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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

MSN Search Won't Affect Search Landscape

MSN Search "Unlikely to Change The Search Landscape Greatly" says Mary Meeker, Morgan Stanley Internet Analyst.

Why am I anxious and hopeful then? Because financial analysts look at balance sheets instead of SERP's, or Search Engine Results Pages, and where my sites and those of clients rank in those results.

Users determine the popularity and value of a search engine long before any financial impact is felt that Wall Street analysts can see on their charts and graphs. Google became a hit with the public due to user preference for its speed and relevance of results returned in user searches.

According to my own tests of MSN search tech preview, it could be very relevant and fast. That makes a huge difference in whether I will use MSN search or not - and, I suspect, a huge difference in whether the public will use MSN search for their daily queries.

Since MSN search is built into the Internet Explorer as the default search engine and since IE is so very available on every new computer you buy. If MSN search returns relevant results quickly, why would anyone take the extra step of navigating to Google or Yahoo to do their searching?

I submit that the only reason MSN search isn't already number one is because they return non-relevant results pages, loaded with pay-per-click ads above and below organic search results. People who don't want all the extra stuff, escape to the clean Google interface with minimal Adwords PPC ads on the page and vastly more relevant results. THAT is why people leave that default MSN search in IE and jump over to Google.

If the "New" MSN Search returns relevant results quickly and with minimal PPC and "Sponsor" ads, then they will quickly become number one and have a HUGE impact on the "Search Landscape".

But to comment now, before seeing how the public takes to the "New" MSN search, would be foolish! Mary Meeker needs to understand that fickle public perception could make MSN Search a hit or a miss - and it will dramatically affect the bottom line of Microsoft if everyone takes a shine to that new introduction.

If the MSN search results pages look no different than the current ones, littered with PPC "Sponsor" ads but still offer relevant and speedy results, then users will still gravitate to MSN search and away from Yahoo and Google.

Maybe they'll resist the urge to clutter up the search engine results pages with too many PPC ads and provide speedy, relevant results. Then maybe I'll convert to MSN from Google. That would be a GIANT shift in my love for all things Google.


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