Search Engine Optimization for MSN Search
Recently, Microsoft officially launched their highly anticipated ‘new’ search engine to the general public. Although most of the search engine optimization (SEO) guidelines presented here may be similar to other engine requirements and may not come as a surprise to most online marketing professionals, it’s important to note some of the subtle differences in SEO requirements unique to MSNBot as the engine strives to have its own identity.
Buried within the help files of the site, there are several wonderful clues to assist web site owners, web site marketing and promotion firms and search engine optimization (SEO) professionals in gaining visibility within MSN search, for themselves or for their clients. It’s quite refreshing to note that Microsoft has documented recognition of the importance of a well designed and optimized site. They even went so far as to state that, if you want a better chance of being indexed properly within this engine, then perhaps you should look into hiring a reputable SEO firm to assist you.
This makes complete sense from MSN’s point of view. A professionally optimized site will allow their aptly named spider, MSNbot, to easily read, navigate through and thus relevantly index the web site properly. By optimizing your web site in accordance with MSN’s guidelines, you stand a much better chance of being found when it counts the most – when someone is searching for your goods and services.
Here are a few guidelines suggested by MSN to help you out. First and foremost, MSN readily admits that MSNbot will actively be using Meta tags for part of its web site analysis. Yes, meta tags are still relevant pieces of code (despite all the nay sayers out there), and with this new Bot they seem to play a very important role within the indexing algorithm. Similar to other search engines, the ‘title tag’ again appears to be the most heavily weighted within the algorithm, followed closely by the Meta Description Tag and if you read between the lines, it is suggested that your best ‘keywords’ should be included in both places. MSN does not come straight out and say that the “keywords meta tag” will be utilized, but by reading between the guidelines it strongly suggests the keywords in all areas (title, description and keyword tag and content) should adhere to each other.
Content of course is still king when it comes to MSNbot’s ability to put the entire puzzle together. Apparently, at this stage, the Bot does not read text within a graphic, so if you have important keywords contained within a graphic (especially on your main page), they strongly suggest you move those keywords into plain old text format. And here’s a tip; the closer to the top of the page, the better.
MSN Search calls for pages to be under 150K in size, suggesting the Bot will either simply stop reading after this point or in a worse case scenario, may measure/weigh the page size before reading and simply skip the page all together. This point is not made entirely clear, but it should be of enough concern to have every SEO firm scampering to measure their clients web site’s index pages, just in case. In actuality, a page size of 150k could contain a lot of relevant text content, but add a few fancy graphics in there and the total can add up quickly.
An interesting point within the guidelines suggests that words (even keywords) within headers, footers and tables will not be read. Again, simple text is the rule of thumb. This may cause some web sites to need a complete redesign. Graphics with long or non-content supported ALT tags will also be dismissed. This is very similar to the rules from other major search engines, as it provides somewhat of a safeguard against sites that stuff keywords in an attempt to fool or “spam” the engines into thinking they are something they are not. Redirects will not be read either.
Linking, as per usual, will be an important part of MSNBot’s equation. They offer two suggestions as to which links will be deemed the most important: links from the main page and links no more than three levels deep. This means all hyperlinks on your site should be accessible within three clicks or less from each other for maximum effectiveness. Very interesting. Larger web sites may have a problem adhering to this rule, but it should be kept in mind that the MSNBot is still feeling its way through the web. A three deep scenario is probably the beginning of the parameter. It will surely offer a deeper crawl as it becomes more sophisticated.
Submitting Your Site.
Good news! Submission to MSN Search is offered freely by Microsoft but two rules must be followed. First, search to see if your web site is already contained within their database. There is no need to resubmit if they already have you indexed. Second, the submission procedure is manual and is not accepting automated submissions at this time. Therefore you must enter a presented code into the appropriate field along with your URL before being allowed to submit (http://search.msn.com/docs/submit.aspx).
According to MSN Search online documentation, some sites may have been deleted from the old index. Web site owners, SEO firms and other online marketing professionals take note: It would be time well spent to double-check your inclusion status or run through your entire client roster to ensure each client is contained within the MSN Search database. They may have been ranking high in there before but completely absent now. Resubmit where necessary.
This engine is already a major player and if the search industry rumors are true, MSN Search will be taking on the Google and Yahoo!’s of the world for dominance within the marketplace.
By following a few simple guidelines and MSN specific SEO procedures, your web site will be showing up with the best of them.
Guest Columnist Robert K. McCourty, is a founding Partner and Director of Marketing for Metamend Software and Design Ltd. The firm specializes in the development and implementation search engine optimization technologies and solutions for the improvement of web site placement within the Internet’s top search engines. The company is regarded by many to be the world leader in its field, with clients in 57 countries around the world.