Today Yandex’s head of search, Alexander Sadovsky, announced they will start using paid links as a negative ranking signal. Official announcement: Новый этап в борьбе со ссылочным спамом from today. After discounting links in a few specific niches and areas around Moscow last year, they now decide to turn it around and use paid links as a negative signal.
Paid links are still massively used in the Russian search market, after removing links from their algorithm they expected SEO would start using different ways of getting links. Nothing changed at all. 70% of the links in popular, commercial interesting niches, are still consider Paid Links by Yandex. Yandex found the SEO market to be stubborn (what a surprise!), the number of paid links being used in those niches dropped just 16% last year. Links will be back in their main algorithm, but now can have a positive, neutral or negative effect on a website’s performance in the search engine result pages. Yandex is quite confident their machine learning algorithms are good enough to detect paid links at the moment.
The rollout of this updated algorithm will start in May. Personally I really like the research and efforts of the Yandex research department. Comparing to the other major search engines, they publicly try to battle the amount of crappy SEO spam, good job!