Yandex Source Code Hacked. Unlocks Valuable SEO Insights.

Published: January 31, 2023

min read

The Yandex source code repository that was allegedly stolen by a former employee of the Russian technology firm has been leaked as a torrent on a popular hacking forum.

Yandex is a multinational technology company that operates a search engine platform in Russia and provides internet-related services.

The Yandex source code repository included over 1,900 factors used by search engines to rank websites in search results.

The leaker posted a magnet link claiming to be "Yandex git sources," containing 44.7 GB of files stolen from the company in July 2022. Apart from anti-spam rules, these code repositories are said to contain all of the company's source code.

But, Yandex has denied the hack and responded with the following statement:

Yandex was not hacked. Our security service discovered code fragments from a public internal repository, but the content differs from the current version of the repository used by Yandex services.


Besides many of the expected ranking factors, Yandex sources contained some of the other surprising factors, like the number of unique visitors, percent of organic traffic, and average domain ranking across queries. There were 244 unused ranking factors and 988 deprecated ranking factors.

Grigory Bakunov, a former senior executive at Yandex, explained that the data leak was motivated by politics and that the rogue Yandex employee responsible for the leak had not attempted to sell the code to competitors.

He also added that because the leak does not contain any customer data, it does not pose a direct risk to Yandex users' privacy or security, nor does it directly threaten to leak proprietary technology.

What impact will the "Yandex Source code leak" have on marketers and brands?

As the majority of ranking factors seem to be similar for Yandex and Google, marketers and SEO experts are amped up as they can crack Google's source code using Yandex's leak. But the catch is that Yandex is not Google. In fact, we believe Google may not use all of the 1,922 factors listed and may not give the same amount of weight to each of these factors.

SEO strategy is critical in organic marketing because it drives qualified organic traffic to the website. Hence, it is no wonder many SEO experts all over the world started to analyse Yandex’s search ranking factors and share their viewpoints on using the same tactics in Google to get ranked better.

Some of them are

  • Crawl depth is a ranking factor.
  • Number of search queries for the site/URL is a ranking factor.
  • Traffic from Wikipedia is a ranking factor.
  • "Bookmarks" is a ranking factor. The more users who add bookmarks to a URL, the more value it has.
  • Special ranking factors for short videos (TikTok, shorts, reels)
  • URL construction matters.

and many more.

In the 1922 factors listed, some are expected and some are totally unexpected. However, noticing the expected ranking factors supported by a source code leak serves as a confirmation signal for marketers to continue with their SEO strategy.

Ranking factors like the number of unique visitors, percent of organic traffic, and direct traffic are totally surprising. As a result, we believe the insights from the features and factors of the Yandex leak can possibly provide marketers with new learnings to incorporate into their future SEO strategies.

Furthermore, the leak is apparently raising concerns about Yandex's own security. What else could be vulnerable if its source code is so easily obtained and leaked? Can businesses put their customers' security at risk despite the fact that the leak does not contain any customer data? As a result, we anticipate that the leak will have serious ramifications for both users and businesses that rely on Yandex for search. It also serves as a wake-up call for global companies to implement strong data protection policies.

With nearly 64 million daily users in Russia, the Yandex breach will apparently impact Russia the most. However, we anticipate that the breach will have global implications. SEO experts from all over the world have already begun digging through the source code and sharing their findings. Soon, they will start applying their learnings to the search engines they use, potentially resulting in a new evolution in this space. No doubt, going forward, marketers will have a tough time ensuring they follow the valuable ranking factors from the leak in each of their projects.

In essence, analysing Yandex’s source code is extremely useful for brands who want to optimize their sites for Yandex visibility. But it’s quite useless for marketers if the intention is just to trick Google's algorithm. Whereas, if the intent is to gain insights on how to improve their SEO strategy, it has a lot of potential to provide some useful insights into how search engines like Google work.


Bill Walker

Bill is a marketing strategist who believes in the power of storytelling. He's known for his creativity, wit, and ability to connect with audiences across all channels. When he's not crafting marketing campaigns, you can find him hiking in the mountains or reading a good book.


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