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.