Yandex Data Leakage: The Ranking Aspects & The Misconceptions We Discover

Yandex is the online search engine with bulk market share in Russia and the 4th biggest online search engine worldwide.

On January 27, 2023, it suffered what is probably among the biggest information leakages that a contemporary tech business has actually withstood in several years, however is the 2nd leakage in less than a years.

In 2015, a previous Yandex worker tried to offer Yandex’s online search engine code on the black market for around $30,000.

The preliminary leakage in January this year exposed 1,922 ranking aspects, of which more than 64% were noted as unused or deprecated (superseded and finest prevented).

This leakage was simply the file identified kernel, however as the SEO neighborhood and I dug much deeper, more files were discovered that combined consist of roughly 17,800 ranking aspects.

When it pertains to practicing SEO for Yandex, the guide I composed 2 years back, for the a lot of part still uses.

Yandex, like Google, has actually constantly been public with its algorithm updates and modifications, and over the last few years how it has actually embraced artificial intelligence.

Noteworthy updates from the previous two-three years consist of:

  • Vega (which doubled the size of the index).
  • Mimicry (punishing phony sites impersonating brand names).
  • Y1 upgrade (presenting YATI).
  • Y2 upgrade (late 2022).
  • Adoption of IndexNow.
  • A fresh rollout and presumed upgrade of the PF filter.

On an individual note, this information leakage resembles a 2nd Christmas.

Because January 2020, I have actually run an SEO news site as a pastime committed to covering Yandex SEO and browse news in Russia with 600+ short articles, so this is most likely the peak occasion of the pastime website.

I have actually likewise spoken two times at the Optimization conference– the biggest SEO conference in Russia.

This is likewise an excellent test to see how carefully Yandex’s public declarations match the codebase tricks.

In 2019, dealing with Yandex’s PR group I had the ability to speak with engineers in their Browse group and I asked a variety of concerns sourced from the larger Western SEO neighborhood.

You can check out the interview with the Yandex search group here.

Whilst Yandex is mainly understood for its existence in Russia, the online search engine likewise has an existence in Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Georgia.

The information leakage was thought to be politically encouraged and the actions of a rogue worker, and consists of a variety of code pieces from Yandex’s monolithic repository, Arcadia.

Within the 44GB of dripped information, there’s info connecting to a variety of Yandex items consisting of Browse, Maps, Mail, Metrika, Disc, and Cloud.

What Yandex Has Needed To State

As I compose this post (January 31st), Yandex has actually openly specified that:

the contents of the archive (dripped code base) represent the out-of-date variation of the repository– it varies from the present variation utilized by our services


It is very important to keep in mind that the released code pieces likewise consist of test algorithms that were utilized just within Yandex to confirm the proper operation of the services.

So just how much of this code base is actively utilized is doubtful.

Yandex has actually likewise exposed that throughout their examination and audit, they discovered a variety of mistakes that breach their own internal concepts, so it is most likely that parts of this dripped code (that remain in present usage) might be altering in the future.

Aspect Category

Yandex categorizes its ranking aspects into 3 classifications.

This has actually been detailed in Yandex’s public paperwork for a long time, however I feel deserves consisting of here as it much better assists us comprehend the ranking aspect leakage.

  • Fixed aspects— Aspects that relate straight to the site, e.g. incoming backlinks, incoming internal links, headers, advertisements ratio.
  • Dynamic aspects— Aspects that relate to both the site and the search question, e.g. text significance, keyword additions, TF * IDF.
  • User search associated aspects — Aspects connecting to the user question, e.g. where is the user situated, query language, intent modifiers.

The ranking consider the file are tagged to match the matching classification, with TG_STATIC and TG_DYNAMIC, and after that TG_QUERY_ONLY, TG_QUERY, TG_USER_SEARCH, and TG_USER_SEARCH_ONLY.

Yandex Leakage Learnings Up Until Now

From the information so far, listed below are a few of the affirmations and knowings we have actually had the ability to make.

There is a lot information in this leakage, it is likely that we will be discovering brand-new things and making brand-new connections in the next couple of weeks.

These consist of:

  • PageRank (a type of).
  • At some time Yandex used TF * IDF.
  • Yandex still utilizes meta keywords, which is likewise highlighted in their paperwork.
  • Yandex has particular aspects for medical, legal, and monetary subjects (YMYL).
  • They utilize a type of page quality scoring, however this is understood (ICS rating).
  • Hyperlinks from high authority sites have an effect on rankings.
  • There’s absolutely nothing brand-new to recommend Yandex can crawl JavaScript yet beyond currently openly recorded procedures.
  • Server mistakes and extreme 4xx mistakes can affect ranking.
  • The time of day is thought about as a ranking aspect.

Listed Below, I have actually broadened on some other affirmations and knowings from the leakage.

Where possible, I have actually likewise connected these dripped ranking aspects to the algorithm updates and statements that associate with them, or where we were outlined them being impactful.


MatrixNet is discussed in a few of the ranking aspects and was revealed in 2009, and after that superseded in 2017 by Catboost, which was presented throughout the Yandex product-sphere.

This more includes credibility to remarks straight from Yandex, and among the aspect authors DenPlusPlus (Den Raskovalov) that this remains in truth an out-of-date code repository.

Initially presented as a brand-new, core algorithm that thought about countless ranking aspects and appointed weights based upon the user area, the real search question, and viewed search intent.

MatrixNet is generally viewed as a mirror of Google’s RankBrain, or vice versa provided MatrixNet was introduced 6 years prior to RankBrain was revealed.

MatrixNet has actually likewise been built on, which isn’t unexpected provided it is now 14 years of ages.

In 2016, Yandex presented the Palekh algorithm that utilized deep neural networks to much better match files (web pages) and inquiries, even if they didn’t consist of the right “levels” of typical keywords however pleased the user intents.

Palekh can processing 150 pages at a time, and in 2017 was upgraded with the Korolyov upgrade, which took into consideration more depth of page material, and might sweat off 200,000 pages simultaneously.

URL & & Page Level Aspects

From the leakage, we have actually found out that Yandex thinks about URL building, particularly:

  • The existence of numbers in the URL.
  • The variety of tracking slashes in the URL (and if they are extreme).
  • The variety of uppercase in the URL is an aspect.
Screenshot from author, January 2023

The age of a page (file age) and the last upgraded date are likewise essential, and this makes good sense.

Along with file age and last upgrade, a variety of consider the information associate with freshness– especially for news-related inquiries.

Yandex previously utilized timestamps, particularly not for ranking functions however “reordering” functions, however this is now categorized as unused.

Likewise in the deprecated column are making use of keywords in the URL. Yandex has actually formerly determined that 3 keywords from the search question in the URL would be an “optimum” outcome.

Internal Hyperlinks & & Crawl Depth

Whilst Google has actually gone on the record to state that for them, crawl depth isn’t clearly a ranking aspect, Yandex appears to have an active piece of code that determines that URLs that are obtainable from the homepage have a “greater” level of significance.

Yandex factors Screenshot from author, January 2023

This mirrors John Mueller’s 2018 declaration that Google provides “a little bit more weight” to pages discovered more than one click from the homepage.

The ranking aspects likewise highlight a particular token weighting for web pages that are “orphans” within the site connecting structure.

Clicks & & CTR

In 2011, Yandex launched an article speaking about how the online search engine utilizes clicks as part of their rankings and likewise attends to the desires of the SEO pros to control the metric for ranking gain.

Particular click consider the leakage take a look at things like:

  • The ratio of the variety of click the URL, relative to all click the search.
  • The like above, however broken down by area.
  • How typically do users click the URL for the search.

Controling Clicks

Controling user habits, particularly “click-jacking” is a recognized technique within Yandex.

Yandex has a filter, called the PF filter that actively looks for and punishes sites that take part in this activity utilizing scripts that keep an eye on IP resemblances and after that the “user actions” of those clicks, and the effect can be substantial.

The listed below screenshot reveals the effect on natural sessions (сессии) after being punished for mimicing user clicks.

Image Source: Russian Search News Image from Russian Browse News, January 2023

User Habits

The user habits takeaways from the leakage are a few of the more intriguing findings.

User habits adjustment is a typical black hat SEO technique that Yandex has actually been fighting for several years. At the 2020 Optimization conference, then Head of Yandex Web Designer Tools Mikhail Slevinsky stated they (Yandex) are making great development in identifying and punishing this kind of habits.

Yandex punishes user habits adjustment with the very same PF filter utilized to fight CTR adjustment.

Dwell Time

102 of the ranking aspects consist of the tag TG_USERFEAT_SEARCH_DWELL_TIME, and referral the gadget, user period and typical page dwell time.

All however 39 of these aspects are deprecated.

Yandex factors Screenshot from author, January 2023

Bing initially utilized the term Dwell time in a 2011 blog site, and over the last few years Google have actually made it clear that they do not utilize dwell time (or comparable user interaction signals) as ranking aspects.


YMYL (Your Cash, Your Life) is an idea popular within Google and is not a brand-new principle to Yandex.

Within the information leakage, there specify ranking aspects for medical, legal, and monetary material that exist– however this was especially exposed in 2019 at the Yandex Web designer conference when they revealed the Proxima Browse Quality Metric.

Metrika Data Use

6 of the ranking aspects associate with the use of Metrika information for the functions of ranking. Nevertheless, among them is tagged as deprecated:

  • The variety of comparable visitors from the YandexBar (YaBar/ Ябар).
  • The typical time invested in URLs from those very same comparable visitors.
  • The “core audience” of pages on which there is a Metrika counter [deprecated].
  • The typical time a user invests in a host when accessed externally (from another non-search website) from a particular URL.
  • Typical ‘depth’ (variety of hits within the host) of a user’s remain on the host when accessed externally (from another non-search website) from a specific URL.
  • Whether the domain has actually Metrika set up.

In Metrika, user information is dealt with in a different way.

Unlike Google Analytics, there are a variety of reports concentrated on user “commitment” integrating website engagement metrics with return frequency, period in between check outs, and source of the see.

For instance, I can see a report in one click to see a breakdown of specific website visitors:

Metrika Screenshot from Metrika, January 2023

Metrika likewise comes “out of package” with heatmap tools and user session recording, and over the last few years the Metrika group has actually made great development in having the ability to determine and filter bot traffic.

With Google Analytics there is an argument that Google does not utilize UA/GA4 information for ranking functions due to the fact that of how simple it is to customize or break the tracking code, however with Metrika counters they are a lot more direct and a great deal of the reports are unchangeable in regards to how the information is gathered.

Effect Of Traffic On Rankings

Following on from taking a look at Metrika information as a ranking aspect; these aspects efficiently verify that direct traffic and paid traffic (purchasing advertisements through Yandex Direct) can affect natural search efficiency:

  • Share of direct check outs amongst all inbound traffic.
  • Green traffic share (aka direct check outs). Desktop.
  • Green traffic share (aka direct check outs). Mobile.
  • Browse traffic– shifts from online search engine to the website.
  • Share of sees to the website not by links (set by hand or from bookmarks).
  • The variety of special visitors.
  • Share of traffic from online search engine.

News Aspects

There are a variety of aspects connecting to “News”, consisting of 2 that point out Yandex.News straight.

Yandex.News was an equivalent of Google News however was offered to the Russian social media network VKontakte in August 2022, in addition to another Yandex item “Zen”, so it’s unclear if these aspects connected to an item no longer owned or run by Yandex, or to how news sites are ranked in “routine” search.

Backlink Significance

Yandex has comparable algorithms to fight link adjustment as Google, and has actually done considering that the Nepot filter in 2005.

From evaluating the backlink ranking aspects and a few of the specifics in the descriptions, we can presume that the very best practices for constructing links for Yandex SEO would be to:

  • Construct relate to a more natural frequency and differing quantities.
  • Construct relate to top quality anchor texts along with usage business keywords.
  • If purchasing links, prevent purchasing links from sites that have actually blended subjects.

Below is a list of link-related aspects that can be thought about affirmations of finest practices:

  • The age of the backlink is an aspect.
  • Link significance based upon subjects.
  • Backlinks constructed from homepages bring more weight than internal pages.
  • Hyperlinks from the leading 100 sites by PR (PageRank) can affect rankings.
  • Link significance based upon the quality of each link.
  • Link significance, taking into consideration the quality of each link and the subject of each link.
  • Link significance, taking into consideration the non-commercial nature of each link.
  • Portion of incoming relate to question words.
  • Portion of question words in links (approximately a synonym).
  • The links consist of all the words of the question (approximately a synonym).
  • Dispersion of the variety of question words in links.

Nevertheless, there are some link-related aspects that are extra factors to consider when preparation, tracking, and evaluating backlinks:

  • The ratio of “excellent” versus “bad” backlinks to a site.
  • The frequency of links to the website.
  • Variety of inbound SEO garbage links in between hosts.

The information leakage likewise exposed that the link spam calculator has around 80 active aspects that are thought about, with a variety of deprecated aspects.

This develops the concern regarding how well Yandex has the ability to acknowledge unfavorable SEO attacks, provided it takes a look at the ratio of excellent versus bad links, and how it identifies what a bad link is.

An unfavorable SEO attack is likewise most likely to be a brief burst (high frequency) link occasion in which a website will unintentionally acquire a high variety of bad quality, non-topical, and possibly over-optimized links.

Yandex utilizes artificial intelligence designs to determine Personal Blog site Networks (PBNs) and paid links, and they make the very same presumption in between link speed and the time duration they are gotten.

Generally paid-for links are created over a longer amount of time, and these patterns (consisting of link origin website analysis) are what the Minusinsk upgrade (2015) was presented to fight.

Yandex Charges

There are 2 ranking aspects, both deprecated, called SpamKarma and Pessimization.

Pessimization describes minimizing PageRank to absolutely no and lines up with the expectations of serious Yandex charges.

SpamKarma likewise lines up with presumptions made around Yandex punishing hosts and people, along with specific domains.

Onpage Marketing

There are a variety of aspects connecting to marketing on the page, a few of them deprecated (like the screenshot example listed below).

Yandex factors Screenshot from author, January 2023

It’s not understood from the description precisely what the idea procedure with this aspect was, however it might be presumed that a high ratio of adverts to noticeable screen was an unfavorable aspect– similar to how Google takes umbrage if adverts obfuscate the page’s primary material or are noticeable.

Connecting this back to recognized Yandex systems, the Proxima upgrade likewise thought about the ratio of helpful and marketing material on a page.

Can We Use Any Yandex Learnings To Google?

Yandex and Google are various online search engine, with a variety of distinctions, in spite of the 10s of engineers who have actually worked for both business.

Due to the fact that of this defend skill, we can presume that a few of these master contractors and engineers will have constructed things in a comparable style (not direct copies), and used knowings from previous versions of their builds with their brand-new companies.

What Russian SEOs Are Stating About The Leakage

Just Like the Western World, SEO experts in Russia have actually been having their state on the leakage throughout the numerous Runet online forums.

The response in these online forums has actually been various to SEO Twitter and Mastodon, with a focus more on Yandex’s filters, and other Yandex items that are enhanced as part of larger Yandex optimization projects.

It is likewise worth keeping in mind that a variety of conclusions and findings from the information match what the Western SEO world are likewise discovering.

Typical styles in the Russian search online forums:

  • Web designers requesting insights into current filters, such as Mimicry and the upgraded PF filter.
  • The age and significance of a few of the aspects, due to author names no longer being at Yandex, and points out of long-retired Yandex items.
  • The primary intriguing knowings are around making use of Metrika information, and info connecting to the Spider & & Indexer.
  • A variety of aspects lay out the use of DSSM, which in theory was superseded by the release of Palekh in 2016. This was a search algorithm using artificial intelligence, revealed by Yandex in 2016.
  • An argument around ICS scoring in Yandex, and whether Yandex might supply more traffic to a website and affect its own aspects by doing so.

The dripped aspects, especially around how Yandex examines website quality have actually likewise come under examination.

There is an enduring belief in the Russian SEO neighborhood that Yandex often prefers its own product or services in search results page ahead of other sites, and web designers are asking concerns like:

Why do they trouble going to all this difficulty, when they simply nail their services to the top of the page anyhow?

In loosely equated files, these are described as the Sorcerers or Yandex Sorcerers. In Google, we ‘d call these SERP (online search engine results pages) functions– like Google Hotels, and so on

In October 2022, Kassir (a Russian ticket website) declared 328m payment from Yandex due to lost earnings, triggered by the “prejudiced conditions” in which Yandex Sorcerers took the consumer base far from the personal business.

This is off the back of a 2020 class action in which several business raised a case with the FAS (Federal Antimonopoly Service) for anticompetitive promo of their own services.

More resources:

Included Image:/ Shutterstock

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