MSN Allowing Webmasters to Opt Out of ODP Descriptions

For some time now, search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN have been using ODP (Dmoz) descriptions for search engine results descriptions. These descriptions are supplied by human editors overseeing the ODP. Although usually relevant and valuable, these descriptions at times are outdated, unrelated, and even incorrect.

Webmasters have been asking for a way to opt out of these ODP search engine results descriptions and MSN is the first engine to offer a solution.

So what we did was introduce a new option at the page level – a robots meta tag – that tells the MSN search bot not to use the DMOZ site snippet. This is something that only can be done at Web page level, by a webmaster, and is not done as part of the robot.txt file.

So in your Web page you’d put

<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOODP”>

or

<META NAME=”msnbot” CONTENT=”NOODP”>

Once MSN’s crawler revisits your page, you should see the changes reflected in the search results.

So far MSN is the only engine to recognize the tag, but hopefully the other engines will follow MSN’s example.

Google Crys Anti-Trust Over IE7

From Wired:

Google has informally complained to U.S. and European antitrust regulators about what it says are biased settings on Microsoft’s latest web browser, marking the latest spat between two companies whose business models are increasingly bumping up against one another.

Here’s the feature that Google is complaining about:

The next version of Internet Explorer, available now in test form, includes a box in the corner that lets people perform an internet search without going to a separate web page, much like what’s available from Google’s downloadable “toolbar.” Users who download IE 7 will be assigned a search engine preference based on the AutoSearch function from the previous version of IE, which is likely to be MSN Search.

Funny isn’t that the same feature as Firefox? Except with Google as the default search engine?

MSN Search Down

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Using Advanced Search Operators

Today, Rand posted an entry about linking together search operators:

So I’m playing around with the MSN operators as per my post from last week and I stumble upon the holy grail of link searches

I’ve been doing the same types of searches over at Yahoo with the linkdomain commands for some time now, but never really tested out the MSN operators until Rand brought them up for discussion on his site.

The main benefit of using MSN over Yahoo for this is the inanchor operator. Yahoo currently doesn’t support the inanchor operator so you are partially limited.

My take on the holy grail, something like this:
inanchor:seo inbody:search inbody:engine inbody:optimization linkdomain:mattcutts.com linkdomain:seobook.com -linkdomain:seomoz.org

Then go one step further, take the domains from that list and see which ones are linked to by searchenginewatch.
site:searchenginewatch.com linkdomain:domainfromlist

Virtual Earth Does Drive Bys

No not that kind of drive by – this kind of drive by.

The MSN Virtual Earth team loaded up a van with 10 cameras and photographed street level images for San Francisco and Seattle. You can preview the street level navigation right now. The images are decent quality and there are different types of layouts available (check out the “Street” view of the map). The controls are a bit awkward and the application isn’t quite smooth as Google Maps or Yahoo Maps, but street level images are obviously the next step in all these map applications. Your location is represented by a mini car on the road. (Hold shift and use arrow keys to move your car around)

If you have about 30 minutes to spare, you can watch the Virtual Earth StreetLevel video over at Channel 9.

Read MSN Search’s announcement then check outwhat people are saying about the preview on Scoble’s blog.

MSN Hit By Canonical URL Problems

MSN’s homepage – www.msn.com is now showing a toolbar PR of 2.

This is another example of the canonical problem I covered in an earlier post. Looking up the link information for msn.com and www.msn.com, you can see that Google considers these two different urls. In order to correct this problem, MSN could redirect msn.com to www.msn.com with a 301 redirect, but instead they used a 302.

I’m sure MSN understands the problem behind using a 302 and may be using this as a way to highlight the issues Google has with canonical urls.

Hopefully Google will respond to this and fix the problem for all sites that have been affected – not just a big site like MSN.

Update: Looks like MSN is back to PR 9. Here’s what GoogleGuy said over at WebmasterWorld forums:

I think we decided to do a re-export of PageRank so that msn.com wouldn’t worry that should have more green pixels; I wouldn’t be surprised if a minor refresh of backlinks was included in that re-export.

I’m not 188% sure that’s what happened, but I noticed that www.msn.com returns a PR9-ish now, so I’m extrapolating my guesses here. Your comment matches what I would expect to see if that happened.

MSN Feedback Tagging System

The guys (and gals) over at MSN give us a brief look at how they deal with the massive amount of feedback they receive.

They are using tagging to help segment issues and slice data into usable chunks – pretty smart.

Tagging is particularly appropriate for feedback as users rarely talk just about one issue or neatly constrain their comments to a single feature team…It shows just one view of the feedback, which segments by the type of issue. User raised issues are dealt with in every stage of development, while feature requests feed into planning, and usability sits somewhere in between. Another essential set of views slices this data by the feature.

Ballmer Says Microsoft is Serious About Beating Yahoo and Google

During the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2005, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer stressed the importance of search and the pace of innovation within the search engine space.

ALLISON WATSON: All right, with the recent enhancement in MSN.com search capabilities and the search-centric focus of the soon to be launched Windows “Longhorn” product, what is your view on the significance of index search and retrieval across the Microsoft family of products?

STEVE BALLMER: Thanks, Justin, for the question, and the answer is super, super important. Super important.

Now, if you ask one area where I really think you’ll see extra innovation and investment and drive, it really is in information organization, search and retrieval. That will be an area that we really push ourselves. We’ll push ourselves at the desktop, we’ll push ourselves at the corporate network level, we’ll push ourselves out in the Internet. We launched our first MSN Search product based on our own search technologies. In SharePoint Portal we’re pushing the search technologies. In “Longhorn” it’s not just about search, it’s about changing the way you manage and organize information that’s interesting to you. In our new portal technologies it’s about changing the way you manage and find information that is interesting to you.

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MSN Explains New Search Operators

Over on MSN Search Weblog there are explanations of the new search operators.

I like the InBody and Contains operators.

The example they give for finding pages that link to a target page using specific anchor text is totally off though.

inbody:miserable inbody:failure link:www.whitehouse.gov/president/gwbbio.html

Although this will match text found in the anchor text of links – this matches all body text. So this query actually searches for pages with body text including the words “miserable failure” and links to the president’s bio page. This doesn’t limit the results to only pages with “miserable failure” as outgoing anchor text, so the example is incorrect. Pages with “miserable failure” in the body text can still link to the president’s bio using different anchor text and still be returned in this query.

Microsoft Integrating RSS into Longhorn

Microsoft announced Friday that they will be integrating several new RSS features in the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn. The Longhorn Browsing and RSS team also announced a new RSS extension, to be released into Creative Commons, called Simple List Extensions. The extension will allow users to publish a lists as feeds and introduces a change to the RSS specification that many are not too happy about.

RSS functionality in Longhorn will make it easier for users to discover, view, subscribe to RSS feeds, and extend the RSS into more applications – which is a good thing.

Check out the demo video here.

Improvements to MSN’s Search Engine

MSN released several improvements to its search engine this week. (via http://blogs.msdn.com/msnsearch/archive/2005/06/21/431288.aspx)

They’ve added local search, sports instant answers, and new operators.

We’ve added FileType:, one of the most asked for operators, which restricts documents to a particular filetype. InAnchor:, InURL:, InTitle:, and InBody: are now available to find keywords in a particular part of the document, or in anchor text pointing to a document. We’ve augmented the Link: keyword that finds documents that link to a particular page with LinkDomain:, which finds documents that point to any page in a domain. Finally, we’ve added a new experimental operator called Contains:. Contains: returns documents that contain hyperlinks to documents with a particular file extension; for example, contains:wma returns documents that contain a link to a WMA file.