Two fast rising search engines – the Yahoo! search engine and newly revised MSN Search – both have huge corporate backing, which some people say is more than sufficient to challenge search leader Google.
With the enormous potential of Yahoo! and Microsoft to place major financial and marketing support behind their search engine efforts, there is a strong possibility of some serious search competition. It would be prudent for search engine professionals (SEOs) and other website owners to be certain they are prepared for any upcoming search engine battles for market share.
In many ways, the search optimization techniques that work well in Yahoo! will serve you very well with the MSN Search algorithm. Many of the same optimization methods work for both search engines. The emphasis placed on creating keyword rich on page and off page content, by both algorithms, lets you get double value from your optimization efforts.
We will examine the similarities as well as the differences in optimizing for both search engines. There are a number of techniques that work extremely well for both algorithms. We will also look at the differences between the requirements for high rankings in Yahoo! and MSN.
If you take care to follow some basic steps, your site will score high search engine rankings in both MSN Search and Yahoo!.
Content is King
One thing that both the Yahoo! and MSN search engines share in common is the importance placed on content. With both search engines, content is clearly king. While incoming links remain very important, both search algorithms are heavily weighted toward keyword rich content. In particular, both search algorithms emphasize on page content.
To score high search engine rankings with both Yahoo! and MSN Search, maximize your keyword density without losing ground with the much more conservative Google algorithm. Unlike the Google algorithm, MSN and Yahoo! are very friendly toward extra heavy use of keywords and keyword phrases.
Keyword density levels that might trigger a spam filter in Google are rewarded with higher search placements in Yahoo! and MSN. Recommended SEO practice would be to strike a balance that creates strong rankings in all of the search engines. By carefully adding and subtracting keywords from your on page copy you can test your site’s rise and fall in all three search engines.
A good technique for writing on page copy is to write naturally. The keywords will appear as needed, and your sales copy will help to enhance conversions from site visitor to paying customer or client. Judicious use of keywords and their synonyms might result in your site gaining additional high rankings for other search terms as well. Keyword stuffing is never advisable from either a search engine or a sales conversion standpoint.
Write for your visitors and your site will also do well in the search engines as the keyword phrases will appear naturally and not seem forced into places where they obviously don’t belong.
Because of the importance of keywords to the search algorithms, you will want to consider the many ways that keywords can be used judiciously for the benefit of your site. Because keywords can be used much more heavily in Yahoo! and MSN, there will be a temptation on the part of many website owners to resort to keyword stuffing. There are other proven methods to utilize your keywords frequently without making that mistake. Always keep in mind that you want to achieve high search rankings with all of the major search engines.
A proven technique that will offer benefits across all search engines is the wise use of keywords in your page title tags. As with Google and Yahoo!, MSN prefers a separate and unique title for every web page on your site. Include one or two of that page’s most important keywords in the page title. Don’t simply list strings of keywords, however, or the search engines will discount your pages for spam tactics.
It’s well known in the search engine community that Google’s algorithm gives only very minimal weight to meta tags. On the other hand, the Yahoo! search engine seems to value them fairly highly. As with Yahoo!, the MSN algorithm appears to place some solid weight on the use of meta tags. To take full advantage of meta tag use, be sure to have some unique meta tags for every page. Do not use the same meta tags for all of your web pages.
Use only the three to five most important meta tags for that web page. Make certain that those meta tags actually appear as keywords on that page as well. If the keywords do not appear on the pages, don’t place them in that page’s meta tags. Any use of meta tag keywords that have no connection to the web page will probably be counterproductive and result in lower search rankings.
Title tags are very important to both the Yahoo! and the MSN search algorithms, as they are for the Google search engine as well. Spending some time on creating keyword rich descriptive page titles will pay enormous dividends in all of the search rankings. Make certain each page has a unique title tag. By giving each web page its own title tag, you remove the chances of being guilty of keyword stuffing.
Having keywords in your domain name will certainly pay off with MSN. A keyword rich domain name appears to have real value in Yahoo! as well. Be careful not to stuff the keywords or you could trigger a filter in any or all search engines, including Google, Yahoo!, and MSN. If you have a choice, err on the side of fewer keywords in the domain name, as too many will cause you problems.
The Yahoo! and MSN search algorithms have strong similarities in their on page optimization valuations. While there are some standard off page SEO practices that work well for both search engines, there are some important differences to consider as well.
As with all search engines, both Yahoo! and MSN Search value incoming links very highly. Those links are given even more value if they contain your most important keyword phrases as link anchor text. By ensuring that your link partners provide solid link text, you will score high rankings on Yahoo! and MSN, along with doing very well on the Google search engine results as well. As with all search engines, make sure you mix up your link anchor text. Absolutely no more than 80% of your anchor text, and less is better, should be identical. Like Google, Yahoo! and MSN will discount obviously identical and unnatural looking link text.
One major area of divergence between MSN and Yahoo! involves directory inclusion. The Yahoo! search placements appear to place extra importance on your site being listed in the Yahoo! Directory. Being part of that important Internet directory is almost a necessity for placement at the top of the Yahoo! search engine results pages (SERPs) for highly competitive keywords. Inclusion in the Yahoo! Directory is definitely not given the same level of importance in the MSN Search algorithm.
While the Yahoo! Directory is especially important to the Yahoo! search algorithm, MSN Search has always given weight to inclusion in the Zeal/Looksmart directory.
MSN Search formerly had an agreement with the Zeal/Looksmart Internet directories to provide their results. While that formal agreement is no longer in place, MSN continues to maintain a less formal arrangement with the directories. Instead of displaying the directory listings on a regular basis, MSN Search is able to utilize the directory listings at its discretion.
In the past, under the formal agreement with Zeal/Looksmart, it was a very wise choice to have your site included in the directory listings. Inclusion in the MSN endorsed directories would boost your site high in the MSN search results. While that advantage has lessened, it has not disappeared entirely. There is still some solid benefit to being included in the Zeal/Looksmart directory. In any case, the importance of Zeal/Looksmart inclusion isn’t very important to Yahoo! at all.
All search engines give weight to being listed in the Open Directory Project (DMOZ). Inclusion in that human selected directory is very important for Yahoo! rankings and appears to have importance to MSN as well. In that regard, being part of the DMOZ directory is important to all search engine algorithms.
While Yahoo! and MSN Search optimization are similar in many respects, it would be a mistake for any webmaster to believe that the two search engines are identical. Their algorithms are not entirely the same.
It is prudent, for the optimizing website owner, to understand the similarities and the differences between the two search engines.
As expected, both search algorithms place major importance on incoming links that feature keyword phases in the link anchor text. That high rankings requirement appears to be universal, to varying degrees, in all search engine placement result calculations.
Both search engine algorithms favor heavy keyword density in your on page optimization efforts. You will benefit from pushing the Google imposed limits on content keyword densities to their maximum levels.
Should you choose to push the envelope on keywords, pay close attention to your Google rankings as you attempt to move higher in MSN and Yahoo!. If there is any drop in your Google search positions, drop your keyword density immediately to lower generally accepted levels.
Both Yahoo! and MSN have their favored Internet directories. For Yahoo!, they naturally reward inclusion in their own proprietary Yahoo! Directory. In the case of MSN, their now much less formal arrangement with Zeal/Looksmart, still prefers listing your website as a prerequisite for high search placements.
Taking care of basic on page and off page optimization factors will result in high search engine rankings with both Yahoo! and MSN Search.