This article focuses on some of the differences between search engine optimisation for the Google and MSN. However I have included some results from Yahoo as a comparison. As the majority of my clients have Australian businesses, my testing results are based on google.com.au, yahoo.com.au and msn.com.au, with "results only from Australia" selected. I recently took on a client whose website was built entirely in Macromedia Flash. Search Engines have little or no ability to read Flash* so this website could not be found anywhere in Google. However, on the basis of the keyword, "Make Up"-without the ""-their website was ranked at no.3 out of 188,984,290 results. The only place on the website where any keywords could be read by the search engines was the Meta tags. This example shows a very clear distinction between how a search engines such as Google and MSN rank sites within their listings. I decided to run some very specific tests to find the differences between the Big3 search engines, and how easy or difficult it is to rank well within them. Note: While there are many different components that make up a successful search engine optimisation campaign, different SEO mixtures are required for different sites, as well as different search engines. You cannot always rely on exactly the same SEO mix. While this example may be great for a website built entirely within Flash, it does, however, leave room for search results within MSN to return results that are considerably less accurate then Google i.e. the tags could be filled with keywords that do not accurately reflect the website theme. While Google places some importance on the header and description tags of a website, it places more importance on the content of a website. i.e. if your content does not support the keywords you have placed in your Meta tags, it is unlikely you will see results from your Meta Tags unless your website has no real competition.
There are other important aspects as well, such as link popularity, but these other components are not the focus of this article.
Example 1 - Flash designed Website My client's website had absolutely no optimisation work done other than place information within the title, description and keyword tags, and only on the home page. The header and title tag mentions "make up" once and "make-up" is mentioned three times. In MSN search, "make up" ranks 3 out of 188,984,290 results, "make-up" ranks 3 out of 26,586,615 results. When searching the first 100 results in Google, this website was nowhere to be found under either key phrase. My further tests proved that ranking well in MSN with this method is not just specific to this example.
Example 2 - Comparisons between Google, MSN and Yahoo For further testing I used a totally different and more competitive industry-finance. In this case I used a website that was already well optimised. I focused on a commonly misspelled keyphrase- "buisness loans" and started by adding this phrase once into the header tag. When I started this test, the following total search results for each keyphrase were: - Google - 534 - MSN - 295 - Yahoo - 395 6th May 2006 - Added these keywords. On this date my client's site did not appear under the key phrase, "buisness loans", nor did it appear in the first 100 results in either MSN or Google. The key phrase above is a commonly miss-spelt phrase for Business Loans. The correct phrase currently ranks at position 3 in MSN Search. 13th May 2006 - This keyphrase appeared at position 1 in MSN, but no results in Google's top 100. 19th May 2006 - A further 6 days later no results for this keyphrase had appeared in Google, so taking the test one step further, I added this keyphrase to the description tag. 26th May 2006 - With still no results showing in Google, I placed this keyphrase into the anchor text of one of the links towards the lower part of the page content. 26th May 2006 - This keyphrase appeared in Yahoo search results at No.1. 26th May 2006 - This keyphrase also appears in Google's search results at Position 6. During this period of testing, all search engines crawled the site on a daily basis, so all changes I made would have been noticed by them during the crawl. While my testing confirmed some interesting results, what it most importantly highlights is the need to test different methods with different keywords within the main search engines of your focus to achieve a successful search engine optimisation campaign. * More recent versions of Flash have settings that allow you to change the format of the text within Flash to render it HTML and allow the search engines to read it, but it still does not allow you to work with the text in an SEO friendly way.