Getting a Top Ranking in MSN

MSN may become the major player in the search engine field in the next year or so. Since it is owned by Microsoft and Microsoft doesn't like to be anywhere but first in anything they do. We see them doing the same thing to Google and Yahoo! in the search engine game what they did to Netscape and others in the browser wars.

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).As the MSN Search web crawler MSNBot crawls your site, it analyzes the content on indexed pages and generates keywords to associate with each page. Then MSNBot extracts page content that is highly relevant to the keywords (often sentence segments that contain keywords or information in the description) meta tag to construct the site description displayed in search results. The page title and URL are also extracted and displayed in search results.

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.

The introduction 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.

Like Google, 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. 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 with the beta version of the engine). MORE ABOUT ANCHOR TEXT.

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 texts 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.

Below is taken directly from MSN.

Site descriptions are extracted from the content of your page each time MSNBot crawls your site and indexes its pages. If you change the contents of a page, you may see a change in the description the next time our index is updated.

Since the descriptions are extracted from your indexed web pages, the best way to affect your site description is to ensure that your web pages effectively deliver the information you want to see in search results.

Excellent content design and effective use of terms that target your message are the best ways to affect the site description that MSNBot extracts from your site. Effective strategies include:

  • Placing descriptive content near the top of each page

  • Making sure each page has a clear topic and purpose.

  • Add a site description into the description meta tag, as shown here:
    <META HTTP-EQUIV="Description" NAME="Description" CONTENT="Describe your site here">

One thing to make note of is:
Many search engines will be using location as part of their search ranking. It's going to be important to list the City, State, Zip Code and even longitude/latitude on your website.


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