Study:’s Organic Decline

TravelAsk is, according to SimilarWeb, one of the largest travel and tourism websites in Russia boasting an estimated 3.49% of the market share. This is a greater market share than global names such as, TripAdvisor, and Skyscanner in the Russian market.

That being said, over the past 18 months the estimated organic search visibility of the website has more than halved, with the supposed decline in organic search visibility correlating with a potential algorithm update in July 2019.

On a positive note, when searching for TravelAsk as a branded term in, it does produce a complete branded SERP – so as an entity, Yandex’s machine learning algorithms are recognizing TravelAsk as a relevant entity.

Third-Party Data

The organic search visibility, as estimated by Sistrix can be seen below:

The decline in organic traffic correlates with a potential algorithm update in July 2019 (data from Sistrix)

To sense-check whether or not this is a vertical/sector level trend, with all travel websites seeing the same decline, I’ve compared visibility and keyword corpus against other Russian travel websites such as Tutu, S7, and TourDom, and none of the other sites saw a similar decline in July 2019, aside from Tutu, which has been fluctuating since then.

So, given that Sistrix is just one application – and we’re using third-party tools, experience, and speculation, it’s important to see what other trends other tools are showing for the same site.

So taking a look at Ahrefs, the story is the same in terms of estimated organic traffic, with a decline reported at the end of June and a similar uplift at the start of 2020:’s organic traffic estimations from Ahrefs

This same trend in traffic show by Ahrefs is also mirrored by SEMrush, although SEMrush is reporting that the early 2020 traffic hump brought levels back to the pre-July 2019 levels.’s organic traffic estimations from SEMrush.

So looking at the dates, and speculative algorithm update theories, as top-level points of investigation:

  • Any significant site changes in ~May, June, July 2019
  • Over-optimization/under-optimization to fall foul of a speculative algorithm update in July 2019

Site Analysis

The below forms a top-level, exploratory analysis of the domain and points that would warrant further investigation and a deeper-dive and data interrogation.

Backlink Analysis

As a starter for 10, I checked the site’s backlinks in case they had been overcooking it with any unnatural link building or over-the-top exact match anchors.

From the outset, the backlink profile looks natural (enough) with top anchor texts being:

  • TravelAsk
  • источник (source)
  • здесь (here)
  • скачать (download)

And randomly 26 links pointing to the site with the anchor text of:

древние люди в северной америке учились изготавливать орудия труда у одного мастера

Which means:

Ancient people in North America learned to make tools from one master

Which is odd, but all referring domains are from the likes of and other encyclopedic websites, with the links pointing to the blog post:

And is a blog post talking about ancient tools and weapons in North America.

Site Redesign

Looking at captures in the WayBack machine, there is a difference between site layouts both before and after the traffic decline. The current homepage post-July 2019 by all accounts is the same as when I wrote this article, however, the homepage prior to the traffic decline (and internal linking) was quite different.

When handling any form of website migration, template changes, and reskinning it’s important to be thorough in putting in place a risk mitigation plan, and this change in templates (and potentially changes in code structure) – and whilst it’s not possible to say if this was the cause without proprietary Metica data, it does correlate.

The homepage in March 2019, pre-traffic decline.

Having looked at how the website is caching content (and what content is rendering in the HTML) I’m not seeing any immediate JavaScript issues, however, internal linking has definitely changed in the redesign.

Conclusion Points

Given the website’s reliance on heavy content, if I were TravelAsk my next stages of analysis would be to:

  • Analyze proprietary data from Yandex Webmaster & Metrica to ascertain the exact content pieces that have seen the largest decline
  • Deep-dive on the website’s use of JavaScript and make sure all links and enough HTML elements are being rendered server-side, and that enough plain HTML is being presented to Yandex’s crawler
  • Map the internal linking structure pre-redesign versus the new templates and ascertain major changes/lost internal links
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 and Sloth.Cloud, and founder of