MSN Search vs. Google: Does Microsoft Like You More Than Google Too?

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MSN Search vs. Google: Does Microsoft Like You More Than Google Too?

 

I’m having a strange occurrence that I can’t quite figure out, so I thought I’d blog about it and see if you have some ideas.

 

If you’re anything like me, then every now and then you Google on certain key search phrases for your blog or company site and figure out where you stand in the search rankings.  If you’re a lot like me, then you do this several times a week.  If you are me, then you have custom software developed to monitor this kind of stuff.

 

I’ve been doing this for a little while and the results are simply fascinating (at least for me).  

 

When I do a search on the word “startups” on Google, the onstartups.com site is nowhere to be found (at least not in the top 1,000 or so hits).  The same search (for “startups”) on MSN Search puts me at #4 right now.  I don’t understand why there would be such a big difference.

 

Similarly, if I search on “software startups” (the specific topic of this blog), on Google, I’m still not found anywhere in the top 1,000, but on MSN Search, I’m #1.  This just doesn’t make sense to me.  How can the same (very specific) search term put me at #1 on one engine and almost non-existent in another?  On a related note, the search for “software startups” on Yahoo! also puts this site at #1.

 

Note:  I have not done anything specific with respect to either search engine to explain this discrepancy. 

 

Here are possible theories to explain the results:

 

  1. Microsoft likes me more than Google:  Microsoft may somehow be “rewarding” the onstartups.com site for using Microsoft technologies (this site uses asp.net).  I doubt this particular theory because it doesn’t seem particularly prudent for Microsoft to do this.  Way too devious, even for them.  Besides, this wouldn’t explain why Yahoo! ranks it #1 for “software startups” too.

 

  1. Google Hates Me:  This would be much like a good conspiracy theory.  Though I’ve certainly written a bit about Google on this site (most of it neutral or negative), I’m not egotistical enough or paranoid enough to believe this particular theory.  However, for the record, when I first started this site, Google would not permit this site to be part of the AdSense program.  There’s a bigger story here, but will save that for another day.

 

  1. Google is more “selective”:  Maybe Google is more “particular” about who it ranks highly.  Though this is certainly plausible, this site has been out there for almost 6 months now and is ranked reasonably high in places like Technorati now, so it still doesn’t make complete sense.  Besides, the PageRank for onstartups.com hovers around 4-5 so I know Google doesn’t ignore it completely.

 

  1. More sites are optimized for Google:  It’s possible that the other sites that are ranking higher than me on Google have made conscious effort to do so (by optimizing the site for Google).  Maybe MSN is not yet a “target” yet for these kinds of optimizations, so new sites like mine rank higher there.   Don’t completely buy this theory either because it’s hard to believe that so many sites have done such a good job with SEO that they trump me so easily.

 

  1. MSN Search Is “Better”:  I have to refute this one out of modestly alone.  It would be hard to argue that onstartups.com deserves to be the #1 hit for “software startups” on any search engine.  There is much better and more popular writing out there on the topic. 

 

Obviously, this site itself is not important enough to have the above theories discussed or debated.  I’m more interested in the larger pattern (if there is one).  What are your experiences?  If you’re a blogger or manage a site of your own, how does it fare on Google vs. MSN Search?  Do your results differ from mine?  Do any of the above theories make sense to you?  Do you have others?

 

 

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Sat, Apr 29, 2006

COMMENTS

Hi Dharmesh,
Ranking is a tricky thing, especially between, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. When it comes to the most complicated algorithms for determining rankings, Google wins and currently the others are far behind. This is what accounts for your blog not showing up in Google. You only have 24 backward links in Google, and 1837 in Microsoft. This is because Google is very picky about which links they count and which links they do not. Basically, ranking in MSN search is much easier then Google, or even Yahoo, because of the simplicity of their search algorithm. I am sure that sooner or later, as MSN search matures, this might change. Either way, please keep writing your insightful posts, and I'm sure the links will keep coming in :-)

posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 2:31 PM by Neil Patel


Your Google pagerank (PR) is 3 according to http://pr.blogflux.com/index2.php, and that's actually a very good rank for a young site like this blog. So it's not that Google doesn't like you entirely -- maybe it's because of the links like the above poster noted.

posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 2:36 PM by Yoav Shapira


You're in the Google sandbox. Google (haha) for it.

You might also find WebmasterWorld a useful resource. There is a paid, 'supporters,' forum on the site. I am not a mermber but my SEO friends swear by it. (If you decide to buy in, let me know what you think!)

posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 2:51 PM by Adam Smith, of xobni.com


I'm seeing the same thing for one of my sites (http://www.formspring.com) and talked about it here: http://blog.olonoh.com/2006/04/21/i-still-dont-understand-google/

I'm on the first page of results on MSN's search page for several keywords, yet nowhere to be found in the top 10 pages for the same keywords on Google.

I've always loved Google, but I'm starting to lean towards your theory #5. We can guess all we want about the technicalities of the Google algorithms, but IMHO, when I compare the top results for my keywords, and the onstartups.com keywords, the top results in MSN just seem better.

posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 3:11 PM by Ade Olonoh


Thanks for the comments.

So, the prevailing theory (which is a good one) is that Google is more "sophisticated" about what it considers as an inbound link and as such, the other engines (MSN and Yahoo!) are giving more credit than the site likely deserves. This makes sense to me.

I'm not really looking to do anything about this, I was just curious (I'm a curious kind of guy).

posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 3:40 PM by


Google is particularly harsh on blog-type sites in the first year to combate spam blogs. Looks like you registered the site last August 5th, and opted for the 1 year registration. To Google this could look a lot like a spam blog. Two suggestions: 1) lengthen the registration on the domain name -- makes it look like a site that will be around in a few years. 2) wait. At the one year mark there was a noticeable pop in our google search rankings for key terms. I have heard others report similar results.

posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 3:57 PM by Ryan Hudson


links aside... if a site is some what optimzed i.e. matching title, description, content and <h> tags then engines will index prettty easy... I have a (3week old) hobby blog traffic around 60 a day @ http://blkjackblog.com first page on MSN optimation alon, no traffic not a popular key word:
http://search.msn.com/results.aspx?q=blackjack+blog&FORM=QBRE

but on a good key word I got indexed but am dropping pretty quick from index at page 4 to 1 week later on page 12... no traffic

traffic drives to top once on engines is my guess.

posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 4:31 PM by michael


While we're sharing, I'll confess that I have observed this as well. Some sites seem to be penalized in google, other sites with less authentic content seem to succeed.

I've also noticed that googlebot has an erratic hit pattern, hitting the same page 20-30 times a day in periods. G. seems to be about two weeks slower to update its index.

It is unecessarily rude and likely completely uninformed to claim that Ask, MSN, etc are "far behind google" and that any discrepancy in rankings could only be due to the "simplicity of their algorithms"? How could godly google be at wrong?

Based on my own, subjective, observerations, I think both Ask and MSN lead when it comes to relevance but compared to google they suffer from being smaller. They have a smaller horizon but they seem to achieve more within their limits.

posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 4:37 PM by Johan


Sometimes, google can be quite a mistery. I started 3 sites about 6 weeks ago. One got to PR 5 in 4 weeks with no Alexa traffic, one does not have a PR yet, but shows better in Alexa, and one is not even indexed in google yet! But curiously enough, that site gets fairly steady traffic from MSN. I'm still trying to analyze what I did differently, but so far haven't figured out what was the meaningful difference.
Most experts seem to think that you need 3-6 months to establish credibility with a new domain, and I think the my first 2 sites may have been a fluke and that the third one will eventually get there.
And FWIW, I'm not using any Microsoft technology ang get MSN traffic.

posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 5:31 PM by Pascal


You don't use adsense and Google is penalizing you for it. The idea that Google is "impartial" is silly. Sites that use adsense definitly rank higher. Same for sites that advertise with adwords. Google is a massive business, not a charity. If you want to get to the top of the page, buy your way there.

posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 6:56 PM by Ed


Neil Patel:

"You only have 24 backward links in Google, and 1837 in Microsoft. This is because Google is very picky about which links they count and which links they do not."

Close, but no cigar. Google is "more picky" (ie, has a more complicated algorithm) for weighting pages, but years ago they also deliberately started misrepresenting the backlinks figure in a attempt to stop SEOers using the information to second-guess Google's PageRank algorithm. In reality, SEOers generally believe Google counts roughly the same number of backlinks as MSN - possibly many more, given the size of their database.

"Basically, ranking in MSN search is much easier then Google, or even Yahoo, because of the simplicity of their search algorithm. I am sure that sooner or later, as MSN search matures, this might change."

It does. When search.msn.com launched our page rankings shot up and down wildly for weeks, only tailing off in the last few months as the ranking algorithm gradually stabilized.

Plus, as many responders have pointed out, Google routinely "sandboxes" new domains (making it hard for them to get good rankings) for their first year or so of being listed - an attempt to fight (typically short-lived) spam blogs and the like.

posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 7:14 PM by Shaper


My site is only a few months old and so is just starting to recieve hits from search engines.

Your article interests me as I feel my situation is the opposite.

MSN thinks I'm a pervert, Google just ignores me.

posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 9:37 PM by eamon


There is some good information among these comments... and some really bad information. A good place to start for Google novices is SitePoint Forums Google FAQ: http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=356031

it is written by a friend of mine, and I can assure you he knows his stuff. ;)

One thing to remember is that pagerank and your page's rank are not the same thing. You might have a PR6 and rank lower than a PR4 for certain terms.

Also, about the mysterious sandbox: http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=357587

It exists, but not the way most people think (no one really knows how it functions, and blaming bad rankings on being in the sandbox is probably a cop-out most of the time).

Hope some of that helps. :)

posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 10:45 PM by Josh


Hi, I think you might draw a parallel with one of the obstacles faced by start-ups: Prospective clients might be wary and prefer to wait for some time to see if the company is still around/has satisfied customers over a certain period of time/has a track record of good service etc. Longevitity is important in generating trust - not only with potential clients, but also with Google.
Always enjoy reading your blog - Chris
P.S.: I think this feauture of the Google algorithm is absolutely justified in that it mimics human behaviour in a way.

posted on Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 3:26 PM by Chris


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