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My MSN Story

An insighful interaction without a happy ending...



2:49 am on Dec 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

I've been going back and forth with MSN Customer Support since October. It all started with a reinclusion request because I do not rank for any terms at all on MSN. I'm not banned, I just don't rank for anything. Interestingly enough I do rank for terms in Canada, and Australia, but my audience is US. On Live.com I cannot even rank for my website's name - but I do everywhere else in MSN's network - just not in the US market.

Here is a summary of that interaction (numerous emails)

BillyS: Why don't I rank in the US market for my website's name?

MSN: Ranking is automated, see our guidelines.

BillyS: I understand that, but why do I only have problems in the US?

MSN: Please give us the exact search terms.

BillyS: "mywebsite" on Live.com

MSN: Your website may have trouble ranking in markets other than its local market.

BillyS: But it's a .com and it's hosted in the US with a US IP address. It only has problems in the US market...

MSN: We are forwarding your problem to a specialist.

MSN: I did a search using the link: then your site address. You've got a large number of links and that can affect ranking.

BillyS: You show 2,000 links, but by page 3 you say 152. That doesn't seem like a lot of links for a site that's three years old. MSN has 1.5 million links.

MSN: Ranking is automated, see our guidelines.

And here was the kicker - each email has this: You are a valuable customer to MSN ....


11:05 am on Dec 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

If you look at the topic "Does hosting effect search results" I have mentioned that I always found arabia, australia, brazil, south africa, singapore etc etc to give good results 'regardless' of where in the world you are seeking information for. Even if you are looking for something in Canada the results that come up on those seem clean, good, logical.
It seems to me that your site ranks well in those for the same reason the OP in that thread gets a good position on India. The same reason that our Asia based sites do well in even brasil, south africa or australia results.
Someone suggested that the answer to this could possibly be that filters are placed on websites that originate for example in Asia, South Africa, Australia etc it leaves the door wide open for other sites to 'enter' the top results. But I and others just cannot get an answer to this question.
I just wish someone would tell us why our Asia websites do so poorly on the main sites. The answer could be exactly why your site does not do well either.


5:51 pm on Dec 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

"MSN: "You've got a large number of links and that can affect ranking."

Same 'problem' here - my site is totally gone now - no pages in the index at all. This is pretty annoying since as far as I understand don't do any blackhat SEO.


7:08 pm on Dec 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Trying to find logic in situation devoid of any logic is an exercise in futility. The bottom line is MSN/Live search is a complete and total mess and has been for several months. There have been no real or major updates in some time, just some shuffling..

Often the answer, when you see so many sites disappear such as has been the case in MSN is that they are just screwed up.

I seriously doubt there is any method to their madness or grand plan to drop or ban sites. These sites are not banned, they are just victims of the mess that has become MSN/Live search

It's a shame really, MSN was making some nice progress earlier in the year, then around August they rolled back a major update and have been rolling downhill ever since.

[edited by: Shadoze at 7:41 pm (utc) on Dec. 22, 2006]


5:37 pm on Dec 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

BillyS, I'm in the same boat. Since this summer the site does not rank in US.
It is a penalty no question about it. And it is only applied in US. The most likely cause is IBLs.

I said it before and I dare to repeat it again. Microsoft has implementing a very shortsighted solution for addressing their spam problem. If there was anything to gain from removing top ranking sites from MSN they would all have tens of thousand of splog links by now. The reason why MSN's approach appears to work is because the pro spammers don't care much about MSN yet.


9:47 pm on Dec 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

Shurik - I found the entire dialog informative and frustrating and that's why I shared it here. Clearly MSN was providing me with some guidance about IBLs. I will tell you because I've posted this elsewhere; I gave up on any kind of link building campaign over a year ago.

I just cleaned out about 20 link exchanges I had with other sites. It was just as well because most had stopped linking back to me anyway. But I must have about 200 outgoing links to a wide variety of sites - to help my visitors.

To suggest that 152 IBL is a lot is just plain garbage. My site has about 1,200 pages - so it's bound to attract links - including scrapers. I've never signed books, or dropped a signature in forums. To suggest this website does not follow their guidelines is rubbish.

Clearly there is something that triggers this penalty, but MSN's got a flaw in this logic.


1:58 pm on Dec 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

You folks are way over thinking this.. it is not an IBL issue. It is not a ban, or penalty. Think of it as being caught in a tangled mess of wires, no matter what you do, if you untie one knot there's always another..

Discussing Search algo's with anyone representing a search engine is a waste of time. You can pretty much throw out 80% of what they tell you and then take the other 20% and do the opposite and you'll be closer to the truth.

IBL's are not causing your sites to be 'banned' There are literally tons of spam sites in major markets in MSN with tens of thousands of IBL's, all spam, they rank well and continue to rank well.. IBL's are not going to get you banned.

Changing your entire SEO strategy based on what MSN currently is or is not doing makes no sense. Their algo is a complete mess, yes they tried to address the spam issue, but by doing so they created many other issues that they have yet been unable to resolve, and these issues are having effects on all kinds of sites, that should not be affected.

Don't try and form a conclusion on what is happening based on what has happened to your site or a few of your sites. There are folks who are testing thousands of domains with many servers under controlled conditions, and you're not going to find the answer, because right now you will find data that is 180 degrees opposite of what you thought to be true, and then data that contradicts that data.

I will repeat what I said above, not every thing you see happening with search results is by design. In most cases whan an engine takes an action, there are 20 unforseen actions that also occur. You are caught in one of these unforseen actions.


7:19 am on Dec 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Shadoze, i appreciate your thoughtful reply. I don't think anyone would seriously consider changing strategy based on what MSN is doing at this point. However it is still fun to analyze and speculate. Too bad our friend MSNdude got really shy lately. It is not the same without him.

There are literally tons of spam sites in major markets in MSN with tens of thousands of IBL's, all spam, they rank well and continue to rank well.. IBL's are not going to get you banned.

My take is that those spammy sites rank for a while then fall out of favor and get replaced by new ones. "Search defender" is not quick enough to identify spam in real time. To help it do its job they slowed down ranking of new sites/pages and loosened the criteria of "spam signature" to such a degree that wide variety of sites now matches it.


8:25 am on Dec 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

The algo for MSN/Live in the U.S. doesn't appear to be the same as in other localities; and there can sometimes be a HUGE difference in the indexing dates between the various properties. You can check cache dates and see it for yourselves.


7:05 pm on Dec 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

IMO the reason why US index is so different from non-us is that they donít apply their
computationally expensive spam weeding stage of the algo against non-US indexes. This
allows them to allocate more resources to clean up the index that really matters.


4:44 pm on Dec 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

>>You are caught in one of these unforeseen actions.

If MSN had actually told me that I was under a penalty and what was causing the penalty I would have considered taking mitigation steps - if it didn't change the site's fundamental design.

But since they weren't able to really help me at all, I'm not changing a thing. My hope is that they will eventually realize there is a problem and they are filtering out high quality sites.

I've done without traffic from MSN for months now; I'm even considering banning their bot (nothing to lose...). The other majors (Google, Y! and Ask) are showing consistent growth and the siteís traffic has increased 300% since January 2006.


10:26 pm on Dec 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

BillyS, banning the site for MSNboot does not do a thing (at least for me). I disallowed them in robots.txt and it didn't help. All it does is removes pages titles and descriptions. MSN still remember all the pages and refuses to de-list them. They also seem to remember all outgoing links (a.k.a. linkfromdomain:yourdomain.com) although all the content is gone.

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