On February 16th we reported an MSN Search Update, since then, a thread at WebmasterWorld has grown to 139 posts deep at the time I write this. On or around February 16th, a major change occurred at MSN Search, most of the members at WebmasterWorld wouldn't even call the results spam, they called the results "irrelevant" time and time again. Types of problems included tons of subdomains (many blogs) that can fill the first page of results. Others noticed a huge weight increase in keywords of a domain name, hence the subdomain issue mentioned just before. Others noticed "footer pages", such as privacy policies, terms and conditions, copy-write pages and so on, ranking in the results.
Then on February 18th there was a rollback to pre-February 16th results. Some noticed that new sites also were added, but the algorithm seemed to be pre-February 16th. On February 20th at about 12:30pm (EST) MSNDude replied to the thread with what happened;
Hello All, We did roll out an improvement to RankNet just a few hours before the thread started (you guys are quick!), but the tests we used to qualify that net did show a small improvement. We saw the negative responses on WebmasterWorld almost immediately, but our own personal “sanity-test” queries (mostly technical and scientific) worked fine, so we assumed it was just a few people grousing about their over-optimized sites getting hit. However, as time passed and the thread continued to be a) very busy and b) nearly 100% negative, it became clear that something was wrong. Deeper evaluation revealed that the problem was in the qualification test itself.
We rolled back to the old net after only about 48 hours. The new one might have been up considerably longer if you guys hadn’t been so vocal so quickly.
So we’d like to thank all of you for your feedback – no matter how negative it was.
On another note we did roll out some other changes as part of the release and thankfully we have not had the need to roll those back :) Here is a summary of some of the more visible changes that we made or changes that you all would likely detect.
User Experience: We lightened up and streamlined the UX a bit. Thanks for the positive feedback on this: http://www.#*$!.com/blogtalk/blogtalk/wpn-58-20060216MSNSearchGetsANewLook.html. Isn’t the super-sized search bar at search.msn.com also refreshing?! That is a big search bar and it makes a big difference :)
Snippets / Contextual Descriptions: We made some changes to how we create contextual descriptions / snippets for pages. One clearly visible change is that we are now doing hit-highlighting in the title. We also have more subtle improvements around using page structure to get a true summary of the page. A decent example of this at: http://search.msn.com/results.aspx?q=yusuf+mehdi&FORM=QBRE or http://search.msn.com/results.aspx?q=msn+ranknet&FORM=QBRE. You will notice that the descriptions tend to read like real sentences. This was not always the case.
Depth of crawl: Over the past month or so we rolled out an improvement that will allow us to crawl high quality domains more deeply. We are generally pretty content with the improvements we have seen. We still have a lot of work we want to do to improve our selection, however, this is a step forward. If you have any feedback on this in terms of what you are seeing on your end we would love to hear it.
Keep the feedback coming.
- msndude(msd) with input from the techy RankNet folks
That helps explain things, but it seems like MSN still has a long way to go.
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.