SEO checklist: it works for Yandex

Search engine optimization is a complex activity and what it needs first is a to-do list to keep at hand. We tried to make one: this article may serve a checklist when doing SEO jobs for your website. We base on our experience in SEO for Yandex and Google, with Yandex prior as we mostly promote websites in the Russian search.

Keyword research first

The first thing to do is keyword research – identifying the keywords that will be the target of your website. So, first off, we  build a “semantic core”. To draw a list of proper quieries you might need Google AdWords and Yandex Wordstart services (wordstat.yandex.ru). Also we use some content analysing services (seotxt.ru, e.g.) to see which keywords are already in their places or should be strengthened by additional text or rewording.

How relevant are the webpages you plan for keyword optimization?

After we make up a list of general  keyword for the whole site (about 20-30), we  check which pages of your website may be considered relevant for each query in the search engine. To do so, we make up a table. The first column will contain the quieries (keywords correspondingly), and the other is for the pages that show  relevancy in each search engine we are interested in. To find out which page is the most relevant to the query, use advanced  features allowing to search on your website: the pages that show first in the search results are the most relevant and will be optimized first.

How good is the optimized webpage for users?

Now it is time to see whether users find the pages of your site useful. Your webpages could be relevant but this does’nt necessarily mean they are visited, and even if they are, they can be of poor quality and so the user might leave the website after visiting such page. If you find the page poor, don’t hesitate to replace it with an improved one. At this stage it would suffice to create a page which would be appealing for users that would come across your page through one of the semantic core queries entered into a search engine.

After we decide which pages need to be optimized or completely changed, we proceed with the next serious step: SEO copywriting. SEO copywriting is the core of the optimization process,  no matter Google or Yandex, and it might take more time and money than the rest of the jobs. We won’t go in detail here in this article – just remind that reasonable keyword placement and conversion are the top ideas.

Оn-page: technical matters

The site’s overall success in search results, in our opinion, depends a lot on this type of optimization. Here is our “do-zen” – a check list for technical on-page optimization (some do’s are still important if your optimize for Yandex):

  1. working robots.txt file is uploaded;
  2. proper sitemap.xml files are uploaded, and every necessary page is listed in sitemap.xml;
  3. the sitemap.xml link is listed in the search engines and is present in the robots.txt file;
  4. any webpage on your site can be reached within three clicks top;
  5. flash is reasonably used as it is still badly indexed by Yandex: if your website is on Flash you need to provide some text content as well;
  6. there’s no linking within javascript codes, if so, you need to repeat the links in html as well;
  7. all content images have <alt> tag text filled in;
  8. meta-tags description and keywords are  filled in in accordance with the content of the page (they say it’s getting irrelevant – but still, we do it for Yandex, though it is an absolutely “snippet-blind” machine);
  9. the title tag contains the keywords the page is optimized for, and it looks natural and attractive;
  10. target keywords are used in H1 – H6 headings, and headings are properly worded for users, not only for robots;
  11. keywords (but not all of them on a page!) are highlighted with <strong>, <em>  tags;
  12. good internal linking between the pages of the website is provided: neither overdone nor underdone.

Off-page : backlink building

Offpage optimization often mostly includes backlink building, and if you take up this method seriously, the effect will be worth the effort. We are, say, more of a “pure SEO” kind and find keyword optimization more rewarding, however a proper backlink with good ancor text is still a must for Google and Yandex.

It is widely considered that off page optimization deals mostly with link purchasing. We don’t either like it or do it often, but there are clients who truly believe this might help with Yandex. Ok, it sometimes does. So, when doing this, we take time to have a close look at the websites we are planning to purchase a link from. We are always careful so that not to buy a link from a “bad” site which has nothing to do with the topic of your site, or deal with a website banned by Yandex or a drop-out. It’s a waste of money with no or even sad result. Besides, we need to be careful with the backlinks growth: if your website is new to Yandex it is not recommended to overdo backlink building: not more than 100 links per month and only from most trustworthy sites. Otherwise Yandex considers your backlinks unnatural and your campaign might turn a waste of money and time.

Backlink building is better with social bookmarking, social sharing and retwitting – they get your website quickly indexed by any search engine, so let your visitors add your site to social bookmarks and networks with share buttons. You can set up a twitter/facebook account and retweet your new content manually or automatically. Vkontakte.ru, Odnoklassniki.ru, Ya.ru, MoiMir.mail.ru, Moikrug.ru and some other Russian social networks should also have their share buttons on your website if you plan to attract Russian visitors. There’s a special service from Yandex that allows to set a whole bunch of Russian social sharing buttons on your website. Besides, we use our own personal Ya.ru and other Russian social accounts for backlink building.

by Vi and Olli