MSN announced its new MSN search beta version today. It can be found at http://beta.search.msn.com. At first glance I really like it – I think the algorithm is pretty darn good, plus in a selfish way my sites seem to be doing pretty well in it.
MSN Search Beta Set to Launch – Article on eWeek’s Website
Its still very early, and I’ve only done about a couple of dozen searches in it, but it seems to do a decent job of weeding out national directories for regional searches. This is one area where Google really has some difficulties, as since Google relies so heavily on linking its very difficult for most local sites to compete with national directories.
Let’s say you search for “bankruptcy lawyer in California”. Chances are you are looking for sites of bankruptcy lawyers who are located in California. In Google you’ll likely get 50% or more of the top 20 results as directory sites, sites that are optimized to rank well and have lots of inbound links, and maybe some listings, but in general aren’t of the same quality and nature as a site of someone who is indeed a bankruptcy lawyer in California. Chances are for the small guys though that their sites are much less likely to be well optimized, or even moderately well optimized (even just on-page, much less off-page) and so often a reasonably well optimized (on-page) directory with a large number of links is favored in Google. MSN’s new beta search seems to give more weight to on-page factors, and (hopefully) quality linking and much less to quantity linking.
While relying heavily on linking (PR and all the other fun measurements thereof) got Google to its spot as the premier search engine, I think its a liability for local searches. I think they should look into reducing even moreso the quantity factor with relation to inbound links on searches that are clearly local in nature. Perhaps they could also identify if a site is merely trying to optimize for EVERY possibly region, as most of your (collective “you”) directory sites are optimized with thousands of pages focusing on very specific regional search terms. If I’m optimizing for “bankruptcy lawyer” in every major city in the U.S., I should think (again, hope…) that that site is not ranked as highly as a site targeting just the “bankruptcy lawyer” phrase with respect to one major city. Perhaps this is already the case… If so things can always be tweaked for improvement.
Anyhow, again let me provide my very early opinion in that while I’ll always be a strong Google supporter and follower, I do also really like what I see so far out of the new MSN search, beta version.