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MSN optimizing primer
Couldn't find it, so I made it myself

 6:17 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have search WebmasterWorld for a MSN primer and not really found “the whole story” anywhere, lots of posts asking for it though. So after some searching the net, I decided that maybe, if I gave it my best, someone would fill in the blanks and comment on the loose ends, so her goes.

Why MSN at all
The reason is Microsoft. They have plenty muscle, and have never been afraid to bulldoze their way into a marked. Remember the browser wars or Word Vs Word Perfect or Excel Vs Louts 123, the list goes ever on. They don’t even have to do a good job at first, eventually they will get on top of things. Now I know that Google has muscle also and is already doing a good job, but so was word perfect. Anyway I thing MSN will become much more important in the near future so why not take an interest now.

Content is King
That content is king is hardly surprising, that is what everybody has always said about all search engines. But if you compare MSN to google, content is more important for MSN than for Google. MSN don’t have Google’s heavy emphasis on links and therefore needs to rank pages using other things. Its simple math, take links out of the equation (not totally out, but to a large extent when comparing to google), the other elements must increase in weight.

MSN likes Freshness and this means regularly updating. If things were simple I could stop now and move on to the next point, but it is not. It is not enough to have something new to MSNbot every time it stops by. This something must be of some quality. You might have to write content! real content, Within the theme of the site and within the theme of the page. Doing this will also attract some positive attention from Yahoo Slurp and it will not harm Google either.

Light pages and easy access
MSN don’t like heavy pages, who does? Keep the pages light and make them accessible. This means that if MSNbot need to traverse through eight pages on a site before finding leaf pages that nobody else points to, MSNBot might choose not to go that far, human users might make the same choice. Also avoid broken links and URL's with many (definitely more than 5) query parameters have a very low chance of ever being crawled.

Normal SEO
All the normal stuff we all do to optimize also works for MSN, which is why a lot of people do very well in MSN without doing anything special.
- MSN likes theme-based pages and pages that have a relatively high key word density. You might need a higher density then is normally done for google.
- MSN likes well ordered HTML, and a hierarchical structure with good use of H1 and H2 tags.
- MSN likes Keywords in the URL
- MSN relies heavily upon anchor text in links, title attribute in links and alt tags in images
- Take care when writing for the Description Meta Tag, it is the only Meta tag that matters and holds some importance

Don’t have duplicate content, MSN’s duplicate content filter are reported to be better then Google’s
Avoid link farms, hidden text, tiny text and all the other no no’s

To sum it all up

1.Write a lot of good content within the theme of your site
2.Have new content ready for MSNbot every time it stops by
3.Keep pages light and take a hard look at the internal link structure
4.Remember the normal SEO

Here is a quote from the net about the MSN algorithm RankNet. I understand the words, but not the meaning and not what to make of it as a SEO dude

RankNet is, in essence, a “learning machine” that takes the patterns of human searches into account,
and learns from them, in order to provide more relevant results the next time around.

Comments please



 9:35 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

wrong forum?

this forum is about msn adcenter, their par per click search engine (ppcse) platform and related - your post seems to be about seo aspects of msn's organic results. unlikely to find an audience here.


 9:57 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

what is the right forum then, This was the only MSN related forum I could find


 5:04 pm on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)



 8:29 pm on Oct 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thanks Rinofish

I am trying to get it moved


 9:28 am on Oct 23, 2006 (gmt 0)


I believe that the points you mentioned were maybe relevant in the pre summer algorithm.

A "higher keyword density" will trip the spam filter and make your site drop to oblivion forever. And I believe MSN relies more of links now too.

Also keywordkeywordkeyword.com (all the same keyword) domains do well as do spam blogs.

I used to like MSN but since my sites got caught up in the their collateral damage against their war on spam with no hope of recovery now I am a sceptic. I just wish they got things right.


 4:10 pm on Oct 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

First of all, thanks to Receptional for moving this post to this forum, where it is more suitable.

Also thanks to asusplay for your replay. Right now I am trying to find out what the difference between MSN and live.com really is all about, if there is any. Maybe you (or others) could comment on this


 6:09 pm on Oct 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

This no difference between live and msn as MSNdude has stated.

People just see different results as and when they get served up local results on live.com which likes to use the local version when it can.

The rest of your points seem valid although I am not sure about the freshness factor I have a top site which I have no touched in years.


 10:58 pm on Oct 24, 2006 (gmt 0)


Sorry my friend but your miles off target with this one, i think your post is based on the original concept of the msn search from the idea level, not the reality of where the search is currently - where do i start....

Content is King - Replace with "less is more"
If content was currently king a) the search bot would read all pages on a site rather than skim them b) authority sites rich in content would be ranking left right and centre yet they are not and c)i wouldnt be able to get junk 5-10 page sites ranking well in msn (have tested a few things)

Freshness - In your dreams
I think this was a dream that the marketing people at msn had and the search team think they are on the money with. Fact is i can get sites with no fresh content outranking sites with fresh content. A site with no new content or additions slowly moves up to the number one position of the serps based on just a few choice backlinks.

Light pages - You got that right
Few links and content. If fact one page with 8 lines of text, litle content and few links to associated content is enough to rank. The lower the keyword density the better. This is why the serps are full of junk.

Standard SEO - dont agree
- likes low kw density not high - proven
- good use of H1 and H2 will attract penulty
- like keyword in the url - agree providing its in the domain name. www.bluewigetstoday.com cant fail to rank for blue widgets but if say www.smith.com made the bluewidget and had a site dedicated to bluewidgets called www.smith.com as the brand name you wouldnt see it listed anywhere - msn struggles to rank any brandname site correctly
rest is standard

RankNet is, in essence, a “learning machine"
Yes it is - only problem is that it has learned how to do things wrong and with every update since launch the msn serps have got worse and worse

A quick look at the serps will show the above. The serps only contain sites with the keyword in the domain, or keywordsubdomain sites, .gov or .ac which has some extra value, utter junk, thin content sites and garbage.

Anyone can rank top of msn very quickly, if i know how to do it so do zillions of others - problem is you dont want to mess with authority sites to fit msns daft current algo for fear of losing the site in google hence why webmasters are buildimg junk to feed msn and why their serps are full of it.

Whilst google has some problems unless msn seriously look at the current algo they will never catch them imo - i think your OP is out of date but would have been applicable at the time they launched search over a year ago


 11:32 pm on Oct 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

The only proven key to MSN - somethingKEYWORD.blogspot.com


 12:31 pm on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)


Haha, I was just about to say that. If MSN would stop indexing and top 10 ranking every blog spot blog known to man, maybe they would get to indexing the rest of the web.


 2:07 pm on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

I think listing blog sites in the serps sums up how poor the quality issue is dont you?

Not being funny but i would struggle to find more than a handfull of blog sites on the net that are of any quality and that deserve to be listed in a basic directory let alone in a prime search engine.

They have serious issues with this algo imo


 2:52 pm on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

- good use of H1 and H2 will attract penulty

Could someone elaborate on this? Should I completely remove h1 and h2 tags from pages that I'm trying to get ranked quickly on MSN?

Robert Charlton

 8:42 pm on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

The only proven key to MSN - somethingKEYWORD.blogspot.com

I'm looking at the top 4 in a competitive search being numbered Keyword1Keyword2#.blogspot.com pages (the numbers to give them different urls ;) ) all redirecting to scraper pages with affiliate ads and links throughout.


 8:52 pm on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

I don't think you need to delete them, but a KW density of <20% seems to work best. Anyone else with thoughts about where the thresholds are for KW density for other areas of a page?


 9:14 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>>Light pages - You got that right
Few links and content. If fact one page with 8 lines of text, litle content and few links to associated content is enough to rank. The lower the keyword density the better. This is why the serps are full of junk.

I was at a seminar in Toronto 2 days ago, there was a rep from M$ talking about Live.com. He stressed several times that light, on-topic highly relavant pages will rank high. So it is completely in line with the above comment.


 11:49 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)


Interesting. It makes you wonder why they thought that was a good policy to introduce?.

A site rich in content about a subject is likely to have a lot of pages and a lot of internal links to those pages. Its also likely that a lot of sites will link to it and the pages are going to be heavy in content. Meanwhile a junk site is going to have "light" pages, little content and low links.

Ive done my own experiments on msn search and can get thin content sites knocked together with no real content ranking in the top five very quickly but i struggle to do it on some clients authority sites we get involved with that are deep in content.

You would think someone at msn would take a look at the serps and say "OK, we messed up big time, lets drop this algo and start again" its a no brainer as far as i can see, the serps are plain awful.

As for another update some are talking about, lets hope so, they cant do any worse thats for sure


 8:27 am on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Yes I agree. How light content pages would make the serps more relevant is beyond me.

I built websites last year with MSN in mind as it didnt have that 'sandboxing' with lots of good fresh relevant content and they were doing really well. Then they introduced this 'less is more' algorithm a few months ago and they tanked.

Well there's not much i can do with those sites now on MSN, only that thankfully they do well of other search engines, so i'm not going to thin them out.

So, on Google it's a popularity contest. On Yahoo, it's sort of popularity but with relevancy mixed in it, and on MSN it's the irrelevancy factor, as keywords on H1, H2, title tags, body content, and links will penalise your site.


 5:03 pm on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thank you very much for all your replies, I am now confused on a higher level.

To sum it up:

Good use of H1 and H2 will attract penalty
Likes low keyword density not high
Forget content less is more

Seems to me that what is currently the working, will produce poor search results with highly spammy results and pages that do not rank very well in other search engines.

Is it your understanding that this will change over time?
How about links, will MSN/Live.com regard links as a factor in some what the same way as google?


 5:46 pm on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

I completely agree with what's being said here, in fact, I said the same several weeks ago here:


I'm not kidding, in my sector I see pages ranking well that are only somewhat related to the query. I've seen the right website's "about" page rank highly for very competitive terms. These same pages have very few words that relate to the term.

They'll get there...

Robert Charlton

 6:29 pm on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Good use of H1 and H2 will attract penalty
Forget content less is more

I'm not seeing that these two are affecting any of my pages. I'm seeing some 800-word pages with H1s and H2s ranking very well. I also have good linking, though, so it's hard to separate out factors.

Likes low keyword density not high

I have been surprised out how little content of any kind there is on some of the pages I've seen highly ranked on MSN, but I wouldn't generalize on why they rank from any one example. Some of these seem to have one of the search terms in the name of the site, which gives them a link boost, and the other word is somewhere on a relatively small page... and some of them have a lot of blog links pointing to them (a technique that I feel, for the long run, is a waste of time... though it may work now).

MSN seems to like well-constructed, well-written, well-linked pages. Unfortunately, MSN also seems to like pages boosted by low quality inbounds. They haven't fully nailed down what page quality and link quality is all about. They are always changing... and has been mentioned, not always in the right direction.


 10:44 pm on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)


MSN seems to like low content junk sites from the serps i see. I dont see any quality anywhere in any search result.


"Seems to me that what is currently the working, will produce poor search results with highly spammy results and pages that do not rank very well in other search engines."

Thats exactly how it is. Thats why Google even with its problems has serps far, far more relevent than msn can ever possibly produce with this current algo.

Thats not to say that things cant change in the future, its still early days for them but whilst they stick with the current technology they will continue to burn time.


We all know you read these threads from time to time, can you comment as to why the search team dont see these problems and realize how bad the current serps are?

If they dont agree and think they are good and we are missing something can you explain.


If anyone wants to sticky me a search string done in msn search that produces a quality result (ie better than or as good as google)i would love to see it. Im yet to see any serps that i can use from them.

On short string search requests the results are almost always full of sites that either a) contain that string in the domain name b) have the string in a subdomain.site url or C) are blogsite junk

Meanwhile on long string requests its either a) thin content junk b) non relevent results or c) has the bulk of sites that should be listed nowhere to be found


 10:59 pm on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

looks like MSN likes new sites better than established.
but in travel industry they show results i do not understand

Robert Charlton

 12:09 am on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

but in travel industry they show results i do not understand

The MSN blogspot spammers seem to like travel a lot. ;)

Robert Charlton

 12:18 am on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

MSN seems to like low content junk sites from the serps i see.

RichTC - It is amazing how high some of these junk pages will rank and what sites they are beating. I believe though that in many cases the low content may be coincidental, and it's the blog link campaigns that are achieving the placement.

On some pages it's hard to tell because they redirect too fast to check them out.

I can only say that I have seen some good quality pages rank. Overall, though, these are pretty bad results, and I'm surprised that MSN released them. With this learning algo, one wonders whether MSN results will be in a perpetual beta state.


 12:47 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)



So we could conclude that the route to part of their problems COULD be down to msn not being able to tell a quality link from that of a blog link.. hence a junk site setting up thousands of blog links gets pushed to the top of the serps whilst an authority site that has good steady links from quality sites gets left behind - this does look likely based on the serps as at today.

Also, the recent filter that i think was set up to reduce this damaged more quality sites (that are now classed as spam?) due to those authority sites being hit by scrapper sites and msns learning algo assuming that they were somehow spamming and applying a penulty -this was discussed in another thread.

The serps for travel are dire due to i think this being the first sector to start seeing spammers moving in, same with money/finance, recruitment, gambling etc etc the prime areas first and then everything else - with the current algo the serps cant improve only get worse as more spammers move in hence why with every update since they started with this algo the serps have got worse.

Because .gov sites and .ac sites rank well i can only assume those sites are automatically treated as authority but they havent a clue with anything else.

So, how can we help if they do want support to get it right? - What could they do to get it right and fix this mess?

One solution to this i think is for msn to introduce some kind of page rank. They probably wont want to do this but i think its the only way. They could then score a site and links to and from it more effectively, kick out/devalue blog links, low value directory links etc, etc they could even use data from own B2B directory to score.

Whilst Yahoo dont use a Page rank formula they do have massive link history data to pull on which helps but even they have quality issues because they dont use it to their full advantage. Meanwhile Google with its formula dominates the market.

Links are key imo, everything else can be adjusted to spam them imo. You can increase reduce density on a site, you can increase reduce links in and out, reduce tags, number of pages, etc etc.. a spamming team will keep adjusting to match msns algo hence why the serps are dire and quality and authority sites get left behind. I have conclusive proof of this because ive experimented myself with a thin content 12 page junk site and can get it to rank top in msn for almost every keyword! What i cant do is get quality sites to link to that junk site hence the key.

On the authority sites we work on some can get on average as many as about 40/50 link requests a day and the majority of the time we decline the lot!. Most authority sites are selective about the sites they endorse. Also a site doent need to be called "Blue Widget" to be about "Blue Widgets". If we have an outbound link on an authority site that says "Blue widgets" and points to abcde.com you can rest assured that abcde.com is site we value as highly relevent about "Blue widgets". Where link age comes into play is a way to control sites that purchase links on high authority sites - but this isnt a problem for msn yet because if they got the first part right they would have 80% relevent serps rather than 1%

Anyway, if you or anyone else has a better idea we should share it here. I hope msn dude doesnt look on these threads as msn bashing because i think most of us do genuinely want to see an alternative to googles hold but most of us are just plain frustrated with them currently.



 5:40 am on Oct 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Links are key imo, everything else can be adjusted to spam them imo.

don't forget links can also be spammed and purchased, leading to a drop in quality control.

However overall I would tend to agree. The ranking system as it is does not account for authority sites, probably the biggest issue with it at the moment.

I know MSN is shooting for a higher quality user end experience. The issue with this from an on-page factor is that keyword text on a page is often very important to the user; it is often the reason the user comes to the page.

Here is a list of particular characteristics of what I would be using to evaluate a given page:

The length of domain registered.
The length of time of that page in the search engine.
Inbound links from trusted sources.
Ample social bookmarking
Bounce rates, if possible, as well as clickthroughs to deeper pages (often signifying good content)

Any ranking to do with keywords, page densities is flawed but should account for a small # of the alog in order to assure quality control.

Robert Charlton

 9:55 am on Nov 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

...part of their problems COULD be down to msn not being able to tell a quality link from that of a blog link...

Or an ROS link....

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