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New MSN Algo Having Problems



12:25 am on Aug 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Like many, 80% of my pages went from top 10 on MSN to page 3.
Like many I scrambled to see WHAT I WAS DOING WRONG.

Until I stopped looking for my pages and really started looking at the results I was getting for my keywords...NOT EVEN CLOSE. Little to No relevance.
Looking for blue widgets in North Shores Florida...getting used car lots in North Chicago, or pet grooming in North Carolina.

So, if you've lost pages or placement...relax (it's probably not your site) and wait for the bugs to get worked out.

Surely MSN is working on this...

If you are experiencing the same or have comments, please post.
I'd like to know it's not just me... :-) Fish


11:37 pm on Aug 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Here's a concrete tip that I'll share broadly: broken links are bad. (Is this really news?) :-)


3:48 am on Aug 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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msndude,what is the best step to take if a site drops down 25 results on all keyword phrases?


3:12 pm on Aug 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I would be happy just to know why when I search for bluewidgets in Singapore the result suggests I try bluewidgets in Seattle!

Why does MSN .sg, ninemsn australia, brazil etc shows large numbers of local Asia based / hosted websites but these appear down in the hundreds when searching on msn.com?
( Asking this question countless time yet never get an answer )
Why would a Singapore hosted website with local content for Singapore and Malaysia get buried in the results on the .com?

Is there a filter operating? If so may we know why such a filter is in place?

Anyone have any ideas to share?



3:12 pm on Aug 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Fish & Garya both hit on a couple of things here

Its not rocket science is it? No disrespect to msndude and team but they cant re-invent the wheel. There are only so many changes you can make to an algo.

The density issue is very real with the density down lower now, less keywords in the meta description etc but you have to ask yourselves is it worth putting the effort in to change your pages to fit an algo that will be chucked out shortly anyway?

If you start messing with your tags and your on page density you will without doubt damage your rankings in google and with so little traffic share that msn has its not worth taking the risk?.

The only sites i would bother optimizing for in this way are newish sites that would be in the google sandbox anyway for the first year or supplement sites that are chuck away that could be created just for msn to get that traffic share! - Not what msn will want to hear but the current policy at msn is pure madness and is why the serps are pure junk, and why the spammers are cleaning up at msn despite their efforts!.

Yahoo have recently tried this low density idea and thier results have suffered as a result, earnings down etc so are likely to revert back anyway imo as it doesnt cure spam and junk as they have found out, it just produces less relevent results, but at least Yahoo can deep index sites hence they have loads of data so they can produce some quality serps even using low density and they have the directory data to pull on.

From the point of view of creating pages for your end user, often you will use correct titles, say what the page is about in your descriptions, tags etc, you may have links out to other pages on your site about the subject in fact its hard to create a page for your end user about a subject without the density level climbing higher! due to your content including the keywords!.

Meanwhile, the spammers are not idiots and can afford to spend the time adjusting pages to fit the msn algo if thats what they want to do, so genuine webmasters are always behind the game.

One of the key reasons that Google do so well imo is because of Page Rank, they value a sites pages irrespective of density based on the quality of sites linking to them - Its not perfect but its the best on the market. Yahoo also to a certain extent have the value of their own directory which is one of the best on the net because of the fact that its unbiased editing from own staff (rather than dmoz which is not) and again can use this with their back linking history data, in their algo to help maintain quality.

I think we need to let msn carry on playing with search for the time being because as they continue to roll out serps on the current basis they will get nowhere with it - when the penny drops they will have to re-think this properly. Even with the new IE they are in danger of users defaulting the search to google if they dont get it right.

In closing, i would be amazed if the msn search team cant see how poor the serps are anyway. If they cant see it, then they must be a team of yes people still dreaming on the back of the hype from the bill gates statement about "msn search being the most relevent in six months" that was put out.. a year ago odd was it?

Sorry if that sounds harsh but unless webmasters tell it as it is, msn cant improve - can they?


6:52 pm on Aug 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Yes, broken links are bad, I could spend the next 24 hours digging, finding and repairing each and every one of them, but I can't believe that is what is causing the penalty on our site, so once again I sit here on a Saturday chasing my tail, making changes to pages, having zero idea as to what the effects will be. Is this really what MSN wants?

Ohh, last night, deleted over 200 pages from our site in
the slim hope that was causing the issue, of course
that had no affect either.

This is the reason why sites create doorway pages
and spam search engines with them, because if you shoot
enough directions "in the dark" you are bound to hit something. I DO NOT Wish to be that type of webmaster
and hope MSN can provide me with the tools and information
to correct the issues in the responsible way.


7:17 pm on Aug 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Richtc, I have to disagree somewhat about google. I think they rely too much on incoming links. Sure the motivation to go that route makes sense; but in reality it basically rewards webmasters who either buy links or do link exchanges, which makes it just as manipulatable as keyword stuffing or anything else webmasters do to optimize their sites.
Also google loves old websites, there's tons of crap that hasn't been updated in years that ranks in google, new sites never rank for months and months. I like that msn treats newer sites much better. However I do agree that the algorithm they started using at the end of may goes a bit too far as far as keyword density is concerned, and does end up penalizing some sites that are quite relevant to the query.


7:34 pm on Aug 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

See my Aug 11th post on this thread regarding density.
Lowered my KW density...waiting for crawl. Fish Texas...


10:25 pm on Aug 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

twebdonny: You DO realize that any changes you make won't take effect until we recrawl the pages you changed, right? Also, let me reemphasize that Microsoft is NOT asking you to make changes just for us; make changes because you think they'll make your site a better place for your customers. As it happens, a number of sites that aren't really spam but which suffered from recent anti-spam changes could "rescue" themselves just by making changes that would probably please their customers anyway.

richtc: Even when I don't respond, I read your posts carefully. Critical feedback -- especially the careful, detailed critical feedback you give -- is always worth reading. Even if I disagree with you, it's helpful to think through WHY we disagree. And one point where I think we agree 100% is that no one should try to optimize for a particular network or algorithm because it can change without notice or apology. To repeat: optimize for customers. They're the one true thing.

asiaseo: Your question is actually on-topic for this discussion, so I'll address it here. At the moment, many of the non-US nets are not nearly as sensitive to "user-friendliness." We understand what causes this, and we're working to fix it. I suspect that's not the answer you wanted to hear, but if you don't like the results, it really is in your hands to fix them.

godspeed: review the page that dropped, optimize it with customer benefit in mind, and remember that "excess is bad." Then wait for us to recrawl you.

One more tip: if you really do make a page/site more user friendly, you ought to see an improvement in your conversion rate. Others have reported this, anyway.


10:26 pm on Aug 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I just tried a search on search.msn.com with key words <edited>
3d result <edited>
6th result <edited>

I don't think these are good results

<sorry, no specific spam reports>

[edited by: tedster at 2:08 am (utc) on Aug. 13, 2006]


11:10 pm on Aug 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Lesedar: It's quite true that we don't provide all the results we want to provide for all queries. It's also true that we show some spam results we'd prefer not to show. I hope I didn't post anything that implied we thought otherwise.

I do appreciate you giving us a concrete example, but it's actually against the rules to post specific keywords or URLs in public forums on Webmaster World. (You can send them to "webspam@microsoft.com" and you can also send me a private "sticky," if you want, although I can't respond to everything personally.)

All I can say is that we're committed to making the results better over time, and we're working hard to try to do that. Keep watching.


12:27 am on Aug 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

Sure hope to see some MSNBot action then, it as well
hasn't been around our site since the penalty imposure.
Seems almost like the penalty keeps the bot away, which
in turn, perpuates the penalty?


8:09 am on Aug 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks for your reply, msndude. I hope you will improve your search results especially in the travel niche. I think msn was quite better before May 2006 update. This is my personal opinion. To other webmasterworld guys: please excuse me posting specific keywords and URLs but I needed a concrete example.


12:04 pm on Aug 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

leseder - It is frustrating not being able to give real examples other than by sticky - esp as we are all involved in different widget sites with different widget serps results!

Msndude - Thanks for the feedback - still early days, so time will tell if you can pull this off - i do believe that a radical re-think will need to be done because you have so much quality either in the bin or not ranking in your serps meanwhile the low content junk sites are just cleaning up. - Good luck


4:07 pm on Aug 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Can someone explain to me how a site which is ranked very high (often top) by the other major search engines, which is linked to by hundreds of major sites, which is extremely content-heavy, which is on many "best-of-web" lists, which formerly was ranked consistent on MSN with the other search engines, falls off their map 100% (except for URL/Title)?

We are baffled.

Who do we talk to in order to understand this?

I have noticed massive changes in MSN results over time, but this has one observer of the Web and SEO baffled.


4:45 pm on Aug 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Suggest you read this entire thread...it's all about your problem.
Fish Texas


7:52 pm on Aug 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

honestman: Actually it might or might not be the same problem. Have a look at the rest of the thread, and if you don't think it applies to you, then if you're willing to send me a "sticky" with your URL and query, I'll be happy to have a look at it.

twebdonny: No, the penalty doesn't keep the bot away; it will be back on its usual schedule, eager to see what you've come up with since its last visit.


3:26 am on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

As a commerce site I have to always think of building the site for the user. All the traffic in the world means little if the user can't find what they are looking for or get a spammy vibe from the site and don't want to checkout.

As far as less is more, there are two sites ranking above me on MSN for my main keyword phrase that have very little content. One basically says, "If you are looking for "keyword" please click this link(to another website)" and the other says "This site has been disabled." Is this an example of less is more?

It must be very tough for SEs to try and deliver quality search results with millions of spammers constantly looking for any loophole in the algo to exploit. But it is also very tough as a website owner to try and build the best site you can for the user while seeing SEs rank garbage sites in front of you constantly. I do build my site for the user. But I can promise you that I know my user much better than MSN's algo does. And while I am thankful, MSNDude, for you posting here. I'm not sure how to respond to you basically saying, if you dropped in MSN's SERPS, stop spamming or stop looking like a spammer.

The whole idea assumes that MSN has it right, knows what the user wants and if you dropped you are doing something wrong. Are you really that confident in the quality of MSN's results?


11:03 am on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

As promised: Report from density test.
Site has been recrawled...
Pages beginning to show up again on page 1...Top 10 in even better placement than before.

For My Site.
Meta Tag Descripion...Repeat Main Keywords no more than 2 times. Secondary Keywords 1 time.
Lowered body individual keyword density to no more than 3%
for main Keywords and 2% & 1% for secondary keywords.
Overall page density 1%
I chose a conservative approach with 1% overall page density...you may want to experiment. MSNDude is right...
optimize for your visitors and you can't go wrong.
Fish Texas.


12:44 pm on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


Spot on with your findings, i have done similar tests with similar results on some test sites.

However, your problem comes when you have a large page that may contain a lot of information about the different types of widget with perhaps a lot of links to other site pages that are about related widgets. In this situation your keyword density for "widgets" will rise significantly higher and you cant do a lot about it, i suppose you could fill the page out with more guff to bring the density down but you are then not delivering effective content for your users.

What this means is that to rank high in msn they are in effect encouraging webmasters to build low density pages of little content so that they rank - hence why the junk and spam sites clean up.

The junk wins because it has little real content behind it anyway, the spam because the spammers have nothing better to do than tweak density levels to get the desired results.

Meanwhile the authority content sites suffer because certainly on the sites we are involved with we are not likely to mess with reducing the density to please msn at the risk of losing position in google whilst reducing the effectiveness to the end users who like the pages marked out the way they are.

This is why i believe msns current algo will be scrapped, its just a matter of time.


1:14 pm on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member zeus is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

It seems like we will not get the good results from the msn asia or other non .com versions, it said be cause those realy look good in many categories, but the last 2 month or so its stuck at the non good .com version results.


1:49 pm on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Pixie: Send me the URLs and keywords, and I'll check them out. When I say "sometimes less is more" I definitely don't mean "nothing is best!"

So far, most of the examples I've seen of pages that got hurt by recent algorithm changes were pages that could made a few user-friendly changes and escape the penalty. If that's the case, then that's good for you, good for us, and good for our customers.

A big part of why I post here is that I really, really want to see counterexamples where our algorithm is getting it wrong. That's how we improve it over time. Don't hesitate to tell me that you think we've got it wrong, and don't hesitate to send me a "sticky" with a concrete example.


1:53 pm on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Rich: The scenario you describe (where we punish a page for having too much content) isn't supposed to occur, although I suppose it's possible. As I mentioned to Pixie, I'd be delighted to have a look at some specific examples, if you'd like to send them to me.


3:06 pm on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

Sorry, MSNDude, but I for one just don't see what is
causing the penalty with our home page that would
cause it to fall so far in the index. In addition,
where it was getting indexed each day, I haven't seen
a new cache date since August 2nd, so how can we determine
if any "changes" we are making blindly have anything
whatsoever to do with this penalty?


8:28 pm on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

" Rich: The scenario you describe (where we punish a page for having too much content) isn't supposed to occur, although I suppose it's possible. As I mentioned to Pixie, I'd be delighted to have a look at some specific examples, if you'd like to send them to me. "

What I am finding is that a more natural language patterns rather than a keyword stuffed language seems to be doing much better. Sometimes content is rather weak sometimes it isn't. Alot depends on how good the content is for the subject is in the first place for the specific key phrase.

Also many webmaster have a habit of just focusing on their main keywords words in their page. Think about a natural language. If you talk about widgets as an authority you tend to use combination of words which gives the page context. Not talking about stemming here. Many time webmasters will remove or avoid such words to stuff in another keyword or phrase.


Let's say you write about pond widgets. Simply using the keyphrase pond widgets over and over does not add any real meaning to the page. What adds meaning to the page is all of the other words and language patterns you use to express the subject of pond widgets. That set of words are unique to the subject. If you were to replace all occurances of "pond" and "widgets" with the word "farfulgoobersteins" and "opootogglegooprewart" you should still have enough context to know what you are talking about "pond widgets". Try it and read your content you may see a HUGE difference in how the content reads. You may get annoyed by all of the mentions of a meaningless word as "farfulgoobersteins" and "opootogglegooprewart" you may not really have a good sense of what you are talking about through bad context. Again try it...

If you enter a site and it is about "pond widgets" and in the navigation it mentions "pond X widget" "pond Y widget" - "pond Z widgets" you can see where you can get excessive and unnecessary mentions of the word pond and widgets. Simply using X, Y, Z should carry enough meaning along with other content to know what the page/site is about.


10:30 pm on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


I'm out of msn, I don't show up for any searches except exact url and exact title in quotes.

When I do a site: command I notice that the first result is a url that has never existed on my site, it's just https then my domain name. But I have never used a secure server.

Is the order of urls returned by the site: command relevent to anything or ...?

Also, a few years ago I switched from html to shtml and I put a 301 redirect from the old index.html to the new sitemap which is quite large. I noticed that with a site: command msn still has the url with the index.html (not the new sitemap)... so could that be part of the problem? Does msn think I have a humongous index page? maybe...

msndude I stickied you my url a few days ago I'll sticky it again in case you are interested. It would be good to have a fresh eye on what could be more user friendly - thanks :)


11:27 pm on Aug 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Much as I hate to say it, this is the first time I'm seeing a slew of irrelevant sites in the results. And yes, one page has *nothing* on it and is in the top ten for one search. The number one looks like an ugly 1998 Geocities personal homepage and is completely irrelevant for that search.

It sure does look like pages with content have been seriously demoted, and it also looks like the knobs have been turned down so far on number of occurences and exact match that it's pulling irrelevant stuff up that has nothing to do with the search term except for random mention of a word used in the search phrase.


2:31 am on Aug 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member billys is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

MSNDude -

I'm going to send to you another example of where I don't think your search engine should be able to return great results, but it's missing on a couple of them.

For this particular query:

1. On target, but not what I would consider a high quality result.
2. Another subpar result, but also the one that Google also likes for some reason.
3. From the same website as #2 and I really don't know why. Also favored by Google, so there must be some off pag factors fooling the engines.
4. Reputable company, but this seems like the wrong page.
5. An article that I would consider "decent." Perhaps the best result so far.
6. A result showing a Google.ru result's query. Very strange.
7. Right "industry" bad result.
8. Right industry, bad result.
9. A page redirecting to another page (not good results). MFA type page.
10. Not an "on target" result.

I picked this particular query because I rank well on Yahoo and Google for this term and it's because I've written a 800 word article on the topic - it's actually pretty good. However I rank around 29 in MSN for this query.


5:55 am on Aug 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Did you get my stickie note?


6:08 pm on Aug 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member crobb305 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Regarding the "less is more" point - I find it hard to believe what im reading. If a site is an authority on a subject or it is a site in a large topic area, it is going to have a lot of content.

MSNdude, I have to agree with RichTC on this. When content is having to be cut in half just to maintain steady ranking, I think something is off. Your goal should be to index the world's content. If I have to cut 60% of the content on a page because the file is "too big" to compete with pages consisting of a few sentences, then something is lost, isn't it?


7:31 pm on Aug 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi Rob. There's always a risk of being misunderstood when one offers hints. I never said that to do better you needed to reduce the usable content on the page. Clearly that wouldn't be good for the customers.

Instead of "sometimes less is more" perhaps it would be clearer to say "remember that spam is often about excess." If you are doing something to excess -- something that you're hoping will impress the search engine, even though you know it'll annoy customers -- then you should reconsider. That's all I'm saying here.

By the way, I'd also like to point out that about 80% of the sticky notes I've received on this topic have come from people whose sites were completely unaffected by the change.

This 121 message thread spans 5 pages: 121

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