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November 9, 2008

Is there an MSN/Live Search site ranking loophole?

Posted by David Hunter at 9:47 PM ET.

Since late last week, two entrepreneurs, Dave Kelly and Chris Rempel, have been selling an e-book to Web affiliate marketers which claims to reveal a loophole in the MSN/Live Search algorithms which will allow them to create 1 page mini Web sites that will get highly ranked in the search results. I haven’t bought the ebook, but looking at the sales videos and trying the example searches reveals sites which should obviously not be ranking highly but are. Some examples with the ranks I saw:

 

Search Term Live Search Rank/Site
get rid of debt 1. get-rid-of-debt.org
poor credit rating 1. www.poor-credit-rating.com
bicycle accessories 4. www.bicycle-accessories.org

 

All of these sites are basically the same with one page of keyword laden boilerplate text and graphics (they aren’t selling anything) and another page with a privacy policy and yet they have search rankings at Live Search that are the envy of any Web marketer, even if Live Search is only the number 3 search engine. They also don’t seem to have any backlinks or any other exogenous factor that would explain their inflated search ranking. (The domain name matching the search term is supposed to be helpful according to a Rempel comment on a Digital Point thread.)

You can read all the blurbs on the e-book sales page for yourself and while I admit the "make money fast" flavor is a little offputting, the results seem to say that there is definitely a loophole in the MSN/Live Search ranking algorithms and these guys are driving a truck through it.

If that is so, the next question is how long will it take Microsoft to close the loophole? Their claim:

3. Won’t MSN® Catch On To This if We ALL Start Doing It And Change Their Algorithm?

You’d be surprised at how little MSN®’s algorithms have changed (if at all) over the past several years.

Unlike Google.com – which is now impossible to exploit (quickly, at least) – MSN.com is a totally different animal. While Google actually seems to respond to real authority patterns and natural exposure, MSN® is predictable and relies on a very simple engine.

And with what we’ve done – which, by the way, is completely untraceable, white-hat and totally invisible even to a professional human reviewer employed by a search engine – it makes ranking on MSN® as simple as setting up a site and following our easy instructions.

Even so – this strategy hinges on relevency as much as it does "exploitation". This means that your sites will NOT be well-ranked unless your page is relevant and therefore useful.

About as relevant and useful as the example sites above? Paging the Live Search crew – cleanup required in all aisles.



Filed under Live Search, MSN, MSN Search, Windows Live

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December 20, 2006

More bad news for Windows Live Search traffic

Posted by David Hunter at 11:52 AM ET.

Nielsen/Netratings yesterday released their USA search stats for November and the net for year over year number of searches (in provider rank order) is:

It’s one thing to lose share, but MSN/Windows Live Search actually lost traffic while the overall search volume grew and that is the the same story as in October and recent prior months as well. It’s not a pretty picture considering how much effort Microsoft has put into Windows Live Search.

On a related note, Topix.net’s Rich Skrenta sparked a lot of discussion with his observation that based on referrals to prominent websites, Google’s ability to drive traffic is considerably greater than even its first place search share ranking would indicate. Microsoft’s Don Dodge summarizes the discussion nicely.



Filed under AOL, Advertising, Ask.com, Coopetition, General Business, Google, Live Search, MSN, MSN Search, Microsoft, Online Services, Windows Live, Yahoo

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October 6, 2006

Microsoft Weekly Miscellany, October 6, 2006

Posted by David Hunter at 10:22 PM ET.

Catherine Holahan at Business Week online reviews the Internet search wannabes (including Microsoft) trying to steal Google’s crown with new search technologies. Meanwhile, Danny Sullivan has a little fun with another wannabe that has rediscovered “natural language search” for the nth time.

Jupiter Research’s Michael Gartenberg got a sneak preview of Crossbow and Photon (the next versions of Windows Mobile previously mentioned here) and he’s impressed:

I can’t really tell you all that much about then except that Microsoft is totally changing the way they’re thinking about mobility and it shows.

LiveSide’s Harrison Hoffman has the buzz on Windows Live Marketplace (codenamed Agora) which seems to be a tool for “Internet based retailers/sellers to add catalogs of their available products to the Windows Live Product Search database.”

Even further out is Nemo (work on which is on hold):

Codename Nemo is designed to be an add-on for Windows Vista (Home Premium and Vista Ultimate editions), that integrates Spaces, Messenger and Live Call into a UI designed for large monitors and TVs. Nemo essentially creates a Windows Live Media Center, and is optimized for use by Microsoft Media Center remote, as well as keyboard.

The Windows Live Mail team is rolling out the “M8″ enhancement to their beta.

Brier Dudley has some fun with Windows Media Player 11 beta 2:

Apparently there’s a glitch that makes some recorded TV shows vanish after three days, degrading the TiVo-like experience of Media Center.

I wonder if there’s some link to the copy prevention software used in the Zune media player…



Filed under DRM, Live Search, MSN, MSN Search, Media Player, Microsoft, Technologies, Windows Live, Windows Live Call, Windows Live Marketplace, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Product Search, Windows Live Spaces, Windows Mobile, Windows Mobile 6, Windows Phone 7

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September 19, 2006

Microsoft experiments with faceted search

Posted by David Hunter at 11:33 PM ET.

If Microsoft is ever to get out of 3rd place in Web search behind Google and Yahoo they are going to have to do something different. One of the cards they plan to play is an investment in improved search technologies and while there were some on display when Windows Live Search launched last week, it looks like there’s another one up their sleeve – faceted search. Paula J. Hane at Information Today:

Last week, Microsoft announced a major upgrade to the new search engine it has been testing since March. It has moved its Windows Live Search and Live.com out of beta status and said that Live Search will power the search capability on MSN, the company’s news and entertainment portal. A new feature is the Related Search function, which is designed to help users refine a query by simply clicking on a list of related terms. The unusually low-key and minimalist press announcement generated little excitement. After some poking around, Information Today, Inc. learned from search expert Stephen E. Arnold that Microsoft has even more potent technology ready to deploy.

Unlike the upgrade to Live.com, which, according to a Microsoft spokesperson, just uses algorithms that mine previously submitted queries to the engine, the new and unannounced search system brings faceted search to a Microsoft application. Try it yourself at http://rwsm.directtaps.net. The Microsoft project, called Search Results Clustering (SRC), currently offers a search beta and downloadable toolbar.

What Microsoft is doing is called text mining. This is jargon for discovering people, places, things, and other facts from text. These facts are then organized so a user can point and click on a category and see the related information. The approach is the secret sauce for such companies as Exalead in Paris and Endeca in Boston.

Arnold, who is the author of Enterprise Search Report, 3rd edition, and the forthcoming Text Mining Report, said: “If Microsoft makes this function part of SharePoint, it will pose a serious threat to companies offering SharePoint-specific search enhancements and be a strong competitive challenge to Google and its Appliance and OneBox API. If Microsoft puts this technology in Live.com, that service will almost certainly see an increase in traffic. Microsoft had to do something, and this Vivisimo-like clustering may be one of Microsoft’s most significant advances yet.”

There’s much more by following the link, but the project is from Microsoft Research Asia’s Search Technology Center which was established in October, 2005 and is apparently yet another Microsoft organization working on search technology.

As for faceted search itself, the basic idea is to not only provide search results for the specific term provided by the user, but also for various “facets” of the specific term. An example would be if the user searched for “boots,” facets might be “fashion,” “western,” or “mens” which further segment the search space. The user then could click on the facet of interest which would have more facets.

The real trick, of course, is to discover meaningful facets for arbitrary search terms and the Microsoft project performs it via on-the-fly cluster analysis of the results of the original search term. Hit the link in the quote above and kick the tires for yourself.



Filed under Coopetition, Faceted search, Google, Live Search, MSN, MSN Search, Microsoft, Microsoft Research, Office, SharePoint Server for Search, Technologies, Windows Live, Yahoo

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