by Mike Banks Valentine © October, 13, 2004
The Second Look at MSN's Search technology is available for
public beta testing. I've given it a spin myself and must say
that I'm impressed. Although they have no ads on the SERP's of
the preview site, I'm sure they will load it up with the 15 or
more Overture "sponsored sites" which clutter the results pages
on the current search results by the time the new public beta
reaches its official launch. Take a look for yourself: http://techpreview.search.msn.com/
I've publicly complained about the lack of click-through traffic
of top ranked sites from both Yahoo and MSN search http://searchengineoptimism.com/Google_refers_70_percent.html
Even though most of my web sites and those of clients are very
highly ranked in all three search engines, Yahoo and MSN send
less than one quarter of all search traffic to any of those sites.
Google sends the rest - over 75% of search traffic referred comes
from searches originating on Google's English speaking sites in
the UK, Australia, Canada, etc.
Is that because nobody can see past the PPC ads (Overture Sponsor
Ads) on MSN search? No, the "Sponsored Sites" aren't THAT dominant
on the SERP. Is it because only one fourth the number of people
search at MSN and Yahoo? No, it can't be explained that way either.
Who knows? Maybe those who search at MSN and Yahoo simply want
to search without bothering to visit those top ranked sites? Could
it be that the blue color and the "Sponsored Sites" label actually
dissuades people from dropping down to the organic results or
those sponsored links are more clicked at MSN than at Google?
I just don't know.
If the test I ran today proves to be a reflection of where they
are going with their new search technology though, I'll be nothing
short of ecstatic on public unveiling of the "New" MSN search.
As a matter of fact, I may be about to fall in love with MSN search.
In this test, I did some searches for several terms I am targeting
for myself as well as several other phrases I'm targeting for
SEO clients. ALL of those searches rank our sites in the first
page or two at all three of the top tier search engines. The search
I've emphasized here in this test though, was for the phrase "Domain
Name Tutorial" at: http://www.website101.com/Domain_Name/
I chose that phrase because, inexplicably, it doesn't rank well
for me at the current official MSN search and may prove to be
a perfect example of the difference between the new and old versions
on public launch of MSN searh later this year or early in 2005.
Google ranks our domain name tutorial at #1 in results, the
current "official" MSN search ranks it somewhere in sludge of
all castoff sites. In other words, I couldn't find it in the first
200 results at the current "official" MSN search and wasn't in
the mood to click through any more results pages to find it.
A search for Domain Name Tutorial at the public beta of MSN
search ranks it at #1 as does Google, but Google delivers a full
90% of all search engine referred traffic to that Tutorial.
I use a web traffic statistics service to monitor my web stats
and the report I spend the most time pouring over a couple of
times a week is the "Search Phrase" report, which shows what search
phrase brought the click-through to my site from the search engines.
The current MSN search shows visitors in ones and twos for several
of my top ranking search phrases, while Google sends hundreds
per day on several of those searches. If MSN made the beta search
site official, would we see any higher traffic numbers from them?
That question has got dozens of webmasters speculating in the
forums about what they can expect from MSN when they go live with
their new technology in the near future. http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum97/190.htm
I'll be very happy if my test results do reflect where MSN is
headed, since it's hard to beat number one for those search phrases
I tested today! This test leads me to believe that MSN is emphasizing
directory and filenames that include key- words and are weighing
inbound links pretty heavily. Page structure, title tags and text
links also appear to be weighted substantially in their new algorithm.
Yahoo currently shows two "Sponsor Results" offset in blue,
at the top of the SERP's when you've done a search for anything
that has PPC bids at Overture, as does Google with Adwords ads.
(Yahoo adds three more at bottom of the page and Google none).
MSN shows three PPC ads labled "Sponsored Sites" offset in a very
pale green at the top of the SERP's and one at the bottom of the
page following organic search results. Will MSN continue showing
more ads than everyone else and, consequently lower organic search
All I can do at this point is to cheer MSN on and hope they
continue on their current path as demonstrated at the beta site.
It will make everyone (webmasters relying on organic search) happier
if MSN starts sending more search traffic to their sites, rather
than to the "Sponsored Sites." Conversely, Overture advertisers
may start wondering where their PPC traffic has gone. Maybe then
those heavy PPC players will start to see the value in organic
SEO, you never know. Maybe MSN is toying with their very own PPC
program . . .
Mike Banks Valentine practices Search Engine Optimism at: http://SEOptimism.com
and operates a search engine blog where you can read this article
with active links to web resources http://RealitySEO.com/2004/10/msn-search-technology-preview.html
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