Analysis: Yandex Moves Away From Links as a Ranking Factor

Ilya Nikitin

Ilya Nikitin is an internet marketer with eleven years of experience, including SEO/SEM, social network marketing, eCommerce, and project management. He leads his own company that targets the B2B market. He is always eager to try new strategies to achieve outstanding results.

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Analysis: Yandex Moves Away From Links as a Ranking Factor
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Upcoming changes in Yandex algorithms will stop considering external links as a factor for ranking sites in search results. This news is already puzzling the optimiser community, and in the near future should lead to changes in the SEO market.

The Head of Yandex search services, Aleksander Sadovsky, made a sensational statement on December 5, 2013. According to his promise, in the beginning of 2014, as a result of a new algorithm launch, Yandex will stop taking into account external links in its ranking search results.

This change will affect only commercial requests and initially will be implemented only in Moscow and the Moscow area, although over time it will spread to the rest of the country.

Linking tools an important part of Russia's search economy

The affordable technology that helps with the artificial formation of external links into interesting promotion resources has become one of the most important and popular search engine optimisation (SEO) tools. The Russian search engine optimisation market stands at RUB 10 billion in 2012 ($310 million).

Aleksander Sadovsky’s statement managed to polarise bloggers into two camps: drastic critics of Yandex's idea of excluding external links from ranking factors and active supporters of the move.

The main argument of critics is that from now on it will be difficult for low-budget projects and single developers to improve their position in Yandex search results.

Supporters of this innovation emphasise its two major pluses: rapid decrease of the amount of "junk links" in the network, and market position strengthening of skilled and expensive optimizers.

According to Aleksander Sadovsky, only about 50 out of the approximately 800 ranking factors used in the Yandex algorithm are based on external links.

The Head of Yandex search services admits that the reaction on social networks and blogs to this innovation has been "stormy and ambiguous," however, he notices that it happens with any changes in ranking. Sadovsky makes it clear that the SEO community has had many chances to prepare for Yandex’s termination of links consideration. In his words, this tendency was evident, and the importance of links in rankings was steadily declining.

Link reform recommended

In the long term, according to Sadovsky, "links reform" will refocus the market away from the rabid optimisation towards actual internet marketing - providing services to improve usability, increasing conversion of visitors into buyers, etc.

One of the major Russian link aggregators, SeoPult, has already stated that "the high-quality sites" will not lose their position and traffic from Yandex’s search system after the implementation of the new algorithm, and link ranking will continue to be considered for the "absolute majority of requests".

Many SEO-specialists point out that now Yandex will increasingly focus on behavioural factors that indicate how users interact with the website: for example, how often users click on certain sites in search results, how much time they spend on the site and how many pages they look through.

Supposedly, the change in search algorithms will be a serious blow to the representatives of the SEO industry, who help to increase the link ranking of sites. Their place will most likely be taken by interface design specialists, as well as the markets, who already offer an increase in behavioural factors.