Last month, Yandex announced the newest ranking algorithm, Minusinsk, to be rolled out on May 15, 2015. The main goal of Minusinsk is to reduce black hat SEO in Russia by reducing the amount link buying and paid links on websites.
With the same goals in mind 10 months ago, Yandex removed links from the ranking algorithm for top verticals in the Moscow region for commercial queries. Since that change, link buying reduced by 14% but this wasn’t fast enough for Yandex, especially because many continued to buy links out of habit and to rank for other search engines.
Minusinsk was established to return links back to the Moscow region commercial queries and create negative penalties for paid links in all verticals, regions, and websites across RuNet. A website is penalized based on the absolute amount of paid links and the percentage of paid links going to a website. Natural links therefore carry less weight but can act as a balance to the amount of paid links.
Minusinsk was set to roll out in rounds to give webmasters time to react to the April announcement and so Yandex can react accordingly to the way webmasters are cleaning their paid links. Last month Yandex.Webmaster notified 8,890 webmasters that they should address paid links on their websites.
37% of these identified websites cleaned their paid links and were not demoted in Yandex SERP. As written on the Yandex.Webmaster blog [in Russian], the first batch of Minisinsk “winners” were selected from the remaining 63% of notified websites. Of this bunch, 488 websites were penalized, losing an average of 20 positions in the SERP.
Yandex.Webmaster exemplified the direct impacts of the penalities and a website’s traffic by including screenshots of statistics from two different site’s data on Yandex.Metrica, Yandex’s free web analytics tool.
The selected website that cleaned paid links saw consistent traffic changes to their website and a pattern of similar increases and decreases relating to the search engine source for their traffic. The traffic from Yandex clearly had the most significant impact on the visits to their website as the rest of the search engine sources stayed relatively consistent during the April 25-May 19, 2015 time period.
Meanwhile, the selected website that did not clean their paid links gradually saw less traffic in comparison to their consistent statistics and a major drop in the amount of traffic coming from Yandex.
There is certainly a lesson to be learned for webmasters who were not aggressive enough in cleaning their paid links. The Yandex search algorithm penalized both domains and subdommains in various verticals across Russia, irregardless of their domain strength. Yandex found the first round of Minusinsk to be a success. Overall, the share of paid links in the Yandex database fell by 21.7% The next round of penalties will be done without warning so webmasters that received a notification in April should adjust accordingly.