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9 Tactics to Increase Brand Awareness (Tried & Tested)

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9 Tactics to Increase Brand Awareness (Tried & Tested)

One of the best ways to make anyone buy from you is to make them aware of your brand and products before they even start considering the purchase.

Countless tactics can increase your brand awareness. Technically, any piece of your marketing communication can be the first time someone from your target audience hears about you. But we’ll focus only on what’s truly impactful here.

Let’s go through nine tried and tested ways to increase your brand awareness.

1. Implement a search-focused content marketing strategy

If people are searching for information surrounding your products (they most likely are), your website should be present in the search results.

The great thing about organic search traffic is that it’s one of the few channels with the potential to influence your target audience throughout the whole marketing funnel: 

How marketing funnels work

We’re naturally interested in the top of the funnel (ToFu) here, so you need to create the type of content people search for when they start getting information about the industry you’re in.

Keyword examples across the funnel

This is where keyword research comes into play.

Keyword research is the process of discovering valuable search queries that your target customers type into search engines like Google to look for products, services, and information.

You start with a keyword research tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and plug in a few seed words that define your niche:

Seed keywords in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Next, head over to the Matching terms report to see all keywords containing the “seed” keywords from the input:

Matching terms report in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

As you can see, over 4 million keywords contain those seed phrases. Now it’s all about filtering and choosing which keywords you’ll target with a great piece of content.

In this case, I’m going for keywords that:

  • Have a maximum Keyword Difficulty (KD) of 40, so they shouldn’t be too difficult to rank for.
  • Have a Traffic Potential (TP) of at least 500 clicks a month.
  • Include terms that signal searchers are looking for the type of informational content we’re planning to create.

Voilá, I narrowed the list down to ~8,500 keywords:

Matching terms report with filters applied

The last filter to apply here is common sense. Always think about how relevant the topic is to your brand. Can the potential visitor ever become your customer? For example, suppose you’re selling fancy equipment for making espressos. In that case, people looking up “what is espresso” aren’t likely to ever become your target audience.

Head on to the following guides to learn more about researching keywords and creating content:

2. React to media inquiries to kickstart your PR

The purpose of public relations is to positively influence how a brand is perceived. There’s no doubt that communications with the media and the general public should be in your arsenal for increasing brand awareness.

Getting started with PR can seem terrifying. Journalists are swamped with emails and topics they could write about. You must truly deserve the media attention.

But every writer needs expert contributions for their content once in a while. You can be that expert in your niche, and it’s a great way to get your foot in the door of the bigger PR game.

All you need to do is to subscribe to a feed of media inquiries via services like HARO, SourceBottle, or Terkel.

Here’s what one of these feeds looks like with HARO:

HARO feed example

Your goal is to provide valuable information as fast as possible whenever you see a good opportunity.

The competition, especially on HARO, can be fierce. Here are a few tips to start off on the right foot:

  • Only respond to requests where you or your colleagues are experts on that topic Forget it if you don’t know your stuff.
  • Stick to the requirements – Journalists sometimes require specific formats or information about your credentials.
  • Try to provide the answer ASAP – You could subscribe to a premium HARO tier for $49/month to give you a head start before other users get the email feed.
  • Check the publication’s authority and history Some companies exploit the potential to get expert contributions easily, so you should be able to identify and ignore these.

Let’s expand on that last point a little. You should always know who you’re responding to so you can make sure the eventual coverage is worth the effort. That means ignoring anonymous inquiries and separating the wheat from the chaff.

If you’re unfamiliar with the company next to the inquiry, look up its website and review a few of its recent posts. Let’s take a look at a specific website example I just came across in the HARO feed:

Checking websites from the HARO feed

What immediately catches my attention here is the large “listicle” post. Since journalists and bloggers tend to feature multiple, sometimes even tens of HARO contributors, you can look for patterns in the titles like a large listicle number or “shared by experts.”

In this case, the large listicle post wasn’t created from HARO contributions. The rest of the articles don’t look sourced from HARO either. You don’t want to see a significant number of posts that include these contributions, as it dilutes the benefits you get from the coverage and backlink to your website. This particular website gets a pass on the content-sourcing front.

Another way to assess how valuable the coverage could be is to look at the website’s backlink profile strength. Generally speaking, the more it’s linked to from authoritative websites (ideally in your niche), the more valuable the backlink is for you.

The website’s Domain Rating (DR) is a good proxy metric for this particular use, which you can see with Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar

Quickly assessing a website's backlink profile strength

Simply, the higher the DR, the better. As a rule of thumb for English websites, you can exclude anything below DR 50 unless the website looks relevant to your niche and the content is of high quality.

3. Incentivize and influence word of mouth

In all, 14,000 new customers in 2020 told us they learned about Ahrefs from their friends:

Word-of-mouth recommendations

We can’t fully control it, but trying to incentivize and influence people to bring up Ahrefs in their discussions clearly has vast benefits. This process is known as word-of-mouth marketing.

Research from Nielsen shows that 83% of people trust recommendations from friends and family. It’s simply the most trustworthy and authentic marketing channel. No matter how great your marketing communication is, you can’t beat it.

The number one thing that nudges people to talk positively about a particular brand is a superb customer experience. Most of it consists of having a great product, but the entire buying process and customer service can’t be neglected. Only when you have these will proper marketing communication make it all work effectively:

In essence, word-of-mouth marketing is about properly managing your brand, communication, and product marketing once you have a product people love. To be more specific, here are four tactics to consider using:

  1. Make your product a natural part of your content – Referring back to the “espresso equipment” example, listing some of the products you sell for topics like “how to tamp espresso” or “espresso distribution” provides value to the reader.
  2. Create and distribute educational content – This helps your customers use your products better.
  3. Encourage customers to create and share content around your product – Here, we’re talking about social media posts, articles, photos, videos, etc. Think creative campaigns, affiliate marketing, or community hashtags. This brings us to…
  4. Build an engaged community within your target audience It takes time, but it’s worth it. 

On top of that, apply all suitable tactics to increase your brand awareness listed throughout this guide. Word of mouth is a by-product of improving brand awareness, leading to further increase. It’s like a flywheel.

Learn more: Word-of-Mouth Marketing: A Simple Tried & Tested Guide

4. Be visible across all review platforms and directory listings

People usually check the experiences of others when they’re close to making a purchase. But your brand’s visibility throughout all relevant directory listings and review platforms impacts their product choices even before they get to that stage.

For example, here are just a few of the terms the biggest software review platform, G2, ranks for in Google’s top positions:

G2 ranks well for some highly competitive CRM keywords

People looking up these keywords could still be considered at the top of the funnel. They’re likely aware of some of the problems CRMs solve but are just getting into specific products and brands. Being listed among the top CRM solutions on these category landing pages has obvious benefits.

CRM category page on G2

And this is far from the only page and way these platforms can showcase your brand. 

For example, you can pop up on competitors’ profiles in specific sections:

CRM comparison section on a specific brand's page

Of course, getting into the top 10 among 800+ listings is naturally a challenging task. You must set up processes to gather reviews and adequately manage your online reputation. Getting a paid plan with the review platform can make things easier.

Fortunately, you can also apply these practices to many different platforms and directories. They also tend to work on similar principles because it makes sense to show the most relevant results that are the most popular:

Local listing recommendations

Not sure if you’ve already got a profile on every important platform? Enter your domain into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, go to the Link Intersect tool, and fill in as many competitors as possible (the Organic competitors report can help with that).

Link Intersect tool example

You’ll get a list of websites that link to your competitors but not you. Play around with the number of intersections and filters and try to spot the directories:

Directories found in Link Intersect tool

PRO TIP

Once you grasp SEO and online reputation management, you can dive into entity SEO. This is where you optimize how Google perceives your brand and products to (hopefully) become an entity in Google’s Knowledge Graph.

This can significantly impact your branded searches as you get more estate on the SERPs. And similarly to the platforms listed above, you’ll also be present in sections like “related searches”:

Related searches feature in Google is full of entities

5. Talk at industry events

I’ve attended many marketing and SEO events over the years. If there’s a speaker with a talk that excites me, then it’s easy to get into my head. I sometimes even try to learn more about the speaker and their company. 

Others may not do the same. But one thing is for sure—people prefer engaging with other people, not brands. Speaking at events and encouraging your colleagues to do the same have many benefits:

  • It increases awareness from both marketing and employer branding perspectives.
  • It increases employee retention and satisfaction from building their own personal brands.
  • It helps you become an authority in your niche.
  • It helps you build more personalized relationships with your current and potential customers.
  • It can often trigger social media mentions, event reports, mentions in articles, etc.

At Ahrefs, we have many people across different teams and countries speaking and networking at events. We try to reap all the benefits listed above.

Josh from Ahrefs speaking at BrightonSEO
My colleague, Joshua Hardwick, speaking on the main stage of BrightonSEO in April 2022.

If you’re starting from scratch here, it’s better to test the waters at smaller, local events. You’ll need a solid speaking portfolio or something extraordinary to share to land a gig on the biggest stages anyway.

First, discover topics and styles that resonate with your audience. Forget sales pitches and try to provide as much value as possible. Listen to the audience’s feedback.

Second, take your time before hitting bigger stages. Practicing, getting good references, and building confidence are key things to getting there. I still get the jittery feeling even though it’s been a few years since I first spoke in front of 100+ people. A certain level of stress and anxiety apparently never goes away, no matter how experienced you are.

And last but not least, you’ll start getting a lot of speaking invitations once you get on the right path. Be ruthless with choosing the right events. Ask past participants for references. Make sure it has value for you and your company.

A big chunk of our marketing budget goes toward sponsoring podcasts, events, and newsletters.

You may have noticed our huge logo in the last image. We’re trying to squeeze the most out of the biggest SEO conference by being the main sponsor, speaking on the main stage, and having a big booth there:

Events aside, here’s what our sponsorship looks like in newsletters:

Ahrefs sponsorship of the Ariyh newsletter

You can even go with the more traditional approach of sponsoring events for the masses. It all depends on your product, positioning, audience, and budget. Anything from local football matches to the Super Bowl can work.

Learn more: Podcast Advertising: $51,975 Spent. Here’s What We Learned

7. Have brand ambassadors

A brand ambassador is anyone who’s regularly in the spotlight representing a company. This is often an employee with the power to influence the community, but you can form these long-term partnerships with anyone. You probably follow influencers who’ve been promoting certain products for years.

For example, at Ahrefs, we have Patrick Stox as our brand ambassador:

Patrick Stox as Ahrefs' brand ambassador

And then we have many customers keen to recommend our products to others. Some of them evolve from fans influencing word of mouth to brand ambassadors via sponsorships:

Sponsoring a podcast of a huge fan of the Ahrefs product

See how this intertwines with some of the tactics we’ve already gone through?

Go through your customer database and try to spot influential people in your niche. Check communication history, whether they already mentioned you somewhere, and then create a shortlist of the best candidates for this.

Of course, the prerequisite is to have a superb product. You can pay some influencers to promote basically anything, but many people can spot dishonest recommendations from miles away. And yes, even ketchup can be apparently a superb product: 

To sum it up, influencer marketing should be in your arsenal, and using brand ambassadors is an excellent approach to this.

8. Partner with other brands

Some brands share values and common traits among their audiences. Joining forces to appeal to both customer bases can work across niches for win-win campaigns.

The easiest way to get started with this is by co-creating content. Here’s an example of me doing a webinar with Kontent, which is a headless CMS:

Co-branded webinar between Ahrefs and Kontent

Ahrefs is the authority in SEO the Kontent team needs for this topic. Kontent’s audience consists of potential enterprise-level leads for us where 45 minutes of brand and product exposure has great value. It’s a win-win.

That said, the most impactful co-branding campaigns for brand awareness are co-branded products.

The best example of a successful co-branded product I can recall from the past few years is a MoonSwatch:

At the time of writing, MoonSwatches are still widely unavailable eight months after their release. People who wouldn’t buy an Omega stood in long lines together with wealthy watch fans who’d likely never wear a regular Swatch on their wrists.

In this case, both brands are owned by the same company. But chances are you don’t have a portfolio of complementary brands at your disposal. So here are two main methods of discovering the right brands to partner with.

The first is to enhance your market research data with other products your customers and audience like using.

The second is to use an audience insights tool like SparkToro. It will show you social media accounts and websites that your audience also follows and visits:

Using SparkToro to find opportunities for co-branding campaigns

Simply filter out your competitors and see if any remaining companies fit the bill.

Learn more: For Omega and Swatch, the Rewards of Co-branding Could Be Astronomical

9. Run ads in mass media

I saved the most tried and tested tactic for increasing brand awareness for last. 

Ads in mass media have been with us forever. TV ad spending in North America alone was $64.7 billion in 2021. And countless studies and data support that mass media advertising works.

Chart showing that mass media channels still thrive

Of course, don’t go and spend 90% of your marketing budget to run national TV ads if you’re a B2B startup. But even smaller companies with very specific target audiences can use mass media properly.

All mass media channels, except TV, can be used to target a specific audience. Most of it comes from location targeting. If your target segment is tech companies, you can, for example, buy a few billboards in technological hubs. 

Here are two notable examples from Silicon Valley:

Twilio billboard in Silicon Valley
Source: Wired

These may be closer to PR stunts, but you get the gist. You can also buy ads on local radios, newspapers, airports frequently visited by your target audience, etc. 

Final thoughts

Increasing brand awareness is one of the end goals of brand management. It’s a whole marketing discipline, so we barely touched the surface here and covered just the last mile.

The tactics you choose to increase your brand awareness should always stem from a proper marketing strategy. Its components regarding brand management include:

  • Appealing to your target audience with a brand’s positioning (the way they should perceive your brand and products).
  • Developing and consistently using multiple brand assets (logos, specific colors, fonts, slogans, mascots, etc.) in your communications to make your brand stand out and easy to recognize.
  • Committing a significant portion of your marketing budget and resources to brand-building activities.
  • Setting strategic objectives, including a proper way to measure progress.

Take this as a quick introduction to topics related to the effectiveness of brand awareness campaigns. Remember: the sooner you start executing, the better. You can always polish the processes later. I’ll leave you with a few resources that will help you do that:

Got any questions? Ping me on Twitter.



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Google Updates Structured Data Guidance To Clarify Supported Formats

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Google Updates Structured Data Guidance To Clarify Supported Formats

Google updated the structured data guidance to better emphasize that all three structured data formats are acceptable to Google and also explain why JSON-LD is is recommended.

The updated Search Central page that was updated is the Supported Formats section of the Introduction to structured data markup in Google Search webpage.

The most important changes were to add a new section title (Supported Formats), and to expand that section with an explanation of supported structured data formats.

Three Structured Data Formats

Google supports three structured data formats.

  1. JSON-LD
  2. Microdata
  3. RDFa

But only one of the above formats, JSON-LD, is recommended.

According to the documentation, the other two formats (Microdata and RDFa) are still fine to use. The update to the documentation explains why JSON-LD is recommended.

Google also made a minor change to a title of a preceding section to reflect that the section addresses structured data vocabulary

The original section title, Structured data format, is now Structured data vocabulary and format.

Google added a section title the section that offers guidance on Google’s preferred structured data format.

This is also the section with the most additional text added to it.

New Supported Formats Section Title

The updated content explains why Google prefers the JSON-LD structured data format, while confirming that the other two formats are acceptable.

Previously this section contained just two sentences:

“Google Search supports structured data in the following formats, unless documented otherwise:

Google recommends using JSON-LD for structured data whenever possible.”

The updated section now has the following content:

“Google Search supports structured data in the following formats, unless documented otherwise.

In general, we recommend using a format that’s easiest for you to implement and maintain (in most cases, that’s JSON-LD); all 3 formats are equally fine for Google, as long as the markup is valid and properly implemented per the feature’s documentation.

In general, Google recommends using JSON-LD for structured data if your site’s setup allows it, as it’s the easiest solution for website owners to implement and maintain at scale (in other words, less prone to user errors).”

Structured Data Formats

JSON-LD is arguably the easiest structured data format to implement, the easiest to scale, and the most straightforward to edit.

Most, if not all, WordPress SEO and structured data plugins output JSON-LD structured data.

Nevertheless, it’s a useful update to Google’s structured data guidance in order to make it clear that all three formats are still supported.

Google’s documentation on the change can be read here.

Featured image by Shutterstock/Olena Zaskochenko



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Ranking Factors & The Myths We Found

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Ranking Factors & The Myths We Found

Yandex is the search engine with the majority of market share in Russia and the fourth-largest search engine in the world.

On January 27, 2023, it suffered what is arguably one of the largest data leaks that a modern tech company has endured in many years – but is the second leak in less than a decade.

In 2015, a former Yandex employee attempted to sell Yandex’s search engine code on the black market for around $30,000.

The initial leak in January this year revealed 1,922 ranking factors, of which more than 64% were listed as unused or deprecated (superseded and best avoided).

This leak was just the file labeled kernel, but as the SEO community and I delved deeper, more files were found that combined contain approximately 17,800 ranking factors.

When it comes to practicing SEO for Yandex, the guide I wrote two years ago, for the most part, still applies.

Yandex, like Google, has always been public with its algorithm updates and changes, and in recent years, how it has adopted machine learning.

Notable updates from the past two-three years include:

  • Vega (which doubled the size of the index).
  • Mimicry (penalizing fake websites impersonating brands).
  • Y1 update (introducing YATI).
  • Y2 update (late 2022).
  • Adoption of IndexNow.
  • A fresh rollout and assumed update of the PF filter.

On a personal note, this data leak is like a second Christmas.

Since January 2020, I’ve run an SEO news website as a hobby dedicated to covering Yandex SEO and search news in Russia with 600+ articles, so this is probably the peak event of the hobby site.

I’ve also spoken twice at the Optimization conference – the largest SEO conference in Russia.

This is also a good test to see how closely Yandex’s public statements match the codebase secrets.

In 2019, working with Yandex’s PR team, I was able to interview engineers in their Search team and ask a number of questions sourced from the wider Western SEO community.

You can read the interview with the Yandex Search team here.

Whilst Yandex is primarily known for its presence in Russia, the search engine also has a presence in Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Georgia.

The data leak was believed to be politically motivated and the actions of a rogue employee, and contains a number of code fragments from Yandex’s monolithic repository, Arcadia.

Within the 44GB of leaked data, there’s information relating to a number of Yandex products including Search, Maps, Mail, Metrika, Disc, and Cloud.

What Yandex Has Had To Say

As I write this post (January 31st, 2023), Yandex has publicly stated that:

the contents of the archive (leaked code base) correspond to the outdated version of the repository – it differs from the current version used by our services

And:

It is important to note that the published code fragments also contain test algorithms that were used only within Yandex to verify the correct operation of the services.

So, how much of this code base is actively used is questionable.

Yandex has also revealed that during its investigation and audit, it found a number of errors that violate its own internal principles, so it is likely that portions of this leaked code (that are in current use) may be changing in the near future.

Factor Classification

Yandex classifies its ranking factors into three categories.

This has been outlined in Yandex’s public documentation for some time, but I feel is worth including here, as it better helps us understand the ranking factor leak.

  • Static factors – Factors that are related directly to the website (e.g. inbound backlinks, inbound internal links, headers, and ads ratio).
  • Dynamic factors – Factors that are related to both the website and the search query (e.g. text relevance, keyword inclusions, TF*IDF).
  • User search-related factors – Factors relating to the user query (e.g. where is the user located, query language, and intent modifiers).

The ranking factors in the document are tagged to match the corresponding category, with TG_STATIC and TG_DYNAMIC, and then TG_QUERY_ONLY, TG_QUERY, TG_USER_SEARCH, and TG_USER_SEARCH_ONLY.

Yandex Leak Learnings So Far

From the data thus far, below are some of the affirmations and learnings we’ve been able to make.

There is so much data in this leak, it is very likely that we will be finding new things and making new connections in the next few weeks.

These include:

  • PageRank (a form of).
  • At some point Yandex utilized TF*IDF.
  • Yandex still uses meta keywords, which are also highlighted in its documentation.
  • Yandex has specific factors for medical, legal, and financial topics (YMYL).
  • It also uses a form of page quality scoring, but this is known (ICS score).
  • Links from high-authority websites have an impact on rankings.
  • There’s nothing new to suggest Yandex can crawl JavaScript yet outside of already publicly documented processes.
  • Server errors and excessive 4xx errors can impact ranking.
  • The time of day is taken into consideration as a ranking factor.

Below, I’ve expanded on some other affirmations and learnings from the leak.

Where possible, I’ve also tied these leaked ranking factors to the algorithm updates and announcements that relate to them, or where we were told about them being impactful.

MatrixNet

MatrixNet is mentioned in a few of the ranking factors and was announced in 2009, and then superseded in 2017 by Catboost, which was rolled out across the Yandex product sphere.

This further adds validity to comments directly from Yandex, and one of the factor authors DenPlusPlus (Den Raskovalov), that this is, in fact, an outdated code repository.

MatrixNet was originally introduced as a new, core algorithm that took into consideration thousands of ranking factors and assigned weights based on the user location, the actual search query, and perceived search intent.

It is typically seen as an early version of Google’s RankBrain, when they are indeed two very different systems. MatrixNet was launched six years before RankBrain was announced.

MatrixNet has also been built upon, which isn’t surprising, given it is now 14 years old.

In 2016, Yandex introduced the Palekh algorithm that used deep neural networks to better match documents (webpages) and queries, even if they didn’t contain the right “levels” of common keywords, but satisfied the user intents.

Palekh was capable of processing 150 pages at a time, and in 2017 was updated with the Korolyov update, which took into account more depth of page content, and could work off 200,000 pages at once.

URL & Page-Level Factors

From the leak, we have learned that Yandex takes into consideration URL construction, specifically:

  • The presence of numbers in the URL.
  • The number of trailing slashes in the URL (and if they are excessive).
  • The number of capital letters in the URL is a factor.
Screenshot from author, January 2023

The age of a page (document age) and the last updated date are also important, and this makes sense.

As well as document age and last update, a number of factors in the data relate to freshness – particularly for news-related queries.

Yandex formerly used timestamps, specifically not for ranking purposes but “reordering” purposes, but this is now classified as unused.

Also in the deprecated column are the use of keywords in the URL. Yandex has previously measured that three keywords from the search query in the URL would be an “optimal” result.

Internal Links & Crawl Depth

Whilst Google has gone on the record to say that for its purposes, crawl depth isn’t explicitly a ranking factor, Yandex appears to have an active piece of code that dictates that URLs that are reachable from the homepage have a “higher” level of importance.

Yandex factorsScreenshot from author, January 2023

This mirrors John Mueller’s 2018 statement that Google gives “a little more weight” to pages found more than one click from the homepage.

The ranking factors also highlight a specific token weighting for webpages that are “orphans” within the website linking structure.

Clicks & CTR

In 2011, Yandex released a blog post talking about how the search engine uses clicks as part of its rankings and also addresses the desires of the SEO pros to manipulate the metric for ranking gain.

Specific click factors in the leak look at things like:

  • The ratio of the number of clicks on the URL, relative to all clicks on the search.
  • The same as above, but broken down by region.
  • How often do users click on the URL for the search?

Manipulating Clicks

Manipulating user behavior, specifically “click-jacking”, is a known tactic within Yandex.

Yandex has a filter, known as the PF filter, that actively seeks out and penalizes websites that engage in this activity using scripts that monitor IP similarities and then the “user actions” of those clicks – and the impact can be significant.

The below screenshot shows the impact on organic sessions (сессии) after being penalized for imitating user clicks.

Image Source: Russian Search NewsImage from Russian Search News, January 2023

User Behavior

The user behavior takeaways from the leak are some of the more interesting findings.

User behavior manipulation is a common SEO violation that Yandex has been combating for years. At the 2020 Optimization conference, then Head of Yandex Webmaster Tools Mikhail Slevinsky said the company is making good progress in detecting and penalizing this type of behavior.

Yandex penalizes user behavior manipulation with the same PF filter used to combat CTR manipulation.

Dwell Time

102 of the ranking factors contain the tag TG_USERFEAT_SEARCH_DWELL_TIME, and reference the device, user duration, and average page dwell time.

All but 39 of these factors are deprecated.

Yandex factorsScreenshot from author, January 2023

Bing first used the term Dwell time in a 2011 blog, and in recent years Google has made it clear that it doesn’t use dwell time (or similar user interaction signals) as ranking factors.

YMYL

YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) is a concept well-known within Google and is not a new concept to Yandex.

Within the data leak, there are specific ranking factors for medical, legal, and financial content that exist – but this was notably revealed in 2019 at the Yandex Webmaster conference when it announced the Proxima Search Quality Metric.

Metrika Data Usage

Six of the ranking factors relate to the usage of Metrika data for the purposes of ranking. However, one of them is tagged as deprecated:

  • The number of similar visitors from the YandexBar (YaBar/Ябар).
  • The average time spent on URLs from those same similar visitors.
  • The “core audience” of pages on which there is a Metrika counter [deprecated].
  • The average time a user spends on a host when accessed externally (from another non-search site) from a specific URL.
  • Average ‘depth’ (number of hits within the host) of a user’s stay on the host when accessed externally (from another non-search site) from a particular URL.
  • Whether or not the domain has Metrika installed.

In Metrika, user data is handled differently.

Unlike Google Analytics, there are a number of reports focused on user “loyalty” combining site engagement metrics with return frequency, duration between visits, and source of the visit.

For example, I can see a report in one click to see a breakdown of individual site visitors:

MetrikaScreenshot from Metrika, January 2023

Metrika also comes “out of the box” with heatmap tools and user session recording, and in recent years the Metrika team has made good progress in being able to identify and filter bot traffic.

With Google Analytics, there is an argument that Google doesn’t use UA/GA4 data for ranking purposes because of how easy it is to modify or break the tracking code – but with Metrika counters, they are a lot more linear, and a lot of the reports are unchangeable in terms of how the data is collected.

Impact Of Traffic On Rankings

Following on from looking at Metrika data as a ranking factor; These factors effectively confirm that direct traffic and paid traffic (buying ads via Yandex Direct) can impact organic search performance:

  • Share of direct visits among all incoming traffic.
  • Green traffic share (aka direct visits) – Desktop.
  • Green traffic share (aka direct visits) – Mobile.
  • Search traffic – transitions from search engines to the site.
  • Share of visits to the site not by links (set by hand or from bookmarks).
  • The number of unique visitors.
  • Share of traffic from search engines.

News Factors

There are a number of factors relating to “News”, including two that mention Yandex.News directly.

Yandex.News was an equivalent of Google News, but was sold to the Russian social network VKontakte in August 2022, along with another Yandex product “Zen”.

So, it’s not clear if these factors related to a product no longer owned or operated by Yandex, or to how news websites are ranked in “regular” search.

Backlink Importance

Yandex has similar algorithms to combat link manipulation as Google – and has since the Nepot filter in 2005.

From reviewing the backlink ranking factors and some of the specifics in the descriptions, we can assume that the best practices for building links for Yandex SEO would be to:

  • Build links with a more natural frequency and varying amounts.
  • Build links with branded anchor texts as well as use commercial keywords.
  • If buying links, avoid buying links from websites that have mixed topics.

Below is a list of link-related factors that can be considered affirmations of best practices:

  • The age of the backlink is a factor.
  • Link relevance based on topics.
  • Backlinks built from homepages carry more weight than internal pages.
  • Links from the top 100 websites by PageRank (PR) can impact rankings.
  • Link relevance based on the quality of each link.
  • Link relevance, taking into account the quality of each link, and the topic of each link.
  • Link relevance, taking into account the non-commercial nature of each link.
  • Percentage of inbound links with query words.
  • Percentage of query words in links (up to a synonym).
  • The links contain all the words of the query (up to a synonym).
  • Dispersion of the number of query words in links.

However, there are some link-related factors that are additional considerations when planning, monitoring, and analyzing backlinks:

  • The ratio of “good” versus “bad” backlinks to a website.
  • The frequency of links to the site.
  • The number of incoming SEO trash links between hosts.

The data leak also revealed that the link spam calculator has around 80 active factors that are taken into consideration, with a number of deprecated factors.

This creates the question as to how well Yandex is able to recognize negative SEO attacks, given it looks at the ratio of good versus bad links, and how it determines what a bad link is.

A negative SEO attack is also likely to be a short burst (high frequency) link event in which a site will unwittingly gain a high number of poor quality, non-topical, and potentially over-optimized links.

Yandex uses machine learning models to identify Private Blog Networks (PBNs) and paid links, and it makes the same assumption between link velocity and the time period they are acquired.

Typically, paid-for links are generated over a longer period of time, and these patterns (including link origin site analysis) are what the Minusinsk update (2015) was introduced to combat.

Yandex Penalties

There are two ranking factors, both deprecated, named SpamKarma and Pessimization.

Pessimization refers to reducing PageRank to zero and aligns with the expectations of severe Yandex penalties.

SpamKarma also aligns with assumptions made around Yandex penalizing hosts and individuals, as well as individual domains.

Onpage Advertising

There are a number of factors relating to advertising on the page, some of them deprecated (like the screenshot example below).

Yandex factorsScreenshot from author, January 2023

It’s not known from the description exactly what the thought process with this factor was, but it could be assumed that a high ratio of adverts to visible screen was a negative factor – much like how Google takes umbrage if adverts obfuscate the page’s main content, or are obtrusive.

Tying this back to known Yandex mechanisms, the Proxima update also took into consideration the ratio of useful and advertising content on a page.

Can We Apply Any Yandex Learnings To Google?

Yandex and Google are disparate search engines, with a number of differences, despite the tens of engineers who have worked for both companies.

Because of this fight for talent, we can infer that some of these master builders and engineers will have built things in a similar fashion (though not direct copies), and applied learnings from previous iterations of their builds with their new employers.

What Russian SEO Pros Are Saying About The Leak

Much like the Western world, SEO professionals in Russia have been having their say on the leak across the various Runet forums.

The reaction in these forums has been different to SEO Twitter and Mastodon, with a focus more on Yandex’s filters, and other Yandex products that are optimized as part of wider Yandex optimization campaigns.

It is also worth noting that a number of conclusions and findings from the data match what the Western SEO world is also finding.

Common themes in the Russian search forums:

  • Webmasters asking for insights into recent filters, such as Mimicry and the updated PF filter.
  • The age and relevance of some of the factors, due to author names no longer being at Yandex, and mentions of long-retired Yandex products.
  • The main interesting learnings are around the use of Metrika data, and information relating to the Crawler & Indexer.
  • A number of factors outline the usage of DSSM, which in theory was superseded by the release of Palekh in 2016. This was a search algorithm utilizing machine learning, announced by Yandex in 2016.
  • A debate around ICS scoring in Yandex, and whether or not Yandex may provide more traffic to a site and influence its own factors by doing so.

The leaked factors, particularly around how Yandex evaluates site quality, have also come under scrutiny.

There is a long-standing sentiment in the Russian SEO community that Yandex oftentimes favors its own products and services in search results ahead of other websites, and webmasters are asking questions like:

Why does it bother going to all this trouble, when it just nails its services to the top of the page anyway?

In loosely translated documents, these are referred to as the Sorcerers or Yandex Sorcerers. In Google, we’d call these search engine results pages (SERPs) features – like Google Hotels, etc.

In October 2022, Kassir (a Russian ticket portal) claimed ₽328m compensation from Yandex due to lost revenue, caused by the “discriminatory conditions” in which Yandex Sorcerers took the customer base away from the private company.

This is off the back of a 2020 class action in which multiple companies raised a case with the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) for anticompetitive promotion of its own services.

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Featured Image: FGC/Shutterstock



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Google Updates Search Console Video Indexing Report

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Google Updates Search Console Video Indexing Report

Google’s updated Search Console Video indexing report now includes daily video impressions and a sitemap filter feature.

  • Google has updated the Search Console Video indexing report to provide more comprehensive insights into video performance in search results.
  • The updated report includes daily video impressions, which are grouped by page, and a new sitemap filter feature to focus on the most important video pages.
  • These updates are part of Google’s ongoing efforts to help website owners and content creators understand and improve the visibility of their videos in search results.



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