In Russia, they have a saying that translates to "To show one where the crayfish spend winter," which to the Russians is a form of laying out somebody's punishment. Alternatively, Yandex, Russia's largest search engine, stands for "Yet Another iNDEXer", which is a perfect form of punishment toward its search rivals Google, Rambler, and mail.ru, considering its size, growth, and capability to recognize the grammatical inflection of the Russian language.
In Andy Atkins-Krüger's article, "Why is Russia's Yandex the Fastest Growing Search Engine?" we learned that Yandex is Russia's top search engine, and it handles the Russian language completely differently from its competitors. Thus, because language is so important, let's attempt to understand the core issues regarding best practices for SEO on Yandex.
1. Geotargeted Optimization
Yandex has been paying the most attention to geographic analysis by implementing a new algorithm six months ago known as "Arzamas These Days," providing different results for different users based on regional geographic location indicators.
These indicators analyze your site's domain name, location by IP data, regions assigned when registering on the Yandex Directory as well as content-related features written on the site (i.e., address, ZIP codes, area codes).
You can specify your site's geographic location using Yandex's Webmaster tool set, as well as a multitude of other features.
2. Being Careful with Display Advertisements
Yandex also analyzes the types of banners used on your Web pages to determine spam. You can be penalized for the use of pop-up and pop-under banners, or body click roll-overs and redirects.
Any program on the page that causes a user to unexpectedly leave the site, including multiple off-page links, can be heavily weighted as negative factors in your results. Even if you aren't a spammer, be careful with the use of pop ups for survey results or live customer service on the home page of your site.
3. Link Analysis and Yandex's Thematic Citation Index
The Thematic Citation Index (TIC) is Yandex's version of Google's PageRank, and is similar to the analysis of quantity and quality of inbound relevant links to your site. The TIC defines the "authority" of Internet resources, taking into account the qualitative characteristics of the source site.
Although inbound relevancy is key to Yandex, the number of outbound relevant links to resources also affects the value of its TIC. Keep in mind, this algorithm was built around relevant themes and may make it very difficult for sites that have a multitude of product categories (e.g., shopping comparison sites).
Being in Yandex's Directory benefits your site even more by confirming the "theme" of your site.
Yandex ignores outbound and inbound links to and from Web boards, forums, online conferences, free hosted sites, unmoderated catalogs, and other resources where anyone can add links without control by the owner of the resource site. Your best bet is to evaluate the Yandex Directory. If they're listed and relevant, you should be good to go.
Yandex recalculates the TIC system typically twice a month.
4. Linguistic Search
The biggest unique feature of Yandex is that it knows the Russian language very well, and its engine's analysis of on-page content, such as Russian grammar, vocabulary, thesaurus, inflections, etc. The engine almost produces a "feeling" for the user that only English semantic-based search engines can attempt to come close to achieving.
Native content translation probably will be your best bet outside of a Russian SEO linguistic expert. The written Russian content on the page can have the biggest influence on your Yandex search results, and can vary widely.
5. Google Similarities
Even though Yandex works differently in the way it analyzes the Russian language, there are still many similarities to Google, in terms of its algorithmic analysis and ranking. For example, Yandex shuns content duplication and rewards fresh, unique content. Good meta titles and descriptions are also important factors.
Following Google's best practices won't hurt as you optimize your site for Yandex, while concentrating heavily on link relevancy.
Like other powerful local search engines, Yandex understands its market, its culture, and its language. It also stands to benefit from Russia's technical engineers who have been brilliantly keeping up and innovating the advancement of search technology.
Though Google Russia can claim it's indexed just as many sites as Yandex, the end result is Russians using Google for their English-language searches, and sticking to Yandex for their Russian-language searches.
Yandex is far from being "Yet Another INDEXer," but I do enjoy that good old Russian sense of humor and concur that Yandex has shown where the crayfish spend their winter.