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How to Increase Your Website Traffic Without SEO

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SEO can be a brilliant strategy to increase your website traffic but it isn’t always enough.

Imagine you rely on SEO for all your traffic. What happens when the Google algorithm changes? You risk losing potential customers!

That’s why diversifying your methods of increasing web traffic can offer better results. If you have multiple traffic sources, changing algorithms won’t completely halt your business. You will have a toolkit full of optimization strategies to keep your business running. Diversifying your web traffic can also be helpful in cases where there’s little scope for search engine optimization (for example, podcasts).

In this post, we’re going to look at effective strategies to grow your website traffic without SEO so you’re never left stranded by algorithm changes again. We’ll also look at practical tips you can start using right now, so you can get back in the game if your traffic has been low for a while.

Why Should You Try to Grow Traffic Without SEO?

You can generate substantial traffic from SEO alone, but not all traffic is equal.  High-quality traffic (that includes users more likely to convert) offers better ROI, so you need to prioritize it.

Plus, if you aren’t an SEO expert, you may want to focus on other strategies to grow your website traffic efficiently.

This doesn’t mean you completely ignore SEO. All websites, irrespective of their niche, must follow the best SEO practices to avoid being penalized by Google and to ensure the site gets indexed.

The strategies we’ll discuss below can be a helpful addition to a pre-existing SEO plan.

Top Strategies to Increase Website Traffic Without SEO 

1. Content Marketing

If you have been reading about digital marketing for a while, you must have heard the term “content marketing.” In simple words, it’s a way to organically advertise your brand through high-quality content.

Content marketing strategies often include blog posts, podcast episodes, infographics, YouTube videos, downloadable PDFs, etc.

For instance, Toggl, a time tracking software company frequently uploads informative blog posts and research data about productivity, work-life, and career.

Informative blog post about productivity to increase web traffic.

This attracts users interested in time management, productivity, and wellbeing in the workplace. When they read Toggl’s blog, they eventually discover Toggl’s time tracking app, among its other productivity tools. Some of these users convert, helping Toggl increase their website traffic and ROI.

Content marketing isn’t limited to blog posts. If you connect better through audio, you can try launching a podcast or host a webinar.

Nowadays, most social media apps let you post a variety of content formats including photos, audio clips, long-form text, and videos. You can experiment with one or more of these formats to see what works best for your audience.

2. Paid Ads

Content marketing is beneficial but it can take a lot of money, especially if you’re paying established writers to create original, well-researched posts for you.

Most of these projects also take weeks or months to show results, which isn’t a practical timeline for many businesses.

If you want quicker results with a budget you can control, why not try paid ads?

Seven in ten Americans use social media today. That’s more than two-thirds of the population. Think about the possibilities!

Paid ads can instantly generate hundreds, if not thousands, of clicks to your website. Plus, with new advertising and social media platforms appearing and innovating regularly, getting your ads in front of the right people is becoming easier than ever.

For example, Facebook offers detailed customer personas and multiple targeting options so you can put your business in front of your target customers without wasting a lot of money on mass advertising.

Facebook paid ads can help you increase website traffic

However, you don’t have to stick to the largest platforms for effective advertising. In fact, advertising on lesser-known platforms whose audience aligns with your products can be more effective in the long run.

For example, if your ideal customer includes teens who enjoy memes and weird stories, you’d have much better results by advertising on Reddit, rather than Facebook or YouTube.

Another option is dating apps. If your brand is focused on relationships or if you’re targeting young singles, advertising on dating apps like Tinder can help you find your target customers faster.

If you’re worried paid ads will take a lot of money, remember, you don’t need to spend $1,000 on your first day.

Test the waters with $5-$10 a day and see what happens. Do that for a week, just to learn how different media platforms work.

3. Social Media Strategies

One of the best ways to increase your website traffic is to meet your customers where they like to hang out. Like we discussed earlier, almost everyone is using social media today. Ramping up your social media marketing efforts can help you reach new users, develop brand awareness and increase website traffic.

How to gain website traffic through social media?

When it comes to social media, you can’t just barge into “conversations” and ask people to buy something from you or to visit your website.

Think about how you’d present your brand in real life when you meet an individual for the first time. Would you immediately talk sales in their face? How about providing details about your product/service without introducing yourself first?

Remember, users visit their preferred social media platforms for entertainment, not for being sold to.

To make sure your efforts are well-received, you need to provide value first and develop positive relationships with your potential “followers.”

You can do this by sharing informative posts like How-Tos, or posting fun photos of your employees, like this post from Casper.

casper image how to increase traffic without SEO example

I wrote a detailed guide to increasing social media followers and boosting engagement. Here’s a summary of the top options to help you grow your website traffic.

  • join relevant Facebook groups
  • share helpful articles/videos in these groups
  • post updates about your company’s latest products
  • host contests and giveaways
  • Leave thoughtful comments on user-generated content

4. Link Building Strategies

When marketing teams talk about SEO, link building frequently comes to mind. When reputable websites link to your content, the algorithm favors your website and increases its rank on the search page.

Sounds helpful, but that’s not all.

Did you know link building can help you increase web traffic without relying on SEO?

Link building for brand awareness is a process where you focus your strategies on expanding your reach, putting your content in front of new users, and generating conversations around your brand.

This is more than just a casual backlink in a blog post. Link building for brand awareness takes more planning and resources, but the investment is worth the high-quality leads you’ll get.

Here are some tips for developing effective link building strategies to increase website traffic:

  • Engage with your audience: Create interesting, shareable posts and encourage your followers to respond and share your content.
  • Work with PRs: Recruit efficient PRs to help generate brand awareness and distribute your story to your desired audience.
  • Guest blog intentionally: Choose unique publications that align with your readers’ key interests and post guest blogs on their page.

5. Interact With Other Blogs

Guest blogging is an effective traffic-driving strategy aimed at leveraging somebody else’s audience to widen your brand’s reach.

Think about it: Somebody in your niche has a large, engaged following. Imagine if you could put your content in front of them. How much traffic could you drive to your website!

Why would someone publish your work?

Probably because you’re good at what you do.

Everyone is looking for high-quality content. If you can provide a well-researched, helpful post for free, people are often open to publishing it on their website. After all, it’s benefiting their audience at zero cost.

Why would you give precious content away for free?

It’ll help you gain access to hundreds, if not thousands of new users, many of whom could become long-term customers.

It’s a win-win situation, but you have to be careful how you approach it.

Start by searching for blogs and media publications that publish content relevant to your business. For example, if you run a recruiting company, publish content on business blogs read by people interested in the latest recruiting practices.

If you want to find blogs in your industry that are accepting guest posts, use the following search queries to see more specific results:

  • name of your niche + “write for us”
  • name of your niche + “submit guest post”
  • name of your niche + “sites that accept guest posts”
  • write guest article + ‘name of your niche” + blog

Solvid provides a comprehensive list of places accepting guest blogs:

Publications that allow guest blogging to increase website traffic

In addition, research online biographies of specific companies and bloggers. More often than not, their web profiles contain a handy list of sites where they’ve been invited to guest post. That’s a plethora of most fitting guest blog opportunities presented to you on a silver platter.

Then, send a request. Most websites will have publication guidelines you can follow. Follow these instructions carefully to increase your chances of publication.

There’s also the option of using blog comments as a way to generate traffic to your site.

In the past, I have managed to generate $25,000 as a result of 249 comments.

How exactly do you go about using comments to generate traffic?

When leaving a comment, make sure you are adding something worthwhile to the discussion.

There is no use in leaving comments like “Awesome post!” or “Nice website!”

If someone posts a question, make sure you take the time to answer thoughtfully.

This showcases your expertise in the given niche and will encourage someone reading to click on your name and be taken through to your site.

If you read an article on a subject you don’t know very well, it would be imprudent to voice your own thoughts as fact. In this situation, you should simply ask questions. Then the website owner would be able to elaborate more on complex topics or complicated sections.

If you’re knowledgeable about a subject, feel free to contribute (e.g., suggest something, recommend a solution, answer a question). If you’re a novice, it’s best to ask questions. Powerful questions can bring you website traffic by encouraging blog readers to check you out.

Avoid embedding links in your comments. It comes off as a wretched attempt to plant your flag on someone’s lawn.

It’s okay to use your website’s link in the URL field when entering your name and email address, but your comment needs to add to the conversation or challenge an idea without lazy attempts at driving traffic to your blog.

Refrain from using the name of your business as your “commenting name.”  Use your actual full name instead.

Using a random or fake name is a missed opportunity to build strong branding because your brand actually starts with your name. In fact, failing to use your full name will reduce your chances of the website owner approving your comment.

6. Email Marketing

If you read a few posts on digital marketing, email marketing would be mentioned in most of them. That’s because it’s still one of the most efficient ways to increase website traffic.

One study suggests email generates $36 for every $1 spent, offering a shocking 3,600 percent ROI. What more could you ask for?

Email marketing lets you reach potential customers directly. It’s an ideal platform for building long-term relationships for improved customer loyalty. You can post questions, ask for feedback, introduce soft sales, and persuade customers for the “big buy.”

Here are some tips for effective email marketing to increase website traffic:

  • Be real: Share stories, post behind-the-scenes content, and solicit original user-generated content.
  • Offer value: Just like content marketing needs a high value to convert readers, emails and newsletters must provide value before they make an ask.
  • Include all your links:  Make it easy to read and share your post.  Include links to your social media profiles, latest blog posts, and sales page in every email you send.

7. Provide Excellent Customer Service and Ask Customers to Review Your Brand

Ramping up your social media marketing efforts to increase website traffic is useless if you offer poor customer service.

According to a survey, 42 percent of customers said they bought more after pleasant customer service experiences.

Think about it: Users complain on social media, you offer a prompt and polite response. What happens? The person starts respecting your brand.

Even when users complain privately via email, it’s important to offer the best possible service so they come back for more.

How can you offer great customer service?

  • reply promptly
  • offer as many suggestions for customer problems as possible
  • apologize when you make a mistake and offer coupons/refunds

If you consistently provide great customer service, you can request users to review your brand.

Platforms like Trustpilot and Yelp can be great for building positive reviews. Many users consult these websites before making a purchase decision, so having a solid profile can help improve your reputation.

Increase Website Traffic Without SEO Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to increase website traffic without SEO?

Yes. You can use a combination of social media marketing strategies and content marketing techniques to increase website traffic without SEO.

Are there ways to increase website traffic for free?

Guest blogging, posting on social media, and requesting user-generated content are some of the most effective ways to increase website traffic for free.

Can I increase website traffic through marketing without an agency?

You can use techniques like guest blogging and content marketing to engage audiences without relying on any agency.

What’s the best strategy to increase website traffic quickly?

Working on improving your social media strategies can help you connect with new users, develop brand awareness and drive organic traffic relatively fast.

Increase Website Traffic Without SEO Conclusion

You shouldn’t only rely on search engines to increase website traffic. Algorithm changes and SEO techniques become outdated quickly.

The strategies we discussed today can help you create a comprehensive digital marketing plan to increase website traffic effectively.

Whether you use one of these tactics in isolation, or you use all of them together, they can transform the way you attract customers.

Which traffic-driving strategy will you try today?

See How My Agency Can Drive Massive Amounts of Traffic to Your Website

  • SEO – unlock massive amounts of SEO traffic. See real results.
  • Content Marketing – our team creates epic content that will get shared, get links, and attract traffic.
  • Paid Media – effective paid strategies with clear ROI.

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Google CEO Confirms AI Features Coming To Search “Soon”

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Google CEO Confirms AI Features Coming To Search "Soon"

Google announced today that it will soon be rolling out AI-powered features in its search results, providing users with a new, more intuitive way to navigate and understand the web.

These new AI features will help users quickly understand the big picture and learn more about a topic by distilling complex information into easy-to-digest formats.

Google has a long history of using AI to improve its search results for billions of people.

The company’s latest AI technologies, such as LaMDA, PaLM, Imagen, and MusicLM, provide users with entirely new ways to engage with information.

Google is working to bring these latest advancements into its products, starting with search.

Statement From Google CEO Sundar Pichai

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, released a statement on Twitter about a conversational AI service that will be available in the coming weeks.

Bard, powered by LaMDA, is Google’s new language model for dialogue applications.

According to Pichai, Bard, which leverages Google’s vast intelligence and knowledge base, can deliver accurate and high-quality answers:

“In 2021, we shared next-gen language + conversation capabilities powered by our Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA). Coming soon: Bard, a new experimental conversational #GoogleAI service powered by LaMDA.

Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence, and creativity of our large language models. It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses. Today we’re opening Bard up to trusted external testers.

We’ll combine their feedback with our own internal testing to make sure Bard’s responses meet our high bar for quality, safety, and groundedness and we will make it more widely available in coming weeks. It’s early, we will launch, iterate and make it better.”

In Summary

Increasingly, people are turning to Google for deeper insights and understanding.

With the help of AI, Google can consolidate insights for questions where there is no one correct answer, making it easier for people to get to the core of what they are searching for.

In addition to the AI features being rolled out in search, Google is also introducing a new experimental conversational AI service called Bard. Powered by LaMDA, Bard will use Google’s vast intelligence and knowledge base to deliver accurate and high-quality answers to users.

Google continues demonstrating its commitment to making search more intuitive and effective for users. As Pichai said in his statement, the company will continue to launch, iterate, and improve these new offerings in the coming weeks and months.

Source: Google



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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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