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New MSN Search May Be a Google Killer

New MSN Search May Be a Google Killer!   by Mike Banks Valentine

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:

I've publicly complained about the lack of click-through
traffic of top ranked sites from both Yahoo and MSN search
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:

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

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.

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 click-throughs?

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 . . .

About Author Mike Banks Valentine :

Mike Banks Valentine practices Search Engine Optimism at: and operates a search engine blog whereyou can read this article with active links to web resources

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