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Go after the less competitive keyword phrase combinations, ones that get a decent number of searches but aren't as sought after. Optimize individual *pages* for Ink and the site for Google.
[edited by: Marcia at 4:46 pm (utc) on Oct. 13, 2003]
M$N gives me a listing (cuz I pay Looksmart every month for traffic)...
BUT, here's how MSN shakes out for my search term:
3 FEATURED SITES... including
A corporate site for my keyword
An ebay listing
A MSN yellowpages listing
3 SPONSORED SITES... which come from some PPC? Not sure which one...
And then WEB DIRECTORY SITES where I'm #8 in this category. That puts me down to #14 on the page.
From what I can see, every listing on the main page is linked to $$$ somehow. Nothing wrong with paid listings, IMHO, BUT they're of limited value to the average surfer. I think Google has the best combination of relevant search terms and paid listings. I don't see how MSN ever expects to catch Google unless they back away from these paid results.
There have been changes happening at MSN and more anticipated, but they don't necessarily need to catch Google. The public may or may not be influenced by whether results are paid if they're finding what they're searching for; they're generally not as aware as webmasters.
The public is OK with whatever gives them what they're looking for, and a good number will always prefer using a multi-purpose portal site that serves their other needs as well.
For certain search terms and product types, given the identical rankings with Google, MSN traffic seems to consistently convert better. But that's from a site owner/webmaster point of view; with the users out there it's nothing more than the preferences as it relates to different demographics.