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Optimizing for MSN? Is It Worth the Effort?

MSN vs. Google

Whenever you need to find something on the web, you "Google" it. Most of the web surfers do this, and the percentage of those who "Yahoo" or "MSN" for information is considerably lower.

Google has imposed itself as the "top-notch" search engine on the market, leaving little room for others. Little, but enough, some would say. Among the search engines, Microsoft's MSN comes third, after Google and Yahoo. So, how do you approach search engine optimization nowadays? Where should your site rank better?

Ideally, optimization for the web should satisfy all major search engines, but each and every one of them has its own likes and dislikes. Most of the SEO is done for Google, because what they advertise is quality, relevance and low spam content. Given that Google's brand is so strong, is MSN search engine optimization worth the effort?

MSN vs. Google

Opinions vary. Everybody knows that it's rather hard to get Google to rank your site high in the search results. Most of the search engine optimization techniques used nowadays are meant to be relevant almost exclusively for Google. Every webmaster is concerned with code structure, sitemaps, keyword density, anchor texts, links and so on. Google is rather hard to please, especially when it comes to newly created sites.

The much-feared "sandbox" is a side-product of Google, where the new pages end up until Google considers them mature enough to be ranked in the search results. It's a drawback, and there's not much anybody can do about it, because one of the things that are valued by Google is the age of a web page.

What about MSN?

In this case, things tend to be a little smoother. MSN seems to really like new pages, and it has no sandbox. It doesn't use an "age filter" and classifies sites much faster. Therefore, it is highly probable that the amount of results that a web user might get for a given search to be significantly higher than the one obtained from Google. Also, it appears that the search speed is higher with MSN than with Google. This may be because their index is considerably smaller than Google's.

Reports show that Google is already a saturated search engine. Its users see so many websites that they don't have the patience to spend much time on any given site, but still want to visit others as quickly as possible. On the other hand, it appears that MSN users are more likely to produce conversions (sales). This probability is 48% higher for MSN users than for any other Internet users.

This can be a factor that might influence the adoption of some MSN marketing strategies. The conversion ratio is paramount for any commercial website, and such indicators could most probably lead to actions meant to improve the MSN ranking for this type of sites.

MSN Optimization? How?

It is almost impossible to get it right from the start. Much of the SEO process is based on trial and error. There are no precise criteria for each search engine. Basically, what is good for one might be good (or better, or even worse) for the other.

Experts say that, in order to get as much MSN traffic as possible, it's enough to follow the basic guidelines with, of course, some adjustments that will differentiate your MSN marketing strategies from the ones you might use for Google ranking.

MSN is dedicated to satisfying the visitors. Therefore, MSN wants to make sure that they can offer web surfers a high probability of finding what they want on your site. A well-developed site, with many pages and homogenous content will rank much better than a smaller site with poorly organized content (supposing that these two sites apply the ranking factors in a similar manner).

Creating a good, easy-to-navigate sitemap will not only help the search engine's spiders crawl your site, but it will also add to its value for the visitors.

Microsoft's search engine has a great response to an increased keyword density (as opposed to Google, which is quite quick at identifying and penalizing sites that, according to its algorithm, are clearly spamming - and sometimes it is not far from the truth). This orientation towards quantity rather than quality makes MSN more spam oriented. But the criteria for choosing the right keywords for your site remain, basically, the same.

Therefore, the more back-links you have, the better. Bear in mind though that the quality of the links is a plus, as well as their relevance to the optimization aiming website. This will help spiders to completely index the website, thus leading to an improved visibility among search results. The logical approach is to focus on building high-quality links towards the site and its content, which will eventually help you rank well in other search engines too.

MSN will give credit to the new content and to the inbound links quite quickly. You should not forget about clean code. It is a major factor for site indexing, and even MSN, which is not as demanding as Google, will rank poorly sites with badly written code.

The TITLE tags are among the most important code elements which you can rely on if you want to improve your MSN traffic. They occupy a top position in the algorithm used by MSN. Consider it your exhibition room. When somebody is looking at the SERP (Search Engine Results Page), the first thing they see is the title of your page. In order to encourage a web user to click on it, it has to be as descriptive and as "appealing" as possible. But don't exaggerate; about 80 characters should be more than enough.

One of MSN's drawbacks is represented by its robots, used for page indexing, so keep them in mind. They have difficulties in indexing pages that contain frames, pictures, flash elements, Java script or dynamic URLs. If your site uses image or script based navigation, it is advisable to use text links as well, both within the content and at the bottom of the page. Text links are easier to follow and, more importantly, they give you the opportunity to link to your home page thanks to the anchor texts.

So... Should We?

To make a long story short, MSN is more permissive than Google. Adopt the right tactics, and you can be riding the MSN wave in no time (as compared to Google, where you have to wait in the sandbox for a painfully large - for your business, mostly - amount of time). But there is the risk of dropping from that high position in the MSN ranking as quickly as you got there. This is because your MSN SEO tips can be overthrown by those newly arrived sites that MSN likes so much to welcome. Such an inconvenience can be quite easily avoided by keeping the content constantly fresh.

There can't be a "Yes" or "No" answer to the question above. Yet, there could be a "Why not?" MSN does what Google avoids, and likes what Google frowns upon or regards with suspicion. And then there's also Microsoft's potential marketing power that they can bring to the search engine business. So, the value of MSN should not be underestimated. Of course, it is a rather feeble match for Google now, but this situation can change dramatically overnight.

Similar situations have been seen before, and Microsoft has the financial power to make enough changes and adjustments relatively quickly so as to turn the tables in MSN's favor. Bottom line, if you have already optimized your site for Google, it can't hurt to do some MSN optimization as well.

See other articles by Adriana:
* Do colors influence web site visitors?
* Marketing with RSS
* Learn how to write good documentation for your software

Optimizing for MSN? Is It Worth the Effort?
author = Adriana Iordan
url = http://www.avangate.com
dept = Web: browsers, utilities, bookmarking, etc
audience = web designer or developer
Read more free software marketing articles.
Copyright ©2007, www.avangate.com all rights reserved. This article was written by Adriana Iordan, Web Marketing Manager at Avangate B.V. Avangate is an eCommerce platform for electronic software distribution incorporating an easy to use and secure online payment system plus additional software marketing services and sales tools.


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