This is really stunning, and should shed some light on the differences between Google, Yahoo, and MSN for the small business owner who doesn’t understand how the three SEs and their algorithms work.
This web site, Small Business SEM (SBS), is less than a month old. The first post was written April 18th. This will be only the 14th post on the site, and there are the four “pages” linked above in the horizontal menu (“About SBS”, etc.). Aside from my user profile and a few posts on message boards, I have next to ZERO inbound links.
All of which is to say that this web site currently has no business ranking well in any search engine, even for a non-competitive phrase such as “Small Business SEM.” Yet, look at these three searches for that phrase:
In case it’s not obvious, this site ranks #1 in MSN for the phrase [small business sem]. That’s stunning. It’s also an indictment of how poor MSN’s search engine algorithm is at the moment.
What did it take for me to rank #1 on MSN? Three things:
1. The searched phrase is at the front of my page TITLE.
2. The searched phrase matches my domain.
3. The searched phrase is the name of my site — the most conspicuous piece of text I have. (It’s in big letters at the top of every page.)
That’s how easy it is to rank in MSN right now. It’s as if they’re stuck in Remedial Search Algorithms class.
To Yahoo’s credit, they have a few web sites in the Top 10 that belong there, like Small Business Brief and SEO Book. Even better, Google’s Top 10 is filled with more deserving sites, such as Search Engine Guide, WebmasterWorld, and others.
So, what’s the difference between the three SEs and how they rank web pages?, you ask? Well, that’s a question that smart SEM/SEOers could spend hours or even days discussing, but to break it down in oversimplified terms, it’s this:
Google relies the most on off-page factors (links, link quality, anchor text, etc.), MSN relies the most on on-page factors (page TITLE, URL, text content, etc.), and Yahoo falls somewhere in the middle, with an emphasis toward on-page factors. It’s something like this handy scale I’ve put together with my mad Photoshop skills….
I don’t know what on earth MSN is doing, and I’m not sure they know, either. I think in the future Yahoo will begin to move to the left just a bit, and Google will have to move to the right because it’s become way too easy to link spam for high rankings in the SERPs. (They already are moving in that direction, at least to the degree they’re really vetting how they rely on and use links to determine rankings.)
But for now, as you’re considering your site’s position in the big search engines, hopefully this will help explain what you’re seeing.