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Watch out Google, Yahoo! Here comes MSN Search!

MSN Search BetaToday Microsoft announced [1] the launch of the beta of their new MSN Search [2], using their own technology that no longer relies on Yahoo! Search Technology. Formal launch of the new search service on MSN.com is slated for January.

Although functionality is currently somewhat limited and its relevancy algorithm isn’t up to par with Google’s (in my humble opinion), it is clear that Microsoft have great plans in store for their new baby. The possibility of integrating MSN Search with existing, increasingly web enabled, Microsoft products is obvious. MSN Search is already in beta for integration into MSN Messenger and there is talk of using it with wireless applications.

The question that should be on everyone’s mind is: “What does this mean for search engine optimization?” And more specifically, what steps will you have to take to make sure your MSN Search rankings are as good as your Google results? With MSN controlling a 14% share of the search engine market, this is an important question to answer. So let me take a stab at a preliminary answer for you…

First, until MSN Search more fully indexes the web and launches formally to its MSN.com user base, there is little point in losing any sleep over the issue. Even then, it will take some time for Microsoft to come close to challenging Google’s dominance. Although if Steve Ballmer has anything to say [3] about it, that will happen soon. “We will catch up, we will surpass,” Ballmer was quoted as saying recently at Microsoft’s annual meeting. Empty words? I don’t think so.

Secondly, no rushed changes should be made that could endanger any of your existing rankings in Google and Yahoo!

Finally, talk to the experts to start planning for optimization of MSN Search. Even if you know a few things about search optimization, you don’t know what you don’t know. Your current arsenal of SEO techniques may not work as well on the new engine, and getting qualified advice early could save you a lot of the time and expense incurred with going down a wrong path.

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