MSN has removed
the beta-wrap from its proprietary search engine and
is now showing self-generated results at MSN.Com. Beta
results had started bleeding into MSN listings over the
past three weeks but since Sunday (Jan 16), the .COM (US
/ Global) version of MSN has consistently mirrored those
found at MSN(beta). Regional versions of MSN continue
to display Inktomi (Yahoo owned) / Regional partner generated
results (Jan19, 05)
At this time
two years ago, Google was the only major search database,
feeding search results to Yahoo and eventually by extension
to MSN. Around this time last year, Yahoo began to break
away from Google by amalgamating data from its acquisitions
of Overture, AlltheWeb, AltaVista and Inktomi into a monster
database built on the dbase they bought from FAST. This
was a huge project that resulted in a database almost
as large as Google's. When Yahoo stopped using Google
generated results, MSN stopped showing them as well. At
the same time, a new spider named MSNbot was making its
presence known, appearing in our clients' server-logs
with amazing frequency.
of an MSN search engine makes the business world of
search a lot more interesting and might help open the
door for other smaller firms such as Lycos and Ask Jeeves
to gain a toehold against Google. However MSN changes
the business of search, it will help improve on the science
of it by innovation rather than invention.
The engineers at
MSN have had the luxury of watching everyone else invent
dozens of wheels. They have had the time to see what works
well and what makes money. They have watched great ideas
that should have succeeded fall to failure and not so
great ideas flourish until the market determined their
death. Having created much of the environment themselves,
they also know the histories of the web and appear to
have learned when to act and when to lay-low.
The search engine
that they have produced takes factors that worked well
for others and combined them to make what could become
a very popular search tool.
MSN's spider finds new sites by following links directed
to those sites. MSNbot is active all the time. So active
in fact that about five weeks ago a few webmasters reported
so many visits their servers crashed. MSN revisits sites
very frequently as well. Over the past year, MSN has compiled
a 5-Billion site database.
Once a site is
in the database, MSN looks at the number of links
directed to that site. There is no hard data on the role
topical relevancy plays in how MSN determines links however
it is assumed by most that anchor text plays a major role.
(Anchor text did factor in our initial tests however with
the beta version of the engine)
Next, MSN looks
at the content of the site. This is where much of
the ranking determination is made. Sites with great text
and clear internal link-paths are ranking very well with
MSN. Of our entire client base, only one site with excellent
text and internal linking lost a top placement at MSN
when the new version was introduced. Strong, keyword enriched
titles and body text continue to provide strong placements.
We are fairly certain that the anchor text of internal
links can influence placements as well.
Size matters with
MSN as larger sites with long-term content appear
to be doing very well under more generic keyword searches.
Content rich news and information sites and large corporate
sites should be able to leverage their size and content-scope
into high placements. The size and content-scope factor
should also work well with large e-commerce sites, provided
a very clear mapping technique makes the site as easy
to access as possible for MSNbot.
There is a simple
experiment that folks should run every time a new search
engine is introduced or a new algorithm is applied. Open
three browser windows (or click on the following links)
and cue up MSN.Com, Google.Com, and Yahoo.Com. Enter a
keyword phrase important to your business or interests.
For this example, I will use one I am familiar with, "Artificial
Look for similarities
between what you know works at Google and Yahoo and you
can learn what works well at MSN. The Field Turf website
ranks #1 at each of the Big3 under the phrase "artificial
turf". The index page itself is dynamically generated
and does not always present the same text information
limiting the effectiveness of seo-copyrighting and keyword
densities. There are several remaining areas on the site
SEO work could be applied and a number of off-site factors
that collectively contribute to the site's top placements.
Based on this simple test, we can determine the following.
A website that has a large number of incoming
links will get noticed and spidered a number of times.
Google recognizes 131 unique domains linking to the
Field Turf website. Yahoo notes over 1000. MSN sees
far more, weighing in above 1500. Next, note the "quality"
of incoming links. Google is taking a very refined approach
to contextual-quality while Yahoo and MSN seem more
interested in the number of links.
a big difference at all three and are an important
area to work on when doing basic SEO for MSN. MSN also
seems to be able to read text found in drop-down menus
such as the ones on the right hand side of the Field
Turf index page.
factor in improving and retaining rankings is updating
the site. MSN states on its "How MSN Search Works"
page that pages that are active will be spidered more
frequently and achieve stronger rankings.
of search has changed radically over the past four
months, working through a scenario that has been building
for about two years. MSN going live with their own search
engine is huge news with as many unknown implications
as known ones. Its presence will challenge many basic
assumptions about SEO and will play a large hand in
determining the future of the search industry itself.
The greatest general change is the burst of corporate
diversity and identity in the search marketplace. A
range of new products and services has been introduced
by every search tool from the Big3 to the dozen or so
smaller but notable search firms. Google is buying ad-space
and fiber optics. Yahoo is reporting massive earnings
as it pushes into the Chinese market, and MSN is suddenly
in the house, so to speak. The precursors of change
are written on the wall and MSN is betting much of that
change will be found between the walls of your home.
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