First let’s start with why Google became “the search engine”. In the beginning of search engines there were a ton of players some you may remember and some you may not. Some survived and others died off and many of the small fish were eaten up (bought out) by their brothers as the big three and came to control the vast majority of the search market. Google came out of this with the biggest chunk by far of that majority, it didn’t hurt that for a while they were actually providing the results of their competitors (it was not that long ago that Yahoo was simply a mirror of Google’s results) but there was something more at the core of their success.
Keep in mind that as this war was raging the internet was really still quite young and there were a lot less sites online even say 3 years ago then there are today. Take that back 7-8 years when the net was really starting to grow and Google first launched in 1998. At that time people where not yet doing a ton of “buying” online they were more in the information gathering world. You really have to think about what it was like just a short time back. People were quickly moving to looking up any question, concept or piece of information online and for a huge number of people it was a brand new experience. Further when you started trying to find sites about “monarch butterflies” or “classic muscle cars” or “fine cigars” there were actually a lot less sites out there then there are today about what ever subject it may have been that you were looking to learn about and people were hungry for new information.
During that time since buying was less of a factor people honestly were looking to find sites built by John and Jane Doe about what ever subject they most enjoyed. Chat was a relatively new thing, blogs were unknown, forums and news groups were a new concept for most surfers and most new web surfers thought AOL was “the internet”. Yes we have come a long way in 7 years to say the least. Into this world came Google as just one of many search engines but Google was different! How so seems to have been forgotten by many. It was not the plain look of Google with out weather stats and scrolling news that made it become the huge player it is today it was functionality and its ability to help users find sites they failed to find on the other search engines greatly expanding the available information that users were actively seeking.
Over time the word got out, people started to use phrases such as “go google it” instead of “look it up online” and soon Google clearly had the better mouse trap and the cliché became reality as the world indeed beat a path strait to the Google door step. During all this time people began to actually buy things online, Google introduced contextual ads and an empire was born. All was not well in the Google world though because internet marketers started to effectively do something that we today call search engine optimization and very soon after search engine spamming became a reality and a real problem. Almost at once Google started to move toward not just judging on page text and factors but looking at links to one site from other sites.
Optimizers didn’t give up though reciprocal links became all the rage of course people still continued to tweak content and the “Google Dance” became a fact of internet life and a selling point for those offering search engine marketing services. Optimizers would take an action, Google would react and that brought us clear through to today. Over time the value of links has grown enormously all while the value of the actual content on web pages has decreased a great deal. So, what do we have today? A Google that I personaly consider broken, a Google that so values links and the anchor text in them that is now lists many pages for terms that are not contained anywhere on the site at all. Clearly when this is the case the user experience must suffer.
Yet this is only part of the problem for the Google user today. There is one more factor that made Google so successful in the beginning and that seems to have been lost on just about everyone including most “SEO Experts”. This little factor is the speed of indexing and listing of new sites. Google seems to be addressing this with their SiteMaps program but that applies to fairly technical site owners who know how to create an XML map and register it with Google. I guess in time most templates and WYSIWYG editors will start to create them automatically but there are millions of sites with out XML on them and there probably will always be millions of them. In the beginning Google had the hungriest spider on the web indexing new content so quickly that once you had your main site indexed any updating at all would get you spidered every few days to two weeks maximum even if you were a new site that today would be labeled a “PR0” and “in the Google sand box”.
Today anyone monitoring the big three search engines can tell you MSN is currently in the old Google pattern of indexing new sites with record speed and revisiting existing sites so fast it is almost scary. MSN seems to be finding pages almost as fast as we can upload them; recently I honestly had 15 new pages of content indexed one day after uploading on a brand new site with no XML feeds of any kind and this site had only been online for two weeks total. In short if you put a new site online and compare the reactions of the big three in most cases you will have the following results. Google will index it the slowest (unless you get a link on say a PR7 site), Yahoo will get to it a little faster but stall in indexing all the pages (perhaps to push paid inclusion?) but put out a few decent links and MSN will have the whole thing indexed in a week or two. Then the real key is if you are doing any updating and additions MSN’s spider will keep coming back very often to do updates.
Of course as an SEO Specialist, I like the fact that MSN indexes my client’s sites quickly and that it still assigns a lot of weight to “on page factors” which I can easily control but if you look at this situation only as a optimizer, you miss the real important factor about what MSN is doing right in indexing quickly and giving reasonable weight to on page factors. Simply put if you are looking for the most diverse content and specifically new content on any given subject right now you will find the least dominance by giant corporations and the most relevant, new and useful content on MSN. Now if you take nothing else from this article understand the following point.
“People do not go online on a daily basis to buy things any more then they listen to the radio daily to buy things. They go online for information and entertainment and search engines have become the means to find those resources. When they then need to buy something online they generally use the search engine that most often helps them find entertainment and information for daily use to begin looking for the item they want to purchase. Google succeeded in drawing the most visitors due to its’ ability to connect people with information and entertainment not for its’ ability to sell products”.
So why is this so important? Because it was speed of indexing and the ability to show users the most relevant content that made Google the choice for people who wanted to be educated or entertained and today it is MSN that is providing the most up to date and in most areas, the most relevant information. MSN also currently has the biggest problem with spam, however if they can gently correct that with out placing too much weight on anchor text I think MSN will have a real winner on their hands.
To conclude let’s go back to the radio analogy so the full ramifications of up to date, accurate and relevant organic search results can be understood for the power they have. For a radio station advertising is NOT the “product” they are selling. The real product is the information and entertainment that they provide and that is what gives them a base of listeners. Once they have that base of loyal listeners they can then sell advertising as a source of revenue. Many things drive listeners to choose a station such as the music they play, the DJs they have or the advertising the radio station does for itself. Yet what makes any station successful is simply the number of people that tune in and listen on a daily basis.
In the search engine world it is the organic listings that are the “product” all the “sponsored listings” are just that, advertising. So just like in the world of radio the search engine that provides the best product will in time get the most users and as they do that the value they can offer to their advertisers goes up and there fore so does the amounts they can charge and the number of advertising slots they can sell.
Only time will tell if MSN can truly capture as much or even more of the search market then Google but their growth is quite impressive so far. In July of 2005 MSN Search had about 12% of the total search market, as of December of 2005 that number grew to about 22%. That is almost a 100% increase in only 5 months. So it does indeed seem that MSN is at least currently on the right path toward one day becoming the “better mouse trap”.
Some of you probably have already read it, but as to my previous post I suggested begin optimizing for MSN Bill Gates knows what he is doing. greek39