Natural Search Blog


MS Live Search Tip: Keyworded URLs

Nathan Buggia, Microsoft Live SearchI was pleased to sit in a presentation by Nathan Buggia last week at the Web 2.0 Expo conference in New York. Nathan is the Lead Program Manager for Microsoft’s Live Search Webmaster Center, and his talk was on “Getting More Traffic from Search: Advanced SEO for Developers“.

One of the more interesting things that Nathan covered were factors which provide specific benefit to page rankings in Live Search.

It was striking when he covered one element in particular: URL formatting.

Nathan stated that URLs which were shorter and which contain valuable keywords are likely to provide greater keyword relevancy benefit to pages which have them. URLs which are shorter and which have richer words that describe a page’s content work better for endusers and for marketing purposes. Users seeing a keyword-rich URL are more likely to click on them when they see them in search results page listings, because they reinforce the perception that they contain what the user is seeking. URLs also should have keywords delimited by dashes, rather than underscores or even periods.

Check out this slide from his presentation which demonstrates how keywords within the URL can provide additional signal to a page for the terms they represent:

Keywords in URLs - SEO benefit
(click to enlarge)

Have difficulty in adding keyword URLs to your site? This is one of the things which GravityStream provides automatically (or even manually-generated). GravityStream proxies a site in order to automatically optimize a great many search ranking factors, including keyword-rich URLs.

Bill Gates Predicts Demise of Yellow Pages

Last week at the Microsoft Strategic Account Summit 2007, Bill Gates interacted with Microsoft’s Corporate VP and Chief Media Officer, Joanne Bradford in an interview/Q&A session, and he predicted that among those under 50, yellow pages usage would drop down to zero within five years!

Anti-Yellow-Pages

Now, he was apparently speaking solely about the print yellow pages, but the statement still seemed a tad bit bearish, considering that Microsoft is partnered closely with my former company, Idearc Superpages.com, one of the largest yellow pages companies (print or otherwise) in the world, to license the yellow pages data and service for use in Microsoft’s Live Local Search, and for the MSN Yellow Pages.

Now, Gates isn’t alone in predicting the demise of printed directories, since many others have also foreseen their eventual extinction, including me. But I think that other analysts out there have stated terms more in the ten-year range. Even if the numbers of some directories are declining, I still note that usage and sales are still very strong, so I’d be inclined to expect that print YP will likely go on for longer than five years.

It could be even longer, if there’s some more revolutionary tech introduced, such as I earlier suggested in “Could Nanotechnology Save Print Yellow Pages?

UPDATE: Don Dodge, Director of Business Development for Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team, also posted on his blog about the Summit, and he quoted a Seattle Times report which gave a further quote from Bill Gates about the yellow pages:

The traditional Yellow Pages are doomed as voice-activated Internet searches combined with on-screen interfaces on smart mobile devices get better and proliferate, Gates said. The company’s recent acquisition of voice-technology provider TellMe is accelerating the trend.

Dodge further states:

Microsoft’s recent acquisitions of MotionBridge and Screentonic, coupled with the acquisition of TellMe will support Gates vision of search and advertising on smart phones.

       

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SES Keynote with Steve Berkowitz had Surprise Appearance by Ms. Dewey

At the SES Conference in New York this week, Danny Sullivan’s keynote conversation with Windows Live Chief Steve Berkowitz featured a surprise appearance by Ms. Dewey – the beautiful avatar of the Windows Live promotional search interface.

Danny Sullivan, Steve Berkowitz & Ms. Dewey at SES NYC 2007

Ms. Dewey flounced onto stage in the middle of the interview, throwing out a number of cute bon mots and clever retorts to things that Danny and Berkowitz said.

As soon as I heard her voice and she went on stage, I started clapping, along with one or two others in the audience. I’m guessing that not everyone has actually been aware of who Ms. Dewey is, since most search marketers obsess more about Google and Yahoo!, in that order. So, it was sort of tragic that the audience didn’t really know who she was, or what was up when she invaded the stage.

When she heard my clapping along with the other few folx who recognized her, Ms. Dewey turned towards me and gave me a really enthusiastic “thank you!” Having the pretty geek poster-girl give me such a heart-felt thank-you really woke me up, I can tell you. The Ms. Dewey character is played by the gorgeous actress, Janina Gavankar.

I previously blogged about the Ms. Dewey Live Search interface as a cool, interactive avatar for the search service, and pointing out a bunch of the funnier responses that she has pre-programmed for various keyword searches — check them out for an idea of what she’s all about. This link-bait promotion was wonderfully built in order to promote Microsoft’s Live Search service, and to persuade users to submit searches through it.

When I saw Ms. Dewey come out, I grabbed the opportunity to snap a few pics, including the one above. Click on it to view some more in the same series.

Although she wasn’t widely known when she came on stage, I think the audience caught on that it was some sort of promotional stunt within just a few minutes, so by the time she exited, the audience was fairly captivated by her, and everyone applauded.

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MSN Live Shuts Down Info for SEO

I was quite disappointed to see that MSN Live announced yesterday that they were shutting off advanced syntax queries such as: link:, linkdomain:, and inurl:. Eytan Seidman, MSN Live’s Lead Program Manager stated that they could tell there was a large amount of automated datamining going on, so they’d unplugged the features completely.

MSN Live Bans Advanced Queries

 Now, I’m completely familiar with how impolite dataminers can impact service for real users — that’s something we police for as well here at Superpages.com. But, I’m unhappy because Seidman’s announcement sounds more like it’s not just impolite datamining they’re after — it’s all automated usage of those specialized queries.

Microsoft is quite lite on features supporting the web community and optimizers, so I’m unhappy that they’re halting the very data that supports those folx. While I don’t use those queries much in my work (because their data hasn’t been all that useful to me, and because such a relatively small fragment of our users come through MSN), it seems like a backwards move for them to revoke the functionality.

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