Yandex Leak Reveals Some Intel on Google’s Secret Sauce for Site Rankings

Image of the words Data Leak

Yandex, a search engine in China, that was built by ex-Googlers and matches the Google index about 70% of the time. Since the Yandex data leak, the SEO community has been trying to ID potential items that may actually impact ranking in Google.

We’ve found two really great articles that help to spell out what appear to be possible ranking indicators that Google may… or may not be using. You can visit the links at the bottom of the page to read all the gory details.

In a nutshell, however these are the items that from my years of experience appear to ring true as Google rankings.

PageRank – Google does not show PageRank anymore, but years ago this was a really important factor and Google may still be using it. PageRank was a combination of factors such as inbound links, authority, and site freshness.

Clicks and CTR – I have long felt that with Google having access to websites’ Google Analytics accounts that clicks and click through rate would eventually become a ranking factor.

URL Construction – We have long known that Google like keyword driven URLs. We like to use hyphens versus underscores in our URL building for SEO optimized websites. The Yandex leak goes a step farther and says that too many trailing slashes is an issue and numbers in the URL are problematic.

The Web Host – The Yandex leak goes farther into stating that web hosts also impact rankings. Low budget host will flow a lower ranking indicator to sites that are hosted on their servers. Reliability (downtime) may also be an important factor.

Query Relevance that Matches Meta Titles and Page Text –  This rings true to me as a Google index factor as Google is all about relevance. We know the meta title tag is very important for ranking but should reflect page content and not be spammy.

Presence of Ads on the Page – Yandex might be using this as a ranking factor, but more likely a quality factor. The leak states that Yandex does look for ads and adult ads, but does not reveal if this is a ranking factor.  I do not see Google using that for index rankings nor Yandex.

Age of Links – Yandex appears to be weighting pages with newer inbound links and depreciates older inbound links when deciding page rank. This rings true to me as a Google index item. Google has done much to drop link numbers in various algorithm updates; impacting the placement of websites organically.

Page Freshness – Yandex is looking at the age of pages and how frequently site updates are done. We have long know that site freshness is a Google indicator. This is one reason why we like blogging as a way to build organic placement over time.

Bookmarks – Yandex ranks sites higher in the results if more visitors bookmark the page. Google may or may not be doing this, but I am leaning closer to may versus may not.

We encourage you to view the following article for more information. Does this give us enough to move the needle for organic placement. No, but it does give validation to many things we know that do move the needle over time for organic placement improvement.

Jake Ward’s LinkedIn post.

Russian Search News Article.

Meta Title Tag Character Count Change

What to Know About the Meta Title Tag

Actually this is pretty big news! It used to be that the meta title tag needed to be crafted to be 80 characters long. Google was only showing 50 to 60 characters in the search results.

“Gary Illyes from Google said in last night’s Google Central Live event that there is a benefit, I assume an SEO benefit, to having title tags longer than what is displayed in the search. He later added that you should keep the title tag “precise” to the topic of the page and do not worry how long it is or if it is too long.” Full article.

We recommend crafting your meta title tag to be indicative of the page, precise, but no longer worry about the character count. That does not mean that you should have a paragraph of content, but can definitely go beyond 50 and even 80 characters in length.

What to Know About Core Web Vitals

Get Your Advertising on Target

Be on target for the 2021 Google algorithm changes that reflect your core web vital score as found in the Google Search Console. In May 2020, Google announced that the index in 2021 would rank sites based on their approval scores of three important metrics.

The Metrics


Largest Contentful Paint – how long it takes the largest item in the viewport (screen to show). A measure of page speed. Shoot for 2.5 seconds.


First Input Delay – how long it takes the site to respond to a user interaction. Shoot for less than 100 milliseconds.


Cumulative Layout Shift – visual stability. Does the page jump around when the user scrolls. Shoot for less than 0.1.

Read the full article here for a deeper understanding of these terms.

Google has also stated that the metrics should be in the “green zone” to earn special placement in the index, and that all metrics need to be green lighted for best performance.

What I have found is that although the developer’s Google pagespeed insights tool helps you to ID if you have a problem, solving where and what to update is a challenge.

It appears that developer extensions in the Chrome browser may be of help in identifying where the problems exist. As I uncover more details, I will share them here, but for now know that this algorithm update is coming and you may need assistance in fixing some site issues to see if you can “green-light” your website.

Other important updates this week:

It appears that there was a Google search algorithm update on or around February 17th.

Virginia is closer to creating privacy legislation that is similar but not exactly like the California privacy law that itself is similar to that used in the EU.

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Tackling a High Bounce Rate- Part Two

Dealing with a high bounce rate on your website? Here are my recommendations for what to do to try to solve the problem.

First, don’t get spun up. Not every page needs to have a low bounce rate of 40% to 65%. I have found that blog posts and informational articles, which may be driving traffic to your website, may also have a high bounce rate.

If this is the case, I recommend the following actions:

Put the page to work for you. Feature your newsletter subscription link, video links, and even AdSense advertising ads on those high traffic, yet high bounce rate pages. Understand that they are doorways into your site and work to market your own site on these pages with banners, icons, and interactivity like video embeds.

Second, if you have content and service pages that are really meaningful to your business and they have a bounce rate in the high 70%’s, I would tag them for a content review.

If this is the case, I recommend the following actions:

Review your meta tags, you may be getting traffic that is not targeted to your page content. Review your meta title and meta description tags. Do they make sense based on the content of the page? Should they be updated to be more reflective of what the reader will find when they click in?

Review your page content with a careful eye for detail. Are you supplying content that is engaging or just supplying information. Do you have a call to action on the page, do you have links to your contact form, are you using an app like Drift to get the person online chatting with you, are you addressing a pain point and supplying solutions with related information on other pages drawing the reader in farther to your content?

Are you driving untargeted Google AdWords traffic to your page and paying for a click where what you are offering on your page does not match keywords that are being triggered? As AdWords experts find out more about our programs to solve this issue.

We offer professional by the hour content consulting and website content writing services. I invite you to visit my website to learn more about how we can help you to lower a high bounce rate on your website.

Tackling a High Bounce Rate- Part One

Tackling a High Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is determined to be high if it is over 75%, however there can be acceptable reasons for a high bounce rate, but a high bounce rate does  require careful review.

What is the Bounce Rate?

The bounce rate is recorded for you in Google Analytics by page in the Behavior section > Site Content section, and as a site average on the overview page.


Several years ago the average and target bounce rate for a good website was 46.9%. Now with more users on mobile devices, the bounce rate has skyrocketed.

Google states that this drastic change to bounce rate is due in part to the fact that mobile users may start a search on your site and move to a desktop to finish up a review or purchase. Page views have also decreased in this same time period from over 3 or so pages viewed per session to now about 1.5 pages per session – all driven by mobile activity.

Identifying a High Bounce Rate

To address a website’s high bounce rate, knowledge is power.  First, it is important to understand what causes a high bounce rate.

  1. You’ll get a high bounce rate if the page content does not engage the reader. This is a good flag to review your page and consider additions, video, additional links to other information.
  2. You’ll get a high bounce rate if the content is not what the reader was looking for. This is a good flag to review your content, your meta tags, and your paid advertising.
  3. You’ll get a high bounce rate if you supplied the content the reader wanted and they had no need to go further. It is not uncommon to see how bounce rates on articles and blog posts.

What Should You Do Next?

You’ll want to look at the pages that have a high bounce rate score and identify if changes should be done to the content. Check out my Wednesday post this week for the continuation of this art

What to Consider Before Doing Search Engine Optimization

Get Your Advertising on Target

Search engine optimization is not for every website. Although search engine optimization can really improve the organic search results for some websites, there are a couple of considerations when search engine optimization should not be considered and maybe a full site redesign may be a better investment of money and time.

When not to do search engine optimization:

  1. If your site is created in a template and the site layout becomes broken when new content is added.
  2. Your site looks funny in browsers other than Chrome and Firefox.
  3. You have a site designed using Flash or tables for your layout.
  4. Your website looks dated or non-professional.

As search engine optimization is not inexpensive, in some cases the money that would have been spent on search engine optimization would be better spent on a new search engine friendly design with built-in optimization features.