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If anyone can point me to where these sites are coming from it would be much appreciated.
If you want to be successful at MSN you need to look at pure Ink results....in depth....lots of content will give you good Ink positions.
Don't worry about the terms that are MSN sponsored, Overture Bidders, Looksmart subscribers, look at the terms no one else has considered.....of which there are millions!
I'm familiar with distinguishing if a site is coming from Overture, INK, or LS. The sites I'm referring to are not coming from any of the three and are not paid positions.
In some cases I was seeing some similarities between Google and these types of sites but with the latest Google update it's not making any sense to me.
However, if they are listed at the top - and not directory listings, and not Overture, - the odds are, those MSN sold in house.
Frequently for 'lucractive' keywords - MSN will go direct, to obtain a bigger % of the margin on the keyword(s) that they are selling.
Would be good if somebody else could figure out what you are referring to - unless it is MSN in house stuff.
As far as I can tell, MSN has the same inhouse advertisers and hand picked sites up in Featured Sites portion, Overture still holds onto Sponsored Sites, and Inktomi continues to backfill in the Web Pages portion.
In my memory the Web Directory Sites used to be fairly straight-forward Looksmart, with MSN tweaking and finessing it more and more over time, but just very slightly. Now I'm getting very different results from this portion, with entries that don't show up from either Looksmart or Zeal under the same search.
For wild speculation's sake, I think I'm seeing some stemming. Where it looks like these results aren't in the Zeal and Looksmart directories, they are, but just under very similar terms. Still checking.
For some background to fuel other guesses, this article reports on Looksmart expanding the contract with MSN on Sept 18 to last until Dec '03:
From that page:
Web Directory results contain Web sites within the MSN Web Directory that best match your search words.
Within Web Directory results, there may also be links where the Web site owners have paid for the expedited review of their site or for clicks to their site. These sites are ranked using the normal algorithm applied to all links within each section, with no change in rank due to payment.
So until somebody can point to some proof that another company is mixed in there, it simply must be LS or Zeal stuff.
I haven't checked myself to see if MSN uses stemming or not, but seriously - if you are selling something it's easy enough to pay one of many different companies to get at or near the top of MSN.
For hobby type sites, Zeal will list them for free (given time & patience etc).
That link to the MSN / LS deal does NOT include the info that MSN reserves the right to 'reallocate' search volume to LS at any given time - so I'm not saying there isn't something going on - just that we have no proof - yet.
The funny thing is that this page is listed well in Google. Well, off and on with Googles recent wackiness.Hmmm.