in Google’s eyes.
This leak proves that theory to be true: search engines love Wikipedia.
Traffic from Wikipedia links improves your SEO.
End of discussion.
Putting numbers in your URL hurts your rankings
Leaving the year out of your URL slug (e.g. best-vape-pen instead of best-vape-pen-2023) is a best practice. Obviously, you don’t want to date your article in future years.
According to this ranking factor leak, it turns out that it’s not just about having an “old year” in your URL, but that the presence of numbers themselves in the URL is what actually hurts your rankings.
Keep numbers out of your URL.
Older links are more valuable
This one isn’t surprising at all. Everyone knows (and hates) that it takes a LONG time to see results from linkbuilding (usually 4-6 weeks after building the link).
This leak is confirmation. Links that you’ve had for a while help your rankings much more than brand new links.
Updating your content improves rankings
I tell you this all the time: you need to keep your content up to date.
Old content that’s updated regularly performs better in the SERPs. Anyone who’s done it has seen the results for themselves.
Now we have concrete proof.
Quit being lazy.
People searching for your domain improves your rankings
If people are specifically searching for your site often enough then your rankings will improve.
If people are specifically looking for your site, then that’s a sign that it’s high quality and should be rewarded with higher rankings.
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Giving your visitors helpful information improves rankings
Search engines want to reward sites that actually help people with valuable information.
According to this ranking factor leak, if your page is the last one that people click on during a search session then Yandex takes it as a positive signal since it means that you helped the user solve their problem.
Structuring your content using the Inverted Pyramid Method will help you with this ranking factor.
Bookmarks are a ranking factor
If lots of people bookmark a particular page on your site, it will improve your rankings.
If a lot of people view your content as helpful enough that they bookmark it, then Yandex takes it as a sign that your site is valuable enough to move up in the rankings.
Putting Google Maps on your site helps your rankings
The presence of maps on a page is a positive ranking signal.
If you have content about a specific location then you should add Google Maps.
Local businesses and sites in the travel niche should definitely implement this ASAP (even if it didn’t turn out to be a direct ranking factor, it’s obviously helpful for your users).
ALL CAPS in the title is bad for rankings
Putting too many capital letters in your title obviously makes it look spammy as hell.
Think about sites like the Daily Mail that randomly capitalize words in their titles (REVEAED: You may HAVE AIDS if you drink THIS beverage daily” ←yes I made that up).
It’s obviously not behavior associated with reputable sites and search engines aren’t going to reward it.
Of course, that may also mean that it’s better to not capitalize the first letter of each word (i.e. Blog post title instead of Blog Post Title).
Direct traffic improves your rankings
If enough people are directly typing in your URL then that’s obviously a a sign that your site is high-quality since it shows that people remember your site and specifically seek it out.
If all of your traffic comes from SEO organic traffic then of course your site isn’t as valuable as one that people choose to directly visit.
This isn’t something that you can affect with SEO. You have to improve your brand.
Low quality content anywhere on your domain is bad for your rankings
If you have garbage content ANYWHERE on your domain then it causes a sitewide decline in your rankings, even on pages that have high-quality content.
Clean up the garbage on your site or get rid of it.
Less ads is better for your rankings
Too many ads are an eyesore and make viewing your site an unpleasant experience.
The go-to explanation for why it would be bad for SEO is because it affects your bounce rate. If people are getting eye-AIDS from visiting your site then they’ll probably bounce back to the SERPs and look for another page to visit.
Now we know that it’s not just a matter of affecting your bounce rate. The amount of ads on your site is itself a direct ranking factor.
That’s not the full list of leaked ranking factors (there are almost 2k), but they’re the ones that seemed most interesting to me.
If you’re interested in seeing more then I recommend looking at the Yandex Search Factors Explorer to view the full list.
It should go without saying that Yandex and Google are two different search engines. Some of Yandex’s ranking factors may be completely different from what Google uses or may be weighted differently. Unless you’re operating a website in Russia, you can’t completely rely on this leak for your SEO info.
But in general, most search engines are quite similar. If you rank highly in Google then you’ll likely also rank highly in Bing, DuckDuckGo, Brave, etc.
Tons of ex-Google employees work at Yandex. Most people who work for Google are highly intelligent (not including “Day in the Life” TikTokers), so it’s reasonable to assume that they brought their knowledge with them when they transferred over.
I expect that the two search engines aren’t too different behind the scenes.
Again, don’t change every single thing on your site based just on this leak. Use common sense and take the information for what it is.
I’ll see you guys later this week with my next article for paid subscribers.