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Optimizing For MSN Search

Inevitably, with the launch of a new search engine, especially one the size of MSN Search, there is an outcry of people wanting to know how to improve their result position. Questions like “How do I optimize my site to rank well?” and “Does this engine base more relevance on in-bound links or on-page content?” are quite common.

What steps are necessary to optimize your site for MSN Search? Do they favor on-page content or off-page links? Discuss at WebProWorld.

Anticipating this reaction, MSN Search did what most major search engines do: feature a number of help pages designed to assist site owners in these matters. MSN’s Site Owner Help pages have also stimulated an interesting conversation on WebProWorld. The point of contention was whether or not MSN Search encouraged W3C validation.

Although their help pages did say validated HTML was required, they did say “Use only well-formed HTML code in your pages. Ensure that all tags are closed, and that all links function properly. If your site contains broken links, MSNBot may not be able to index your site effectively, and people may not be able to reach all of your pages.” Therefore, validated HTML will not hurt, and may actually help your ranking in MSN Search. This is also true with most, if not all, search engines.

However, many still wonder what factors does MSN Search consider to determine relevance. Some think MSN gives weight to on-page content, which seems to be true. The MSN Search blog says another factor they consider is “the text of links that point to a page.” This supports a theory that Hardwood Guy had on WebmasterWorld: “Internal link text seems to be a key ingredient by the looks of the new MSN search.”

This point is expanded even further by another blog entry made by MSN Search Program Manager, Eytan Seidman. Concerning link structure, Eytan offers these thoughts: “URL’s with many (definitely more than 5) query parameters have a very low chance of ever being crawled. Another thing to consider is whether we can find your page. If we need to traverse through eight pages on your site before finding leaf pages that nobody but yourself points to, MSNBot might choose not to go that far. This is why many people recommend creating a site map and we would as well.”

SEOChat moderator Dazzlindonna had this logical approach to optimizing for MSN, “No, its not about Meta tags (I have some sites that have no Meta tags and rank well in it). No, it’s not just about content. No, it’s not just about links. Like all major search engines, its about a number of factors, with varying weight amongst those factors.”

Donna’s all-in theory is probably a logical approach to MSN or any search engine. MSN supports her approach, saying, “The MSN Search ranking algorithm analyzes factors such as page contents, the number and quality of sites that link to your pages, and the relevance of your site’s content to keywords.” This method of ranking is not unique to MSN either. They deal with relevancy the way the majority of the search engines do: by weighing a number of contributing factors.

Armed with this knowledge, there are some questions that still linger about MSN Search and what they value. Some believe that MSN gives more weight to on-page content, much like Yahoo. This differs from the method that Google favors, which seems to give credence based on the amount of relevant links that point to a site.

Randfish supports this point on SEOChat by saying, “My recent research into MSN suggests that much like Yahoo!, on-page content is ‘slightly’ more important than it is to Google. However, this may also be caused by the fact that Google’s index is (larger than) MSN’s, so they have fewer links to rely on in general.”

If, in fact, MSN Search does favor on-page content, then ensuring your web text is keyword rich would only help. Of course, looking at past discussions concerning keywords, having them populate your text isn’t going to damage your ranking in any site, unless of course you overdo it. Pages that are seen as keyword-stuffed or existing only to promote certain keywords are considered spam and are punished appropriately.

MSN also spells out what it considers to be unscrupulous SEO practices. To get yourself banned from their index, just perform any of these techniques:

#Loading pages with irrelevant words in an attempt to increase a page’s keyword density. This includes stuffing ALT tags that users are unlikely to view.

#Using hidden text or links. You should use only text and links that are visible to users.

#Using techniques to artificially increase the number of links to your page, such as link farms.

Again, these “rules” are in-line with the rest of the search engine industry. If you stick to guidelines mentioned throughout the article and don’t violate any of the practices listed above, your site should enjoy success within MSN’s index.

Comment on this article in WebProWorld.

Chris Richardson

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