Are Search Rankings at Yahoo & MSN Search Worthless?
It seems I now do this rant every single year when traffic statistics are discussed in web industry news. Last week I posted to my Reality SEO blog that referred traffic numbers are the only statistic that webmasters should be concerned about when looking at their search engine rank. I wrote about this last year after ComScore Media Metrics statistics were relased discussing Search Engine Queries generated by each search property.
In that article, I suggested to Microsoft as they developed their own search technology that MSN search might consider resisting the urge to keep searchers on their site by plastering both PPC and “Sponsored Sites” above and below search results. Google displays two “Sponsored Links” above organic results and none below, along with Adwords ads along the right column.
Well now that MSN search has made its official debut, we can see that they put three “Sponsored Sites” links both above AND below their organic search results, along with those Overture (Soon to be Yahoo Branded) PPC ads along the right side of the page. Not bad visually, but it appears to be keeping visitors on the MSN search site because they simply are NOT clicking through to highly ranked sites according to closely watched traffic statistics of several sites I monitor for clients.
I’ve been pouring over web stats for a half dozen clients looking for traffic from MSN and it is missing in action. Even though these sites rank well for targeted terms for my clients – MSN is not delivering the traffic at all.
This has always been an issue for SEO’s and their clients and we are puzzling this one over, looking for results from those top rankings at both Yahoo and MSN as they seem to retain the searchers no matter how well we rank the sites!
Yahoo has dropped dramatically, with referred traffic that used to amount to over 5% of the visitors to client sites, it has dropped as low as 1.5% of total referred traffic from search engines. After a recent increase in referred traffic from Yahoo search, we were hopeful it would stay high, but it wasn’t to be. Rankings have not declined – Read That Again – Rankings have not declined, just the referred traffic!
Google has gone up in referrals from foreign countries, including foreign language sites. We used to see tiny amounts of traffic trickle in from non-English language countries, but Google country sites for Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Mexico and a dozen other language specific Googles have combined to send more non-English referred traffic than the total coming from (English) Yahoo Search!
The search world is getting very odd when great rankings at Yahoo and MSN don’t equal referred traffic. This has always been the case to a degree, but is getting extreme and very disturbing. Google has always sent more traffic, with as much as 85% of referred search traffic coming from English Speaking Google variants in US, Canada, India, New Zealand, Australia, and UK sending more traffic than both the US Yahoo and MSN.
What is the value of top rankings in MSN and Yahoo if those top positions don’t bring traffic?
Zippo, NONE are coming from MSN Search even though we are better ranked in several important search phrases for client sites at MSN that at Google! This is serious and it’s a problem that we must resolve. “Searches performed” statistics, like those exhaustively researched by Bill Platt in a recent article are absolutely meaningless if searchers don’t click through to top ranking sites! What does this mean?
Even though I write a similar article each year, discuss this topic on large discussion lists and mention it regularly in my Reality SEO blog, I have yet to get honest answers from search engine representatives at Yahoo or MSN. I did get a couple of Yahoo Search managers to admit that more visitors stay on the Yahoo site and continue to either PPC ads or to other Yahoo links because “There is more of value to the searcher at Yahoo.” What is of more value to a searcher than relevant search results?
I gave those Yahoo’s access to my traffic statistics and those of clients so they could see that nearly 70% of my traffic and that of clients was coming from Google – EVEN WHEN THOSE SAME SITES RANKED HIGHLY IN SEARCHES AT YAHOO! No comment and no explanations as to why, when they generate huge numbers of search queries, that far fewer visitors click through from Yahoo search results than do from Google search results.
One must assume that someone searching for something visits at least a few of the sites that appear in the list of search results, no? They sure do visit from Google in significant numbers – consistently. But both Yahoo and MSN Search are failing to send referred search traffic to sites ranked highly in their search results. Why?
I highly recommend that all webmasters with access to statistics for their own site look seriously at your traffic referred by Yahoo & MSN for search phrases you rank well on. Do YOU have traffic referred by Yahoo or MSN Search for your high ranking search phrases. Why not?
Mike Banks Valentine operates http://WebSite101.com And Performs Ethical Search Engine Optimization, Press Release Optimization & Distribution Online – If you’ve got news you can rank top for your search phrases