MSN Search - Flop with Search Community


Im pretty certain that it's not just me that has noticed that MSN Search is just not cutting it within the Search community, or even the wider tech/media blogging circles.

Back in January, and even December last year there was much excitement and anticipation of MSN's official launch and you couldn't move for blog posts and forum threads on the subject. A quick search of Threadwatch will show you a whole bunch of activity ranging from general speculation to ways to spam the new engine.

Yesterday, Chirs Garret pointed out that MSN was now using PicSearch for images - not news of the century, but nobody seems to care at all - likewise at the SEW forum thread on the same subject. Have MSN simply failed to connect with the techies and marketing types, or is it just the fact that after so much pre-launch excitement, we're all a bit bloated on MSN Search talk?

Im not certain, but my gut feeling is that they've blown it. While it will undoubtably be a hit with the masses, it will not acheive the cool that Google had, and now seems to be losing, and that Yahoo had, lost and is now regaining. It maybe just because it's M$, and as many an M$ evangelist will tell you, it's easy to pick on the mega corp, and "M$ bashing" has become somewhat of a sport in the blogophere.

Maybe their marketing and attempts to connect just suck.


They had cool shirts

...that they gave away at SES Chicago. In fact, I'm wearing mine now. Hope to snag another in NYC!


You hit the nail on the head. Even though I'm a web user of the SEO kind, I like to click on my address bar now and again and start typing.

Three guesses what comes up first whenever I start with G or Y respectively. But somehow, FF is reluctant to suggest if I try msn OR sear...

In short: their SE might be good (depending on where you come from), but the url sux.

I propose they buy (they might hesitate) or (which should be quite a bit cheaper).

New Brand

But building a new brand with a simple interface focused purely on Search is the way to go imo.

I agree. They did actually seriously consider this, but the pro-msn side won the debate in the end.

I think a new brand would have been a more powerful marketing play.

SE market shares will only sh

SE market shares will only shift gradually unless somebody comes up with a killer breakthrough feature. I think it was Danny Sullivan that equated it to shifting TV network viewership in the US - major shifts of market share take decades. It's a long term game.

Whats in a name

Dan - you make a brilliant point. From this thread alone, some have related MSN to Instant Messenger, others to it being a software giant, personally, I have always drawn the correlation that it is a content provider selling advertising space.

Obviously, the MSN product team believe that there is real value in using the Msn brand and their search will benefit - personally, I disagree and think that they should build a new brand.

Moving away from people who make a living off the web and its technologies, whats easier for the unsophisticated searcher to type into their browser:


They can continue to keep the search function on the portal. But building a new brand with a simple interface focused purely on Search is the way to go imo.


Players of the l-o-n-g game.

MSN as a software company?

MSN = Software Company (trying to control everyones life)

I rather get the impression people consider "MSN" and "Instant messaging" synonymous, in much the same way as "AIM" -- and on a larger scale, Microsoft = Windows.

The MSN brand is so far apart from Microsoft's core, that without knowing the acronym's meaning and background, you'd be hard pressed to realise it was Microsoft (The butterfly is a tenuous link, and the only mention of Microsoft on the MSN homepage is in the copyright notice)

> do think they've blown it with us

And, IMHO, you presume much to think that they give a rat's ass about anything other than JohnQ eyeballs.

But, going along with the thread, I think old habits are hard to break and most SEOs have been so focused on G for the last few years that they still 'read' it as if it were the entire industry.

I propose


I have a .nl version of that for sale (only for M$ money hehe)

Seriously, they could do with a new name for the SE. Maybe they can buy one...

Not a bad idea Dan

thought i can't see them doing that..

Just to clarify, i did only mean that it was a flop with the Search community - meaning webmasters, seo's etc - i know people are busy optimizing for it, i know it's sending referals - i just meant that nobody seems to get excited about it very much, or care to comment on news that if coming from another engine, would elicit more response.

So yeah, i do think they've blown it with us - but i wouldnt say they couldnt turn it around - as many have pointed out, it's early days...

Needs A Name


The biggest blunder I see,

Is big Bill needs to give his search engine a "name"...

MSN search????

That sure is "new and exciting".

He needs a google or yahoo name...and lighten up on the MSN branding thing.

Yahoo = Search Engine

Google = Search Engine

MSN = Software Company (trying to control everyones life)


Off-forum comments from several I know in EU indicate that MS search is US-centric. So that may be part of it, given the spread of the audience here and on SEO forums. I did take a look at one UK search a few weeks ago and it did suck. As for me, you guys just keep bitchin' ...I'll just continue going to the bank by myself.

I don't think, and this is confirmed by my peaks into the logs, that JohnQ really gives a damn. He'll use anything with a text box.


I've not tried a single one, but i will (please no examples :-) thanks for that patrick!

...and welcome to Threadwatch, do introduce yourself

A Brief Recap of Microsoft

1) Netscape Threatens Revenues, MS makes Internet Explorer

2) Google Threatens Revenues, MS develops MS Search

3) Wikipedia Threatens Revenues, MS offers free access to Encarta...

Hmm. Business as usual. I've been amused by MS's adult serps that a friend pointed out. They're attempting to filter all adult, but it is amusing to see what slips through and try to reason out why.

Lost the first battle in a long war

This is going to turn into a long war for search market share. Even though MSN is still advertising their launch, I think Google wins this battle. Their update quickly took everyone's attention off of MSN. Also MSN ropped the ball by having their serp qualtiy still be below par.

It is generally hard to change a user's loyalty. It is even harder when people perceive Google as cool and MSN as a money grabbing company. I wish MSN does suceed simply becuase I feel they are more honest with their intentions. Just look at the unfairness that is happening right now with smart tags.

Lots of people in numeeja are using it

From what I see around uk web scene people are using it and seem to quite like it (mainly cos their own sites come top). I love Microsoft so it will be no suprise that I am rooting for them but of late Google seems to be determined to p'$$ off the webmaster community so MSN couldn't have come at a better time. I never ever search using Yahoo apart from to check links, I don't know anyone else who does normal everyday searches on it either.

Early Days

Im not based in the States so havent seen any of the ads being run apart from on the web. From what I've heard, its a long term play (24 months and beyond) and their expectation is simply to get in the game again.

Google's rise was phenomenal and apart from their engineering and PR which was excellent, couldnt have timed their entry to market better with most of the majors struggling financially (I think timing is sometimes overlooked). Its going to take some doing to topple them but I reckon it can be done and I for one am enjoying the energy and time MS are putting in - many of us are desperate for a shake up and can be very critical. Hoepfully the MS search product team are reading forums like this and learning ;)


The MSN marketing campaign is only a couple of weeks in, so it is too early on that front.

Also - the Allegra update so soon after means that I figure a lot of SEOs are keeping their attention firmly on Google. I had actually switched my home page from Google UK to MSN search, but I'm so often checking Google to watch for Allegra effects that I've had to change back.

And let's see how friendly the tech crowd are to Google if they continue with Smart Tags.

It's sometimes hard to change brands once you're used to a particular one - but there are still plenty of dynamic pressures in the market.

How long have they been runni

How long have they been running MSN search adverts in the UK? I've yet to see one, which dosn't bode particularly well for the 7-or-more times thing :)

Funnily enough, I think that publically the search community is decrying it as a failure, but privately, there's a guilty love for it, because its pretty easy to game outside the hyper-competitive terms.

(side note: how can it be considered a failure? We all know that search is an ever-evolving, algorithm refining beast, it was always patently obvious that the initial release would be fair-to-middling at best. Plus, its Microsoft, they seem to play a long game, and slowly snowballing success by cleaving away at Google's market share would be an ultimate irony. Were I as big as Microsoft, I'd be all about the ironic wins, they're just so much more fun.


The TV ad I saw mentioned free Encarta by name. However I'm not sure enough people know what Encarta is. That could be a problem.


MSN just don't seem to understand how to promote themselves - did you know if you do a search on MSN you get two hours free encarta access? Every time? That's quite cool actually and if G had done it there would have been headlines everywhere and free t-shirts for schools.

Meanwhile MSN bury it in the middle of an entry in the most Boring Blog in the World (TM) and no one ever mentions it again.

I don't think their problem is faling to connect with the techies - I think they fail to connect with anyone at the moment - including their own PR department.


Yep, i do agree ukgimp, my point really was not that we represent the public though :) It's been said, and i beleive getting the techie crowd on side early helps shape big media and public opinion though - so while not representitive, i think it's important.

And yeah Brad, a year from now will be a much better place to cast full judgement. Though for right now, i deem it a flop within the Search community (at least so far...)

After my own search needs

All that matters to me is traffic .. And MSN are sending it to me. Like my music for me to like it it doesn't need to be cool, doesn't need to be credible. I am not one to be too swayed by fashion, you only need look at me to see that ;O)

To Soon

It is too early. I am just now seeing MSN search banners on the web and adverts on TV. As with all advertising, the public has to see it 7 or more times before it registers - that takes time.

Also, when Yahoo launched there was both apathy and some real hostility - at least judging from the threads at that time at WmW. However, that seems to be straightened out and Yahoo search has made steady improvements since and people are paying more attention.

It is going to take awhile for people to unlearn the habits of a Google-only Web and this is going to be a long term contest. A better measure of how MSN is doing will be a year from now.