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How to Create a Buyer Persona for Your Business

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Looking to create a buyer persona for your business? You’re in the right place.

Many companies have experience creating buyer personas. It’s usually done after a day of brainstorming in a meeting room. After the session, documents with demographic and psychographic details (married, have two kids, own a car, etc.)—appear, and the executives are satisfied. They’re even given names—Anna Agency, Billy Blogger, etc.—to remind the marketing team that they’re marketing to actual human beings. 

But these “buyer personas” are then tucked into the recesses of Google Drive, never to be seen again. You spend time “identifying” these personas, yet they have zero effect on any marketing activities.

Why? Because these buyer personas were not created in the right way. As such, they’re not helpful and can’t influence a company’s marketing strategy.

In this post, we’ll learn how to create a buyer persona that you can actually use to impact your business. 

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your target customers. They’re semi-fictional because while they’re not actually real people, they’re based on market research and data you have about existing customers. 

Why are buyer personas important?

While every customer is different, it’s almost impossible for most companies to address all of them individually. (There are exceptions, however, which is why account-based marketing exists.)

However, buyers do generally have similar wants and needs. So, rather than cater to every individual difference, a buyer persona allows you to address those similarities in your marketing.

For example, a hobby blogger and an in-house marketer are entirely different people on the surface. But they do have a similar goal: to get more traffic to their website. So, rather than targeting them differently, we can address the main issue—how to get more traffic—and attract all of them to our business. 

Also, since the buyer personas you’re creating are born out of actual stories related to your buyers, creating a buyer persona will help you understand your customers deeply—how they think and make decisions, who they’re influenced by, and so on. 

This will help you create and align your messaging, product, customer service, etc., with what your customers actually want and need. 

Finally, a buyer persona helps you visualize your buyers. Many companies make the mistake of focusing too inwards and forgetting who their products are serving. A buyer persona serves as a reminder that you are selling to actual people. 

How to create a buyer persona

Creating a buyer persona isn’t about downloading a template and filling it in. It’s about talking to real people and understanding their perspectives. 

Here’s how to create a buyer persona:

1. Find people to interview

Creating a buyer persona means picking up the phone (or, these days, a Zoom call) and talking to your customers. 

That means the first step is to find people to interview. Who should you talk to? The easiest group of people to start with—and the ones you should start with—are your customers. 

Finding them should be relatively easy. You should have a customer relationship management (CRM) tool where you store your customer data. Look through the list and pick out those you’d like to interview. A quick way to narrow the list is to find your best buyers—those who have been with you the longest or spent the most money with you. 

If you’re just starting out and have no customers, don’t worry. You should have a general idea of who your product or service is for. Reach out to these people and see if they would be up for an interview. You can probably find them in their respective communities on Facebook, Telegram, Discord, Slack, Twitter, Reddit, etc. You can also consider attending physical events like conferences and meetups. 

At an early stage, these interviews can simultaneously act as customer development interviews and help you determine product-market fit.

Now, while you should talk to your customers, note that talking only to them isn’t enough. After all, these people have bought from you and used your products or services. They’re clearly satisfied with what they’ve gotten. So, interviewing them might only yield stories where your business got it right. 

Everyone wants to hear good things, but knowing where you came up short is also important. So, beyond your customers, there are other people you should interview. Here are some options:

A. Your users

Users are people who have started a trial with you or used a free version of your product but didn’t convert into a customer. You have users if you’re a SaaS or even a gym that offers a one-month trial. 

Again, this group of people should be relatively easy to find as they would have submitted their contact details to access your trial or free product. For example, if we wanted to interview our users, we could easily find everyone who signed up for our free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools but is not currently a customer.

Ahrefs Webmaster Tools signups in the past 7 days.

B. Your sales prospects

This group of people either reached out to your sales team (e.g., for a demo) or talked to your sales team but did not purchase your product. They may not necessarily be users. 

Likewise, your sales team should have the details of these people. Work with your sales team to identify who they are and reach out to them. 

2. Reach out to them for interviews

Once you’ve identified a list of people you’d like to talk to, send them an email and ask them if they’d like to hop on a call with you.

Be honest and transparent. Tell them directly that you’re trying to learn more about your customers and that you’d like to hear about their experience. 

Make sure to state the time commitment upfront so you don’t scare them away. 20-30 minutes should suffice for the interview. 

Also, assure them that it is not a sales call. Especially if you’re interviewing your users or sales prospects, they might be wary that you will use the opportunity to segue into a sales pitch. 

Finally, you can offer an incentive to show appreciation for your customer’s time. It’ll also help encourage take-ups. 

Adrienne Barnes of Best Buyer Persona says that she has found that discounts on your product (especially when talking to your customers) have yielded great success. Alternatively, charitable donations to your customer’s charity of choice (under their name) are also a great incentive idea to try. 

3. Interview them

With the interviews scheduled, it’s time to do the actual interview. 

Before the interview begins, ask if you can record it. This is important because we’re not going to lean on our unreliable memories to try and parse out insights. And while note-taking during the interview is essential, excessive note-taking disrupts the session. 

When your interviewee has signified an “ok,” you can start.

Adele Revella of Buyer Persona Institute suggests that you begin with this question, “Take me back to the day when you first decided to evaluate [the category of solution your product fits into] and tell me what happened.”

This should set the tone and allow your interviewee to relate their experience. 

You can also ask questions based on Adele Revella’s famous Five Rings of Buying Insight:

  1. Priority Initiatives — What’s causing buyers to invest in products like yours? What about buyers who are satisfied with the status quo?
  2. Success Factors — What results does your buyer expect to achieve from buying your (or a similar) product?
  3. Perceived Barriers — What concerns do your buyers have regarding your product? What’s stopping them from buying?
  4. Buyer’s Journey — How do buyers evaluate their options?
  5. Decision Criteria — Which aspects of your competitors do buyers consider the most important? 

From there, follow these tips to ensure a smooth interview:

  • Give interviewees time to respond. Your interviewees are not robots with prepared answers to every question. Silence is golden—give them space and time to think through their thoughts and respond. 
  • Listen. Don’t insert your own opinions or defend yourself or your products. Your goal is to find answers, not sell or be judged by a court of opinion. Make sure to listen to what your customers are saying. 
  • Ask “why” and ask follow-up questions based on what they’ve said (and use the words they’re using). Your interviewees may not answer your questions directly or fully. Or maybe they might need prodding to provide more information. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions and get them to clarify what they’re saying. You want to be on the same page. Even better: use the words they’ve been using so you can build rapport with them and get them to open up more. 
  • Don’t be afraid to guide your interviewees. It is likely that they will not answer chronologically. They might skip ahead and add a flashback to their story. You should feel comfortable slowing down the pace and guiding them back to the part of the conversation you’re interested in. 

4. Organize your data

When the interviews are over, you’d want to get them transcribed. Use a service like Rev.com to turn them into text. 

Next, it’s time to mark up your interview transcripts. You can then read through the transcripts and identify patterns (such as commonly repeated words and phrases) among what your customers are saying.

When you see two or more of the same pattern, create a category for them. The easiest way to create these “categories” is via the marketing funnel.

The Marketing Funnel.The Marketing Funnel.

For example, say we interviewed a few of our customers at Ahrefs. Reading through the transcripts, we noticed that one commonly repeated phrase was “we wanted to figure out how to rank in Google for more keywords related to our business.” Since we sell an SEO toolset, we could easily file that under the category of “Interest.”

You can do all of this in Google Sheets. 

Using Google Sheets to record important data from persona research.Using Google Sheets to record important data from persona research.

An alternative method of marking up the transcript is to follow the Five Rings of Buying Insights.

5. Create your buyer persona(s) by segmenting your data

Finally, you’d want to segment your data into different audiences. 

Here are some ways you can segment your audience, courtesy of Adrienne Barnes:

  1. The “jobs to be done” your customers bought your product for
  2. Pain points
  3. Usage
  4. Company size
  5. Industry

Sometimes there are clearly two different people you can see popping out of your data. Sometimes, there’s clearly just one “job-to-be-done,” so you only have one persona. How you segment and how many segments you should create depends entirely on your business and customers. There’s no perfect way to go about it. 

Once you’ve identified your segments, transfer them into a document(s) with all the relevant qualitative data. 

How to use your buyer persona in your marketing

The goal of creating your buyer persona is to use them in your marketing. Not store them somewhere and forget about them. 

So, here’s how to use buyer personas:

1. Positioning

Positioning consultant April Dunford writes that “positioning is the act of deliberately defining how you are the best at something that a defined market cares a lot about.”

You can use the information you’ve gathered to fix or adjust your positioning with what your customers care about.

2. Creating content for the different stages of the buyer’s journey

To create content for the buyer’s journey, you need to know who the buyer is. And you need to know how they progress through each stage until they purchase your product. 

You now have both pieces of information. 

For example, let’s say we’ve created a buyer persona at Ahrefs. We’ll call him Billy Blogger. And here’s Billy Blogger’s journey:

An example buyer's journey.An example buyer's journey.

In the Awareness stage, Billy is struggling with getting more traffic to his site. So, if we’re creating content for this stage, we’re looking for topics related to:

  • Website traffic
  • Blog traffic

Here’s how we can find topics related to this stage to target:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter the above terms
  3. Go to the Matching terms report

Since the “Awareness stage” keywords are mostly informational, we’ll switch the toggle to Questions.

Finding keywords in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer.Finding keywords in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer.

As you can see, there are over 1,600 potential topics we can target. However, since not all of them will be relevant to us, we’ll eyeball the list and pick out relevant ones. 

We can repeat this step to look for topics for the other stages of the buyer’s journey.

Recommended reading: What Is the Buyer’s Journey? How to Create Content for Every Stage

3. Alignment with sales and product teams

With the information from your buyer interviews, you can help your sales team anticipate buying barriers, create relevant marketing and sales materials, and prepare tools and arguments for moving customers towards purchase.

Likewise, it can also help your product teams create products that customers want and remove friction from how they use your product. 

Here are some frequently asked questions about buyer personas. 

1. How many buyer interviews should I do?

To kickstart your process, aim to conduct at least ten interviews. But bear in mind that buyer interviews are not a “campaign.” Ideally, you should be doing this every month—meeting buyers, interviewing them, getting real-life stories and quotes, and updating your buyer persona document (where necessary). 

2. What questions should I ask in the interview?

There’s no fixed set of questions to ask. Most of it should come spontaneously and naturally since there should be follow-up questions based on what your interviewee says. 

Other than that, you should also be constructing questions based on what you want to know. And this depends heavily on your business, product, customers, and the existing information you have.

However, if you really need a set of questions to ask (or at least use as inspiration), I like this list from Mike Fishbein.

3. Should I include demographics and psychographics in my buyer persona?

In the introduction, I poo-pooed the idea of adding these details to your buyer persona. But they’re not all that bad. 

You can add them if they’re actually useful to your marketing. Although there are plenty of times, especially in B2B and software, where this information is not useful.

Think about it: If you’re selling a martech software, does it matter whether ‘Charlie CMO’ is married? If his partner is the CEO or CFO, it does, but that’s an exceptional circumstance. Usually, it won’t impact your marketing.

However, it is useful if you own a wedding photography business. A married person doesn’t need wedding photography services, so demographic information such as marital status would be helpful to such a business. 

4. Can I do surveys instead of calling my customers?

I know. Picking up the phone or hopping onto Zoom calls can be intimidating. But there’s no substitute for actually talking to someone. 

Plus, surveys have to be designed by someone. And that someone can only design a survey based on their existing knowledge. That means a survey can be subjected to the designer’s unintended bias and therefore fail to discover new or unexpected insights. 

Sidenote.

Interview questions can be subject to the interviewer’s unintended bias too. So make sure that you create open-ended questions and leave them to your interviewee to answer in any way they like. Do not insert your opinion or try to guide them to the answer you want to hear. 

You don’t want to conduct multiple surveys and end up only perpetuating your confirmation bias. 

Instead, use surveys to validate the insights you acquired via your interviews. See if the comments given by your interviewees are one-off or representative of a larger audience set.

5. How many buyer personas should I create?

Adele Revella writes:

The fundamental question isn’t how many buyer personas are required, but rather how many ways do you need to market your solution so that you can persuade buyers that your approach is ideally suited to their needs?

We can achieve this goal only if the way we define our buyer personas makes it easy to know when a different version of our story will result in more business for the company.

Adele RevellaAdele Revella

This is the reason why we’re less concerned with demographics but more with the “job-to-be-done.” When you segment by demographics, it’s tempting to create every variation after the sun—after all, there isn’t just Charlie CMO; there’s also Claire CMO, Chantelle CMO, CMO Chen, and so on. 

However, since they are CMOs, they will have similar “jobs-to-be-done.” And if you find that to be true from your interviews, you can create one buyer persona to target them all. But if you find that some expectations are different, then that’s when you can consider creating another buyer persona. 

If you think that creating another buyer persona can help you market your product better—like what Adele Revella says—then consider investing some resources to conduct additional buyer interviews to “prove” that this persona exists. Surveys can work, too—use them to see if your current findings apply across all segments. 

6. Should you interview the “final decision maker” (e.g., CMO, CFO, CEO)?

In many companies, especially large ones, —the final decision maker is a higher-up. And traditionally, many sales teams are taught to target the final decision maker to sell their products.

In that case, should you take cues from the sales team? Probably not. That is because while the “final decision maker” gives the ok to buy, they may not be involved much in the evaluation process. 

If so, interviewing them (if they’re even available in the first place) will not yield much insight. You’re better off interviewing people who are involved. 

Final thoughts

This post would not have been possible without the work of Adele Revella and Adrienne Barnes. If you’d like to explore more of their work, I recommend:

  1. Reading Adele Revella’s book, Buyer Personas
  2. Listening to this podcast episode, where Adrienne Barnes explains how to create buyer personas

Any questions or comments about creating buyer personas? Let me know on Twitter.

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How to Block ChatGPT From Using Your Website Content

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How to Block ChatGPT From Using Your Website Content

There is concern about the lack of an easy way to opt out of having one’s content used to train large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT. There is a way to do it, but it’s neither straightforward nor guaranteed to work.

How AIs Learn From Your Content

Large Language Models (LLMs) are trained on data that originates from multiple sources. Many of these datasets are open source and are freely used for training AIs.

Some of the sources used are:

  • Wikipedia
  • Government court records
  • Books
  • Emails
  • Crawled websites

There are actually portals and websites offering datasets that are giving away vast amounts of information.

One of the portals is hosted by Amazon, offering thousands of datasets at the Registry of Open Data on AWS.

Screenshot from Amazon, January 2023

The Amazon portal with thousands of datasets is just one portal out of many others that contain more datasets.

Wikipedia lists 28 portals for downloading datasets, including the Google Dataset and the Hugging Face portals for finding thousands of datasets.

Datasets of Web Content

OpenWebText

A popular dataset of web content is called OpenWebText. OpenWebText consists of URLs found on Reddit posts that had at least three upvotes.

The idea is that these URLs are trustworthy and will contain quality content. I couldn’t find information about a user agent for their crawler, maybe it’s just identified as Python, I’m not sure.

Nevertheless, we do know that if your site is linked from Reddit with at least three upvotes then there’s a good chance that your site is in the OpenWebText dataset.

More information about OpenWebText is here.

Common Crawl

One of the most commonly used datasets for Internet content is offered by a non-profit organization called Common Crawl.

Common Crawl data comes from a bot that crawls the entire Internet.

The data is downloaded by organizations wishing to use the data and then cleaned of spammy sites, etc.

The name of the Common Crawl bot is, CCBot.

CCBot obeys the robots.txt protocol so it is possible to block Common Crawl with Robots.txt and prevent your website data from making it into another dataset.

However, if your site has already been crawled then it’s likely already included in multiple datasets.

Nevertheless, by blocking Common Crawl it’s possible to opt out your website content from being included in new datasets sourced from newer Common Crawl data.

The CCBot User-Agent string is:

CCBot/2.0

Add the following to your robots.txt file to block the Common Crawl bot:

User-agent: CCBot
Disallow: /

An additional way to confirm if a CCBot user agent is legit is that it crawls from Amazon AWS IP addresses.

CCBot also obeys the nofollow robots meta tag directives.

Use this in your robots meta tag:

<meta name="robots" content="nofollow">

Blocking AI From Using Your Content

Search engines allow websites to opt out of being crawled. Common Crawl also allows opting out. But there is currently no way to remove one’s website content from existing datasets.

Furthermore, research scientists don’t seem to offer website publishers a way to opt out of being crawled.

The article, Is ChatGPT Use Of Web Content Fair? explores the topic of whether it’s even ethical to use website data without permission or a way to opt out.

Many publishers may appreciate it if in the near future, they are given more say on how their content is used, especially by AI products like ChatGPT.

Whether that will happen is unknown at this time.

More resources:

Featured image by Shutterstock/ViDI Studio



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Google’s Mueller Criticizes Negative SEO & Link Disavow Companies

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Google's Mueller Criticizes Negative SEO & Link Disavow Companies

John Mueller recently made strong statements against SEO companies that provide negative SEO and other agencies that provide link disavow services outside of the tool’s intended purpose, saying that they are “cashing in” on clients who don’t know better.

While many frequently say that Mueller and other Googlers are ambiguous, even on the topic of link disavows.

The fact however is that Mueller and other Googlers have consistently recommended against using the link disavow tool.

This may be the first time Mueller actually portrayed SEOs who liberally recommend link disavows in a negative light.

What Led to John Mueller’s Rebuke

The context of Mueller’s comments about negative SEO and link disavow companies started with a tweet by Ryan Jones (@RyanJones)

Ryan tweeted that he was shocked at how many SEOs regularly offer disavowing links.

He tweeted:

“I’m still shocked at how many seos regularly disavow links. Why? Unless you spammed them or have a manual action you’re probably doing more harm than good.”

The reason why Ryan is shocked is because Google has consistently recommended the tool for disavowing paid/spammy links that the sites (or their SEOs) are responsible for.

And yet, here we are, eleven years later, and SEOs are still misusing the tool for removing other kinds of tools.

Here’s the background information about that.

Link Disavow Tool

In the mid 2000’s there was a thriving open market for paid links prior to the Penguin Update in April 2012. The commerce in paid links was staggering.

I knew of one publisher with around fifty websites who received a $30,000 check every month for hosting paid links on his site.

Even though I advised my clients against it, some of them still purchased links because they saw everyone else was buying them and getting away with it.

The Penguin Update caused the link selling boom collapsed.

Thousands of websites lost rankings.

SEOs and affected websites strained under the burden of having to contact all the sites from which they purchased paid links to ask to have them removed.

So some in the SEO community asked Google for a more convenient way to disavow the links.

Months went by and after resisting the requests, Google relented and released a disavow tool.

Google cautioned from the very beginning to only use the tool for disavowing links that the site publishers (or their SEOs) are responsible for.

The first paragraph of Google’s October 2012 announcement of the link disavow tool leaves no doubt on when to use the tool:

“Today we’re introducing a tool that enables you to disavow links to your site.

If you’ve been notified of a manual spam action based on ‘unnatural links’ pointing to your site, this tool can help you address the issue.

If you haven’t gotten this notification, this tool generally isn’t something you need to worry about.”

The message couldn’t be clearer.

But at some point in time, link disavowing became a service applied to random and “spammy looking” links, which is not what the tool is for.

Link Disavow Takes Months To Work

There are many anecdotes about link disavows that helped sites regain rankings.

They aren’t lying, I know credible and honest people who have made this claim.

But here’s the thing, John Mueller has confirmed that the link disavow process takes months to work its way through Google’s algorithm.

Sometimes things happen that are not related, no correlation. It just looks that way.

John shared how long it takes for a link disavow to work in a Webmaster Hangout:

“With regards to this particular case, where you’re saying you submitted a disavow file and then the ranking dropped or the visibility dropped, especially a few days later, I would assume that that is not related.

So in particular with the disavow file, what happens is we take that file into account when we reprocess the links kind of pointing to your website.

And this is a process that happens incrementally over a period of time where I would expect it would have an effect over the course of… I don’t know… maybe three, four, five, six months …kind of step by step going in that direction.

So if you’re saying that you saw an effect within a couple of days and it was a really strong effect then I would assume that this effect is completely unrelated to the disavow file. …it sounds like you still haven’t figured out what might be causing this.”

John Mueller: Negative SEO and Link Disavow Companies are Making Stuff Up

Context is important to understand what was said.

So here’s the context for John Mueller’s remark.

An SEO responded to Ryan’s tweet about being shocked at how many SEOs regularly disavow links.

The person responding to Ryan tweeted that disavowing links was still important, that agencies provide negative SEO services to take down websites and that link disavow is a way to combat the negative links.

The SEO (SEOGuruJaipur) tweeted:

“Google still gives penalties for backlinks (for example, 14 Dec update, so disavowing links is still important.”

SEOGuruJaipur next began tweeting about negative SEO companies.

Negative SEO companies are those that will build spammy links to a client’s competitor in order to make the competitor’s rankings drop.

SEOGuruJaipur tweeted:

“There are so many agencies that provide services to down competitors; they create backlinks for competitors such as comments, bookmarking, directory, and article submission on low quality sites.”

SEOGuruJaipur continued discussing negative SEO link builders, saying that only high trust sites are immune to the negative SEO links.

He tweeted:

“Agencies know what kind of links hurt the website because they have been doing this for a long time.

It’s only hard to down for very trusted sites. Even some agencies provide a money back guarantee as well.

They will provide you examples as well with proper insights.”

John Mueller tweeted his response to the above tweets:

“That’s all made up & irrelevant.

These agencies (both those creating, and those disavowing) are just making stuff up, and cashing in from those who don’t know better.”

Then someone else joined the discussion:

Mueller tweeted a response:

“Don’t waste your time on it; do things that build up your site instead.”

Unambiguous Statement on Negative SEO and Link Disavow Services

A statement by John Mueller (or anyone) can appear to conflict with prior statements when taken out of context.

That’s why I not only placed his statements into their original context but also the history going back eleven years that is a part of that discussion.

It’s clear that John Mueller feels that those selling negative SEO services and those providing disavow services outside of the intended use are “making stuff up” and “cashing in” on clients who might not “know better.”

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Source Code Leak Shows New Ranking Factors to Consider

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Source Code Leak Shows New Ranking Factors to Consider

January 25, 2023, the day that Yandex—Russia’s search engine—was hacked. 

Its complete source code was leaked online. And, it might not be the first time we’ve seen hacking happen in this industry, but it is one of the most intriguing, groundbreaking events in years.

But Yandex isn’t Google, so why should we care? Here’s why we do: these two search engines are very similar in how they process technical elements of a website, and this leak just showed us the 1,922 ranking factors Yandex uses in its algorithm. 

Simply put, this information is something that we can use to our advantage to get more traffic from Google.

Yandex vs Google

As I said, a lot of these ranking factors are possibly quite similar to the signals that Google uses for search.

Yandex’s algorithm shows a RankBrain analog: MatrixNext. It also seems that they are using PageRank (almost the same way as Google does), and a lot of their text algorithms are the same. Interestingly, there are also a lot of ex-Googlers working in Yandex. 

So, reviewing these factors and understanding how they play into search rankings and traffic will provide some very useful insights into how search engines like Google work. No doubt, this new trove of information will greatly influence the SEO market in the months to come. 

That said, Yandex isn’t Google. The chances of Google having the exact same list of ranking factors is low — and Google may not even give that signal the same amount of weight that Yandex does. 

Still, it’s information that potentially will be useful for driving traffic, so make sure to take a look at them here (before it’s scrubbed from the internet forever).

An early analysis of ranking factors

Many of their ranking factors are as expected. These include:

  • Many link-related factors (e.g., age, relevancy, etc.).
  • Content relevance, age, and freshness.
  • Host reliability
  • End-user behavior signals.

Some sites also get preference (such as Wikipedia). FI_VISITS_FROM_WIKI even shows that sites that are referenced by Wikipedia get plus points. 

These are all things that we already know.

But something interesting: there were several factors that I and other SEOs found unusual, such as PageRank being the 17th highest weighted factor in Yandex, and the 19th highest weighted factor being query-document relevance (in other words, how close they match thematically). There’s also karma for likely spam hosts, based on Whois information.

Other interesting factors are the average domain ranking across queries, percent of organic traffic, and the number of unique visitors.

You can also use this Yandex Search Ranking Factor Explorer, created by Rob Ousbey, to search through the various ranking factors.

The possible negative ranking factors:

Here’s my thoughts on Yandex’s factors that I found interesting: 

FI_ADV: -0.2509284637 — this factor means having tons of adverts scattered around your page and buying PPC can affect rankings. 

FI_DATER_AGE: -0.2074373667 — this one evaluates content age, and whether your article is more than 10 years old, or if there’s no determinable date. Date metadata is important. 

FI_COMM_LINKS_SEO_HOSTS: -0.1809636391 — this can be a negative factor if you have too much commercial anchor text, particularly if the proportion of such links goes above 50%. Pay attention to anchor text distribution. I’ve written a guide on how to effectively use anchor texts if you need some help on this. 

FI_RANK_ARTROZ — outdated, poorly written text will bring your rankings down. Go through your site and give your content a refresh. FI_WORD_COUNT also shows that the number of words matter, so avoid having low-content pages.

FI_URL_HAS_NO_DIGITS, FI_NUM_SLASHES, FI_FULL_URL_FRACTION — urls shouldn’t have digits, too many slashes (too much hierarchy), and of course contain your targeted keyword.

FI_NUM_LINKS_FROM_MP — always interlink your main pages (such as your homepage or landing pages) to any other important content you want to rank. Otherwise, it can hurt your content.

FI_HOPS — reduce the crawl depth for any pages that matter to you. No important pages should be more than a few clicks away from your homepage. I recommend keeping it to two clicks, at most. 

FI_IS_UNREACHABLE — likewise, avoid making any important page an orphan page. If it’s unreachable from your homepage, it’s as good as dead in the eyes of the search engine.

The possible positive ranking factors:

FI_IS_COM: +0.2762504972 — .com domains get a boost in rankings.

FI_YABAR_HOST_VISITORS — the more traffic you get, the more ranking power your site has. The strategy of targeting smaller, easier keywords first to build up an audience before targeting harder keywords can help you build traffic.

FI_BEAST_HOST_MEAN_POS — the average position of the host for keywords affects your overall ranking. This factor and the previous one clearly show that being smart with your keyword and content planning matters. If you need help with that, check out these 5 ways to build a solid SEO strategy.

FI_YABAR_HOST_SEARCH_TRAFFIC — this might look bad but shows that having other traffic sources (such as social media, direct search, and PPC) is good for your site. Yandex uses this to determine if a real site is being run, not just some spammy SEO project.

This one includes a whole host of CTR-related factors. 

CTR ranking factors from Yandex

It’s clear that having searchable and interesting titles that drive users to check your content out is something that positively affects your rankings.

Google is rewarding sites that help end a user’s search journey (as we know from the latest mobile search updates and even the Helpful Content update). Do what you can to answer the query early on in your article. The factor “FI_VISITORS_RETURN_MONTH_SHARE“ also shows that it helps to encourage users to return to your site for more information on the topics they’re interested in. Email marketing is a handy tool here.

FI_GOOD_RATIO and FI_MANY_BAD — the percentage of “good” and “bad” backlinks on your site. Getting your backlinks from high-quality websites with traffic is important for your rankings. The factor FI_LINK_AGE also shows that adding a link-building strategy to your SEO as early as possible can help with your rankings.

FI_SOCIAL_URL_IS_VERIFIED — that little blue check has actual benefits now. Links from verified accounts have more weight.

Key Takeaway

Yandex and Google, being so similar to each other in theory, means that this data leak is something we must pay attention to. 

Several of these factors may already be common knowledge amongst SEOs, but having them confirmed by another search engine enforces how important they are for your strategy.

These initial findings, and understanding what it might mean for your website, can help you identify what to improve, what to scrap, and what to focus on when it comes to your SEO strategy. 

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