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Monday, November 13, 2006

SEO Focus: MSN & Live Search

Posted by @ 8:47 pm
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With the recent MSN/Live Search algorithm update causing a stir amongst webmasters, this is a good time to review how search engine optimization tactics for MSN/Live Search differs from SEO for Google, Yahoo! and other search engines.

Of course, there’s no authoritative list of SEO rules to follow for MSN and Live Search (that would just make it a bit too easy!), and the live.com search engine algorithm is still very much evolving – so something that might work today may no longer work in a few months time. Nevertheless, here are a few post-algorithm rules that seem to be accepted in webmaster circles at the moment:

Microsoft Still Has a Problem With Spam.
Most people believe that Microsoft is still lagging behind other search engines in determining relevant, non-spammy search results. Spammy blogspot blogs continue to rank quite well to the frustration of many – you would assume that MSN is hard at work trying to improve the relevance of their search results.

Keywords in Domain and Subdomain Names
Currently, keyword rich domain and subdomain names definitely seem to help a website’s ranking in MSN/live.com. As this tactic is also quite prone to be abused by spammers, the question is how long MSN will continue to reward keyword rich domain names.

Keep It Short
Relatively little text content seems to be enough to get good rankings in MSN and live.com. As this really contradicts Microsoft’s aim to provide relevant search results – you would assume that relevant and authoritative sites would contain a lot of content, not little – it remains to be seen whether this rule of thumb will stand the test of time.

Lower Keyword Density
Microsoft’s spam filters appear to be more sensitive to high keyword densities in the content of web pages than other search engines. So it seems that erring on the side of caution and sticking with lower keyword densities will provide better results for MSN. Of course, that might hurt your ranking in other search engines.

Make It Relevant
Whether they are currently doing it very well or not, MSN states that its search engine places great emphasis on the topical relevance of a web page for ranking it. So make sure your copy is highly relevant and on topic.

Clean and Simple Code
While this applies to all search engines, MSN/Live Search seems to respond better than other search engines if the code of your page is well-written, clearly structured and error-free.

Inbound Links
MSN currently doesn’t seem to be very discerning in regards to the quality of inbound links to a site, which means that there are a lot of examples of site rankings being boosted by a large number of low quality inbound links. Again, this seems to be favoring spammy search results quite a lot at the moment, so this rule of thumb might not be around for long, and we wouldn’t recommend chasing lots of low quality links as you may be penalized in future algorithm updates.

Compared to Google and Yahoo!, the live.com algorithm is not as mature, which means that you can expect to see quite significant changes to the algorithm as Microsoft’s engineers tweak it to provide more relevant and less spammy search results. So I’d recommend that you don’t get too fixated on the current algorithm, but apply common sense when it comes to your search engine optimization, just like you would for other search engines. If you want to stay up to date on the latest MSN/Live Search developments, I recommend you visit the Webmasterworld Microsoft Search Live forum regularly.









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