MSN Dips Its Toes Into Universal Search

Filed in Bing by Matt McGee on December 8, 2007 0 Comments

I’ll admit to not using MSN Search … err, “Live Search” … very often, so I was surprised to see some new content appearing in the SERPs over the past few days. By all accounts, it looks like a very early version of what has now become “Universal Search” (Google’s term) or “Blended Search” (everyone but Google’s term).

It all began when I did a search for [furniture] on Live Search. Right below the sponsored listings is a small, hard-to-see green arrow pointing to “Top local listings for furniture near kennewick, washington“.

MSN SERP 1

The arrow is so small and so lightly-colored that it’s like they don’t really want you to notice the new content. Off on the right side, there’s even a question, “Is this useful? Yes | No” — as if they’re not sure on their end if it was a good idea to do this. Why so timid, MSN?

Local results aren’t all they’re showing. Here are some more screenshots and descriptions:

MSN SERP 2

A search for [playstation 3] originally brought up three video results, but as I write this, they’re now showing MSN Shopping results, instead.

MSN SERP 3

A search for [ron paul] brought up news results, which is exactly what you’d expect. I tried several other news-related terms and got similar SERPs, but never saw any blog results.

MSN SERP 4

Here’s proof that it’s still in testing: a search for [italian restaurants] brought up … news results? It did. I clicked the “NO” link and reported the error. Sure enough, as I type this right now, the same search brings up local results, just as you’d expect.

In each case, the blended/universal results are all appearing at the top of the main SERPs, just as Google used to do before the real integration of universal results within the 10 blue links. And on MSN, the extra listings at the top appear to be in addition to the regular 10 blue links; they don’t replace three of the blue links.

It’ll be interesting to see where this goes. As more searchers are exposed to different content like this, it frees all the engines to continue pushing the envelope on blended/universal search.

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