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MSN Converts! What That Means to You (And Possibly Google Too!)

MSN isn’t exactly known for having spectacularly relevant search results, while also being pretty easily to manipulate. People often point to the low search volume that MSN provides, and relate that to the non-so-relevant results. And they are probably right. But what often gets missed is that MSN often has one of the best conversion rates of any search engine. Why is that?

Each engine actually skews one way or another toward a particular audience. I’d venture a guess that this is a factor in their conversion rate, but only in part. So what else might be a factor?

At the Search Engine Strategies conference eye tracking studies were used to determined that MSN searchers spent more time reading the search results than searchers on other engines. This was mildly portrayed as a negative in that the more relevant the results the quicker the audience clicked away. I wasn’t convinced. In fact, if we put issues of relevance aside, having readers spend more time analyzing the results would appear to be a good thing. It means that the searchers are more interested in finding what is relevant for them rather than just randomly clicking something that appears relevant.

Based on my own personal search habits, where I spend more time looking at, and therefore reading, the descriptions rather than the titles in SERPs, I think search engines would better serve their audience by giving longer descriptions in their search results. The more information, the better informed people are, right? Well, this plays true with search results as well. In fact, with more and more people using high-speed Internet, there really is no reason not to provide (or at least provide the option for) longer descriptions.

Maybe MSN’s results really are less relevant, and maybe they deliver a higher conversion rate because there are fewer relevant sites to choose from. Maybe it’s their audience that is just more apt to read before clicking, or maybe MSN has something that the other engines don’t. But no matter the reasons, the higher conversion rates on MSN give reason alone for not writing this engine off.

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm whose pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his “bride enjoy” and his children. Read Stoney’s full bio.

2 Responses to MSN Converts! What That Means to You (And Possibly Google Too!)

  1. Stoney, I think the reason why MSN has a higher conversion rate is mainly because of the people who use it.

    In terms of relevance on MSN ….. so far I’ve seen MSN do very well with the results they show. (I’m still not a Microsoft fanatic).

    What else can we enjoy about MSN? It’s much easier to optimize for it but have you noticed that by using methods of optimization for MSN, you compromise your ranking on Google? I’ve seen this happen even though all this is a “case by case” / “industry” basis.

  2. Stoney G deGeyter
    Stoney deGeyter says:

    In terms of optimizing for MSN, well, we don’t. We optimize period, but primarily go for rankings on Google. Doing that usually also gets us good rankings on MSN. One isn’t necessarily at the expense of the other.

    It might be the audience that gets the better conversions, but that doesn’t mean the other engines can’t learn something that can help them improve conversion rates for us as well (not that they really care). If MSN’s audience is spending more time reading the results, and that creates better conversions for the businesses, if I was Google I’d see what should be changed to give searchers more to read in the results. Again, I say longer descriptions!