Is CTR A Ranking Factor For Yandex? (And Can You Influence It?)

Unlike Google, evidence (and data) suggests that CTR (users clicking on organic search results with Yandex SERPs) has an impact on how sites rank within Yandex.

TLDR:

  • Does Yandex take into account CTR as a ranking factor, Yes.
  • Is it possible to influence this metric? Yes.
  • Is Yandex fully aware of these tactics, can identify them, and will subsequently penalize your site if caught manipulating the metric? Hell yeah.

However, due to a number of services rising up allowing Webmasters to manipulate and improve this metric artificially. However, Yandex has made its stance clear those who optimize sites for Yandex using grey/black hat techniques.

From one of their 2011 blog articles, which now redirects (as of 2020):

The only right way we consider improving the quality of the site is in the interests of users. The impact on ranking parameters through various manipulations, we see as a desire to deceive the search engine and users.

“Imitation Of Visitor’s Actions”

Yandex is able to identify whether or not you’re artificially manipulating clicks on results in search results, with potential penalties (or filters) being demotion within search results or total exclusion.

The duration of the filter is six months (judging by some Yandex responses – from 8 months after elimination of the violation), among the “side” effects are a drop in ranking positions, and a sharp decrease in traffic. 

The process of lifting these sanctions is arduous, and sometimes won’t seem the effort – it is often easier to change the domain name and start again, but this isn’t always an option – especially for established brands and businesses.

Using services that manipulate artificial clicks leave a trace, and can be reverse-engineered:

  • Scripts can detect similarities of IP addresses of “clickers”. Defined by simple tracking of queries in the issuance by creating a test project.
  • Monitoring the active actions of clickers working through Yandex.Bar or Yandex.Browser
  • Assessing whether or not the clicker triggers any goals in Yandex.Metric in the context of increasing targeted traffic. Lack of goal achievement (continuously) is a signal of artificial user behavior (reasonable surfer model)
  • Identify usage of  Yandex services, the entrance to which is via marked IPs

Diagnosing If You’ve Been Filtered

 Yandex typically reports whether the sanctions applied were the result of using incorrect promotion methods via the Webmaster Tools platform.

However, one of the greatest and most common indicators of the PF filter being applied to your site would be a sharp decrease in traffic:

Yandex PF Filter Application

Another symptom is a decrease in rankings and seeming glass ceiling despite your efforts to rank in traffic driving positions for keywords you either previously were, or ones that you firmly believe you should be in better positions for.

Dan Taylor
Dan Taylor is an experienced SEO consultant and has worked with brands and companies on optimizing for Russia (and Yandex) for a number of years. Winner of the inaugural 2018 TechSEO Boost competition, webmaster at HreflangChecker.com and Sloth.Cloud, and founder of RussianSearchNews.com.