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How To Create A WordPress Ecommerce Website

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How To Create A WordPress Ecommerce Website

WordPress is the most flexible platform for online sales available today.

The open-source nature of WordPress ensures that it is a reliable platform that is not going to disappear one day or go out of business.

Continue reading to learn how to create a WordPress ecommerce website and establish a successful online sales presence.

What Are Ecommerce Platforms?

An ecommerce platform is the content management system used to build and manage an online store.

There are generally two kinds of ecommerce platforms:

  • Proprietary SaaS (Software as a Service) Ecommerce Platforms.
  • Open-source Ecommerce Platforms (WordPress).

A proprietary SaaS platform handles all of the technology, hosting, and to varying levels, the SEO of the ecommerce store.

The benefit of a proprietary ecommerce platform is not having to think about the technology, which frees the merchant to focus on marketing and sales.

The downside of closed platforms is less control over the SEO and website. A merchant may be unable to add unavailable features on the closed platform.

The SEO capabilities of closed platforms vary, with some offering competent search performance options while others less so.

Rob Snell of GunDogSupply.com said WordPress wasn’t an option in 1997 when he and his brother opened their online store.

He shared that his experience with Yahoo! Stores (Turbify) has been exceedingly positive. Rob noted that paying extra not to have to deal with technology is money well spent for him.

He shared his experience with a SaaS platform:

“When you use a platform built for ecommerce, you get peace of mind, but that comes with a price.

I really don’t mind paying enterprise-level hosting rates to get that level of security, support, and uptime.

I sleep pretty well knowing that the engineers at Turbify (formerly Yahoo! Small Business) are on the job. At the end of the day, I’m a retailer, not a software engineer.”

What Is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is an open-source plugin that adds ecommerce functionality to WordPress. It is developed by Automattic, the commercial side of WordPress.

There are two versions of WooCommerce, a free and a paid version.

The free WooCommerce plugin enables everything a small business needs to create a successful ecommerce store.

Payment gateways, configurable shipping options, automatic sales tax calculations, and access to hundreds of free and paid extensions vetted by WooCommerce, are available on the WooCommerce website.

The paid Professional version provides more advanced features that accommodate the complex needs of a larger online business.

The modular nature of WooCommerce means that whatever function is needed can be seamlessly added to the WooCommerce store.

While it’s possible to create an ecommerce site without WooCommerce, it’s generally easier to create a store with WooCommerce than without it.

Katie Keith of Barn2 Plugins explains the benefits of using WooCommerce to create a WordPress ecommerce store:

“WooCommerce is the best path forward because of the size of the community, the number of extensions, and the considerable amount of resources.

WooCommerce is the easiest option because you can take advantage of the wide range of compatible themes and plugins, allowing most store owners to create an ecommerce store to exact requirements without needing to write any custom code.

If anything custom is needed, then it’s easy to find a developer to do it.

WooCommerce is easy to use, and many learning resources and tutorials are available to help you with it.

If you ever want to know how to do anything in WooCommerce, just Google it. You’ll almost certainly find a free tutorial or video to help you!”

Why Choose WooCommerce?

The primary benefits of WooCommerce are the nearly limitless possibilities of what can be created with WordPress, lower costs, and a huge community of developers to support the platform.

The ability to launch an ecommerce site with WordPress depends on the skill and knowledge of the person creating the website, which is why (depending on the scope of the online store) it may be helpful to engage a WordPress developer.

But it’s not always necessary to engage a developer because some web hosts offer a custom point-and-click WordPress feature that makes creating a store as easy as answering questions.

Once the store is up and running, the daily maintenance of the CMS (content management software) itself is relatively trivial.

At the same time, the costs of operating the site can be remarkably low compared to a proprietary ecommerce platform.

Plan For Site Speed Optimization

High Core Web Vitals speeds are within reach of WordPress ecommerce sites. But it’s something that has to be planned for.

Business owners can (and do) leverage the open-source freedom of WordPress to create speedy ecommerce stores.

Adam J. Humphreys of Makin 8 shared his insight:

“WooCommerce is for those with a solid SEO strategy that want to write solid content and bring people to their site with that.

Shopify’s platform for content is satisfactory but not at all designed for a high search performance approach, which is why most of my clients don’t opt for it.

If you don’t want to pay a ridiculous amount for an ecommerce platform then WordPress with Woocommerce is the best place to get started.

Most inexpensive WordPress hosts are enough to get started with a proper CDN like Cloudflare.”

WordPress Ecommerce Hosting

Site speed depends on many factors, but the foundation of a high-performance ecommerce store begins with web hosting.

Choosing the best web hosting for a WordPress ecommerce site is essential.

The following are top considerations for choosing the best hosting for a WordPress ecommerce site.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is basically thousands of websites hosted on a single server (computer), all sharing the resources of that one server.

The benefit of shared hosting is its incredibly low cost.

The downside is that inexpensive shared hosting is notoriously underpowered for intensive applications such as ecommerce. Consequently, low-cost shared hosting should generally be avoided.

Virtual Private Servers

Virtual Private Server (VPS) is a type of shared hosting but with very few sites sharing the resources. A VPS is a relatively affordable option for fast performance.

A major consideration for a VPS is that it requires familiarity with server control panels, which adds an additional layer of technology to deal with.

Managed Dedicated Servers

A managed dedicated server is a  server that is operated by a single customer.

Managed means that the web host takes care of the server hardware, updates the software, maintains backups, and in general, removes a layer of technical overhead.

An unmanaged server is one where the customer handles the software.

Both kinds of dedicated servers provide high-speed performance.

Managed WordPress Hosting

A popular option is to use a managed WordPress web hosting platform.

Managed WordPress hosting offers the convenience of not having to deal with the underlying technology.

A major benefit of managed WordPress hosting is that they provide a fast and secure WordPress environment that is optimized for site speed out of the box.

There can be limitations to what plugins can be used, such as caching plugins, because they tend to use too many resources. But the managed web hosts offer their own optimized replacements at the server level.

Many managed WordPress hosts offer built-in site performance benefits such as caching and Content Delivery Networks (CDN).

Thus, with a managed WordPress web host, one can achieve the speed and security benefits of a closed SaaS system but with the freedom and generally lower costs of an open-sourced system.

It’s a great choice because it solves the problem of site speed at the hosting level, is secure, and the hosts offer service specific to the needs of WordPress websites.

Popular Managed WordPress Hosts To Consider

The following are examples of popular managed WordPress web hosts.

Click And Build WordPress Hosting

Bluehost is an interesting choice because they offer a straightforward click-and-build approach to WordPress ecommerce websites that can rival any of the closed-source ecommerce platforms.

The Bluehost fill-in-the-blanks style approach to WordPress ecommerce handles payments, inventory management, and all other aspects of ecommerce.

Bluehost offers the freedom to easily build an online WordPress store with the flexibility to implement a solid SEO strategy.

It offers all of the conveniences of a proprietary SaaS ecommerce solution but with WordPress.

What Are WordPress Plugins And WooCommerce Extensions?

WordPress and WooCommerce can be upgraded with additional functionalities using plugins and extensions.

  • The WordPress core is extended with plugins. Changes made with WordPress plugins affect the entire website.
  • WooCommerce is upgraded with extensions as well as plugins. WooCommerce extensions only apply to the WooCommerce part of the website. But there are also plugins in the WordPress plugin repository that are specific to ecommerce (with or without WooCommerce) and plugins specifically for WooCommerce.

Adding a new feature related to ecommerce is done through WooCommerce extensions available on the WooCommerce website and through plugins available in the WordPress plugin repository.

WooCommerce extensions can generally be grouped into four essential functionalities:

  • Payments.
  • Shipping and tracking.
  • Inventory management.
  • Sales.

There are multiple ways to browse for WooCommerce extensions, such as by functionality and collections.

WooCommerce offers a collection of recommended extensions called WooCommerce Essentials.

WooCommerce Essentials are extensions chosen by WooCommerce to form the foundation for launching a successful ecommerce website.

Some of the essential functionalities are:

  • Payments.
  • Backup.
  • Product Display and Sales Add-ons.
  • Theme.
  • Coupons, Gift Cards.
  • Google Marketing Integrations.
  • Automations (like abandoned cart reminders).

How To Choose WordPress And WooCommerce Plugins And Extensions

WooCommerce developer James Kemp, the founder of IconicWP, shared his insights on extending WordPress ecommerce stores:

“Make sure every plugin and extension you choose serves a purpose.

Does it increase the average order value?

Does it ensure more customers complete their checkout?

Does it improve the user experience?”

Dorron Shapow of 100PercentOrganicSEO.com shares what store owners need to focus on when deciding what plugins they’ll need.

“In my experience, site owners seem to lose sight of the user experience.

How an ecommerce store is structured and what the user flow is like from different touch points of entry should be considered before a single pixel is on the screen.

So the most common mistake I see is not thinking like a site visitor.

For example, site visitors that are cash in hand and only want a few things may convert into a sale because of competitive pricing, fast or free shipping, and a quick and easy checkout.

For them, it’s important always to be three clicks away from a complete transaction.

Not everyone needs to be pushed or have to swat pop-ups and bells and whistles.

And that’s going to influence the choices of plugins needed.”

Examples Of Ecommerce Extensions And Plugins

Chuck Price of Measurable SEO shared a list of recommended ecommerce plugins and extensions:

  • WooCommerce.
  • Advanced Order Export For WooCommerce.
  • Booster for WooCommerce.
  • Braintree for WooCommerce Payment Gateway.
  • Contact Form 7.
  • Conversios.io – All-in-one Google Analytics, Pixels and Product Feed Manager for WooCommerce.
  • Multistep Product Configurator for WooCommerce.
  • PW WooCommerce Gift Cards Pro.
  • Woo Custom Related Products.
  • Woo Invoices.
  • WooCommerce Bulk Price Update.
  • WooCommerce Google Analytics Integration.
  • WooCommerce Side Cart.
  • WooCommerce Single Product Page Builder.
  • WooCommerce TM Extra Product Options.
  • WooCommerce Tree Table Rate Shipping.

Dorron Shapow recommends the following WordPress plugins:

  • WooCommerce.
  • An SEO plugin (I prefer Rank Math because it offers more free functionality and built-in schema).
  • Payment gateway integration.
  • Analytics Integration and dashboard.
  • A CRM for newsletters.
  • Website security plugin.
  • A page builder I prefer: Elementor.
  • Shipping integration and tracking.
  • Contact form plugin.
  • WooCommerce Email Customizer.
  • WP optmize cacheing plugin.
  • Optional chat functionality.
  • A backup plugin with daily backups.

James Kemp recommends:

  • Flux Checkout (ensures checkout process is optimized for conversions).
  • RankMath for SEO.

WordPress Ecommerce Website Mistakes To Avoid

Among the top mistakes an ecommerce site can make is to pile on so much functionality that conversions begin to suffer.

Plugins and Extensions work by downloading extra code and scripts to the shopper’s browser.

The more code and scripts downloaded, the longer it takes for a webpage to function, which slows down the shopping experience.

A smart developer can overcome these issues by doing things such as only downloading what each page needs.

For example, there is no reason to download scripts and fonts related to a contact form if there is no contact form on that webpage.

Unfortunately, an old coding practice of adding scripts to every page is still widespread in the software development world, so make sure that every extension or plugin is absolutely necessary.

Chuck Price notes that many mistakes common to any WordPress site are common for WooCommerce sites.

Chuck shared:

“Probably the same mistakes as any WordPress site can hinder a WooCommerce store:

Not keeping plugins up to date.

Forms don’t work

Vulnerable to security threats

Plugin incompatibilities.”

Dorron Shapow focuses on the user experience to avoid mistakes that hurt sales:

“A failure to find the right balance of design, user experience, and SEO.

What sometimes shocks clients is telling them that an ecommerce site should have little to do with the merchant and more to do with the customer.

The website is for them.”

Before Going Live With The Online Store

No matter how much thought is devoted to how a site should work, it’s almost inevitable that customers will encounter unforeseen problems.

That’s why I recommend making it easy for site visitors to contact you to provide feedback about the site. It can be through email, chat or text, or all three.

Customer feedback is super important to understand what works and what does not.

Another tactic for ironing out user experience bugs is a free user experience analytics offered by Microsoft called Clarity.

Clarity helps site publishers understand how far users are scrolling on a page, identifies what parts of a webpage are frustrating, which pages work best, and even offers machine learning AI to make improvement suggestions.

Some mistakenly compare Clarity to Google Analytics, but there is no comparison between them because they each do different things.

  • Clarity tracks the site visitor user experience on individual webpages, showing how users interact with a webpage.
  • Google Analytics is useful for tracking site visitors to gain insights into conversions relative to ads or individual webpages.

It may be useful to use Clarity to gain insights into site performance during at least the first three to six months after the website goes live.

What to do before and after the site is live?

James Kemp of IconicWP offers five considerations:

Is your store easy to navigate? Can customers easily find their way through your store right up to the purchase confirmation page?

Is your store optimized for search engines? Don’t go overboard with optimizations – ensure you’re using an SEO plugin like Toast or RankMath to help people find you in search results.

Have you tested your payment gateway and purchase flow?
There’s nothing worse than going live and finding out your influx of potential customers can’t checkout!

Have you optimized your checkout? Use a WooCommerce extension (like Iconic’s Flux Checkout) to ensure your checkout process is refined and optimized for conversions.

How will you promote your store? It’s unlikely you’ll be able to launch and expect traffic without further effort. You’ll want to consider paid advertising on Google, Facebook, and other social media platforms, ongoing content marketing on your website via a blog, and being active and valuable in relevant online communities.”

WordPress Is A Top Choice For Ecommerce

WordPress is a stable platform for creating an ecommerce store, offering virtually unlimited options for almost any need.

According to BuiltWith.com, WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce platform.

Katie Keith of Barn2Plugins shared why WordPress is so popular:

“The huge community around WooCommerce means that there are more extensions available to add extra features than any other platform.

There’s also a vast community of WooCommerce experts who you can hire to build and support your store.

You won’t find a wide range of professionals with any other platform.”

Those are great reasons to feel confident in investing in a WordPress ecommerce website for your business.

More resources:


Featured image: Shutterstock/Lysenko Andrii



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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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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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