Yandex turns SEO business upside down

A new Yandex algorithm is going to exclude backlinks from ranking  in 2014. The news has already made many SEO specialists puzzled and is to bring essential changes into Russian SEO market in the near future.

Alexander Sadovskiy, Head of Web Search at Yandex, brought the shocking news onto the stage of IBC Russia 2013 SEO conference: starting from January 2014 no backlinks are going to participate in Yandex page ranking. The new Yandex algorithm will initially affect commercial search queries and is to be first launched in Moscow, with further gradual spread onto the rest of the regions. There won’t be any changes in evaluating informational websites as their external links are mostly natural and can be regarded as a reliable ranking signal. Any other details including the name of the algorithm are kept secret.

The majority of search engines, including international Google and Russian Yandex, have so far taken into account “good” backlinks to  websites in their page ranking. Backlink weight was supposed to demonstrate the trust of the website that wanted to participate in the competition for higher positions in SERP. That is why buying links with such link exchange services as SAPE.ru has become one of the most spread Yandex SEO techniques and, actually, one of the “greyest” disasters for search results. “Ashmanov and Partners” claim that link selling at Russian SEO market has had a turnover of milliards of US dollars in recent years.

Sadovskiy’s precedent statement has divided the Russian SEO blogosphere into two camps: one party strongly criticize the idea of excluding backlinks from ranging factors and the other vote for it and are against paid links.

The argument against is the difficulties small businesses and freelancers are going to face trying to get into Yandex top search results. The protagonists of the idea state at least two pluses: less link spam and strengthening market position of qualified expensive SEO providers.

Most influential Russian SEO companies refused to comment on the situation, while Head of Web Search at Yandex informed us, that so called “link reform” began when commercial links failed to provide the degree of page relevancy. Sadovskiy assures us that only 50 of approximately 800 ranging factors used in Yandex algorithm deal with backlinks.

To provide most relevant results Yandex search does its best to consider all possible data, but “when the source of the data is full of spam, signal is lost and the data become useless”. Yandex has already experimented in refusal of backlinks and states “the quality of search proves to be of the same relevancy”.

Head of Web Search at Yandex admits the emotional reaction to the new algorithm in blogs and social nets but he is sure it is quite usual thing when a new ranging formula is launched.

Alexandre Sadovskiy notes that Russian SEO specialists were more than prepared to Yandex refusal from backlinks. By his words, the tendency was obvious and link value was gradually going down. “We have been talking about it for three years so far. The instrument is not effective for Yandex SEO, which is now evident to everybody”.

In long-tern perspective, Sadovskiy is sure that “link reform” will turn over-optimization into Internet marketing: developing site usability as well as raising customer conversion rate.

A. Sadovsky, Yandex, answering the questions of SEO specialists at IBC Russia after breaking the news of “no more paid backlinks” (photo by @joe_graf)

SEOgrad’s @joe_graf, participating in IBC, asked Alexandre a question in the interim between IBC sessions about the ranking of websites without geotargeting (as some of our projects are not aimed at certain regions) after the algorithm is launched, and the answer was (quite obvious) that in Moscow they will play to the new rules, whilst in the regions they will be ranked as before. But, as we suppose, not for long.

What shall we expect then?

Website structure and logic, texts perfection, usability – these factors are going to take the leading position in SEO, which is now becoming something more than just SEO. Social networks are to play an important part in the rush for the best positions in Yandex. Now traffic,  users’ behaviour on the website, bounce rates, interactions with the websites and other things are gaining their weight . Internet marketing is to replace pure SEO and offpage optimization for Yandex will become extinct.

SEOgrad is happy to announce that we fully support this deal – our team has never bought a link in their life and so there is much rejoicing over the news about the new algorithm. Paid linking has been long declared grey SEO by search engines as it is exactly “manipulating the search results”. Our expectations of a more honest page ranking are finally met and we face the future of our projects with no fear. Now more attention is to be given to web-writing, usability, user and social factors.

We do only white, only organic SEO and say no to paid backs together with Yandex.