Optimizing for Live.com — Why and How

- January 11, 2008

Search engine optimization to many people means optimizing for Google, but there are good reasons why this is a shortsighted approach. For one thing, search engine algorithms are always changing and any site that can do well on all three search engines is naturally more likely to be resilient to any changes that any one search engine might make. This is because the criteria that each search engine uses are different. For another thing, not all searchers are as savvy as you might think. There are lots of internet users out there that only know how to search with the buttons that came with the browser and if that browser is Internet Explorer, they’re probably searching on MSN. A search for [presidential election] on Google, Yahoo and Live Search give roughly the same results for Google and Live and a radically different result for Yahoo. In addition, both Google and Live show big changes depending on whether you search for election or elections while Yahoo’s results are largely unchanged. Results like this may cause a poor website owner to wonder if it is possible to rank well for any keywords in all three search engines, but we can attest that it can be done. We have seen some of our clients do it by providing good quality sites, with lots of relevant content. Relying only on Google for traffic can leave you high and dry when the algorithm changes as we saw it do just a few short weeks ago.

Now that Live.com’s new Live Search has been up and running for a while, everyone might want to bone up on their Live Search webmaster site optimization recommendations. Here are a few we found while looking at Live’s webmaster help.

  • Create a robots.txt file or use meta tags to control how the MSNBot crawls your site.
  • Validate your code and fix broken links. You can validate your code at w3.org.
  • Use simple URLs that do not change frequently.
  • Include targeted keywords in the visible text on the page.
  • Keep pages short – under 150 KB.
  • Provide at least one static text link to every page you want indexed.
  • Avoid using images to display content — use text.
  • Add a site map page to the site.
  • Keep every page only one or two pages away from the homepage.
  • If you want your snippet in the search results to be attractive, put descriptive content close to the beginning of the page.
  • Keep each page on topic and ensure that each page has a clear and distinct purpose on the site.
  • Place descriptive text in a Description meta tag.

Webmasters that want to stay current can keep up by following Live’s Webmaster blog or even checking out their site in their new Webmaster Portal. Go there and let us know what you think.

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