One of the most common preconceptions with SEO is that if you optimize a site for the benefit of Google then you will rank well with other search engines. However, the big three search engines (Google, Yahoo, and MSN) all use different algorithms that demand different things. Google has a mixed bag but certainly leans towards inbound links whereas Yahoo loves keyword dense content sites. This leaves us with MSN, whose primary consideration when determining their search results seems to be heavily based on internal linking structure and inbound links. But these are far from the only SEO techniques you need to consider.
MSN The Meta Search Engine
MSN Search is a meta search engine. Whereas Google openly ignores your meta tags in the majority of cases MSN blatantly uses them to index your pages and discover your keywords. At the very least you need to include the “keywords”, “description”, and “title” meta tags. Your main keywords should be included in all of these with your primary keyword appearing first in the “keywords” meta tag. All tags must include the keywords you consider the most important to your site.
Also, because MSN uses the meta tags, you should be careful not to spam them with numerous instances of your keyword or the use of incorrect or inaccurate keywords. At present, meta spamming doesn’t seem to be an issue with the MSNbot but it is only a matter of time and when the change occurs you won’t receive any warning before your site is penalized.
Page Layout And Code
The coding of a page is always an issue with search engines and, therefore, should be important to you as well. If a crawler can’t crawl your site then you are unlikely to be indexed and you certainly won’t receive the high ranking you want. Keep the amount of HTML or any other programming language on your page down to an absolute minimum and ensure that page sizes are below 150KB at the very most.
Another slightly contentious issue is the use of tables. Again, this leads us back to a crawling problem. MSN does not condemn the use of tables on the whole. However, the MSNbot does not like to see tables within tables within tables. This can be a problem if you don’t use CSS and rely on tables to keep your page neat. Including another table in the layout of your page begins to make things look messy from the point of view of the MSNbot.
Keyword density is an area of SEO that always causes arguments. No search engine openly publishes their requirements in this area but it is widely accepted that while Google has stringent rules in place that require minimal use of keywords both Yahoo and MSN have a much greater tolerance for higher levels. Google prefers only a 2% to 3% density while MSN and Yahoo allow 5% to 6%, possibly even a little higher.
Of course this raises the problem that optimizing for MSN may have you flagged as spam with Google. Fortunately, MSN and Yahoo, both take keyword stemming and keyword variants into account when doing their calculations. Use keyword plurals and stems, and try to ensure that you don’t go above the Google ideal of 2% for each of these variants. Also, it is absolutely imperative that your SEO writing does not prevent you from writing copy that is appealing to human visitors.
Website Infrastructure And SEO
Your website infrastructure is important to MSN. Many sites, my own included, have shown excellent results in MSN based on the internal text links and associated anchor text. Try to use the primary keyword for a page as its title and ensure that you use this keyword in all of your navigation bars on your site. This will have a very positive influence on the MSNbot.
Also, as with all search engines, MSN wants to be able to reach every page of your site quickly and easily. Text links are best for navigation and all pages should be reached within three clicks from your home page. If you use graphical navigation bars then you should consider either changing them to text links or including a sitemap that is one click away from your homepage.
Inbound Link Importance
Inbound links count as votes for your website. The more votes you get from sites the better, but moreover the more influential the sites that provide a link to you the greater your search engine results. In all honesty, MSN currently appear to favor the quantity of links over the quality but search engine algorithms are renowned for evolving so try to plan ahead and get relevant links from popular pages. The most important aspect of any individual inbound link is the anchor text. You must get webmasters to use your primary keyword for the page that the link points to as the anchor text.
MSN SEO Conclusion
MSN Search is gaining a little ground on its major competitor, Google. Microsoft is unlikely to sit back and be happy with only taking a small share of the market so optimizing for MSN in order to ensure that you get beneficial results from their search engine is a very good idea. It is possible to optimize pages and content for all of the major search engines if done properly and carefully.