OnStartups

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

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on April 29, 2006 28 Comments

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?