How the Yandex Leak Will Forever Change Your SEO

Brian Bojan Dordevic
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Brian Decoded

President at Alpha Efficiency

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Allegedly, a former employee has leaked Yandex’s code fragments. This revealed nearly 2,000 search ranking factors the Russian technology company uses for forming results pages. And today, our SEO agency in Chicago will show you interesting discoveries from the Yandex leak that can forever change your SEO game. Hold on tight, as the importance of some search ranking factors might surprise you.

Table of Contents:
The importance of Yandex code leaks for SEO

Yandex and Google Are More Similar Than You May Believe

Both Yandex and Google are separate search engines and big tech firms that constantly push the limits of technology. But before we start exploring the learnings we’ve got from the leakage of Yandex’s source code repositories, please note that this won’t show us the exact way Google’s algorithms work. Don’t blindly follow the search ranking factors we’re going to reveal. However, these two search engines might be more similar than people often believe. Let’s see why:

  • MatrixNet and RankBrain are not the same, but…

In 2009, Yandex introduced MatrixNet – a neural network many people believe is similar to Google’s RankBrain. However, this isn’t completely true. As a limited algorithm, RankBrain focuses on understanding 15% of search queries no one has used on Google before. On the other hand, MatrixNet does much more. It’s a machine learning model that classifies each search query in order to apply the appropriate search ranking algorithms. This makes ranking factors dynamic, as different factors may be applied for each search query, depending on its class.

  • Engineers from Yandex and Google share findings at conferences

Engineers from both Yandex and Google often attend the same conferences and share their findings with each other. The technology behind search engines is constantly evolving, and both companies are always looking for ways to improve their search results and make their user experiences better. By sharing their ideas and developments in machine learning, information retrieval, and natural language processing fields, both big tech firms can benefit. 

Also, by doing research on LinkedIn, you can find hundreds of engineers who have worked for both Yandex and Google. All of this leads to the conclusion that, while not the same, algorithms both search engines use do have some similarities. 

1,922 SEO Ranking Factors Revealed – Here are Key Insights

A Yandex source code repository leak is definitely one of the biggest events in the SEO sphere in years. It revealed 1,922 search ranking factors this big tech company is using, at least as of July 2022. However, keep in mind that there are many other factors that haven’t been revealed in this Yandex code leak. By analyzing breach contents, we’ve found out that there are 17,854 ranking factors in total. 

To help you make a better sense of all the factors revealed in Yandex leaks, we’ve put up the list of most important discoveries:

Since the Nepot filter in 2005, Yandex has been battling link manipulation in a similar way that Google does. One of the ways the Russian tech company does this is by including backlink age as one of the search ranking factors. Older backlinks carry more weight and can improve your site’s ranking in search results. This means that investing in high-quality backlinks will pay off in the future as they start aging.

Here are more link-related search ranking factors that you should keep in mind:

  • Links from the top 100 websites by PageRank can have an impact on your rankings
  • The topic similarity between two websites plays a role in determining link relevance
  • Link quality affects link relevance
  • Backlinks from homepages are more important than those from internal pages
  • The percentage of query words in links matter

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to perform the backlink analysis in order to get a better insight into your own and your competitor’s backlink quality.

Buying PPC affects Rankings – The Percentage of Organic Traffic Matters

We’ve found out that the percentage of organic traffic is a ranking factor on Yandex. This means that obtaining traffic through PPC advertising can have a negative impact on your rankings in this popular search engine. Yandex leaks also confirm that direct traffic (visits to your website that don’t have a defined source) have a positive impact on rankings. Here are some interesting ranking factors you can find in Yandex source code files:

  • Percentage of direct visits when complete traffic is calculated
  • The number of unique visitors
  • Green traffic share (direct visits) from desktop devices
  • Green traffic share (direct visits) from mobile devices
  • Search traffic – the percentage of transitions from search engines to your site
  • Share of visits that don’t come from links

Avoid On-Page Advertising If You Want To Rank High

FI_ADV: -0.2509284637 – this factor indicates that any type of advertising on your page can make it not rank high in the Yandex search engine. 

And there’s also another factor that calculates the average ratio of adverts on the screen. It’s not fully clear what exactly this means – but we assume that showing too many ads on users’ screens will negatively impact your rankings. Google has similar mechanisms to penalize you if your obtrusive ads are ruining the user experience. So be careful.

Yandex prefers older content

FI_DATER_AGE: -0.2074373667 – The popular search engine uses a dater function to determine how old your document is. The value will be 1 if you’ve published a piece of content today and 0 if it’s 10 years or older. This makes it clear that Yandex prefers older content.

Considering this ranking factor, we advise you to update an older content piece whenever possible instead of publishing new ones on the same topic.

Keep Your Important Pages Close to Main Page – Here’s Why…

Yandex leaks revealed code fragments that indicate this search engine’s preference for pages that are closer to the homepage. Although crawl depth is not an explicit ranking factor for Google, it’s still possible that the most popular search engine gives at least a small advantage to pages that can be reached within one click from the homepage. Google might be using crawl depth as a way to determine which pages are the most important on your website.

As it’s always better to be safe than sorry, we advise you to keep your important pages closer to the homepage. This means one click from the main page for your top pages and less than three clicks for important ones.

How Can Insights from Yandex Code Leak Change Your SEO Forever?

It’s just natural to wonder to which extent are Yandex’s search ranking factors similar to Google’s. Yet, only software engineers from Google might be able to give an accurate answer to that. It’s not worth obsessing over that question. After all, these two big tech firms constantly work on new technology, and some of these ranking factors may become irrelevant as new ones arise in the future.

Instead, try to observe Yandex leaks as a chance to get deeper insights into the way modern search engines function. Until this huge event, the search marketing community has been relying on early findings from the 2000s way too much. Search engine algorithms have rapidly evolved since then, and now you have an opportunity to catch up with changes and adjust your SEO strategies for future success.


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