Microsoft have launched a new way to use search. Their portal, Live.com, is in Beta and at Webmasterworld Rahul Lahiri - one of MSN's engineers on algorithmic search gave us an insight into how they intend to take on the giants of Google and Yahoo. When I saw the faces on the Yahoo rep (Tim Mayer) and the Google rep (Matt Cutts) I knew that Microsoft had scored a few points, so it seemed a good topic to report on in Receptional's press room.
There are four "wow" factors in Live.com that I picked up on. The first is the immense ease with which you can personalize your page - combining RSS, search and news with incredibly rich features that dwarf Google's personalization capabilities and more than match Yahoo's offerings in this regard.
The second "wow" sounds small, but will change many factors in search. Instead of the results being in pages, Live.com has an infinitely long scroll bar, allowing you to browse hundreds if not thousands of results at once. This will make the "top three" spots less relevant and the descriptive text in the result much more relevant as this new innovation starts to affect user behavior. It is an astoundingly clever technology in my opinion.
The third innovation was the ability to create search macros, effectively allowing you to build your own search engine in specific verticals on the fly with ease. This will again change the nature of search, allowing you to personalize search without relinquishing your privacy. It is another great feature which I also feel will be of immediate benefit in Receptional's own research when wielded with skill. After the presentation I talked about developing some ideas in this area and we plan to follow these ideas up in the coming months.
The fourth "WOW" was a preview of their local search innovation. Here the gasps could be heard around the room - a traditionally skeptical audience - as Microsoft took us on a virtual trip down the streets of a Philadelphia city. And I thought Google Earth was good! To be fair, it was only a preview, but if they can do that, then close your curtains in built up areas guys... Voyeurs might be several thousand miles away!There are, however, two real draw-backs. The lesser is simply the bugs that stop the system working not only in Firefox but also in the newest version of Internet explorer.The more serious problem is still relevancy of results. Rahul skipped over this fatal flaw of course, but was using the phrase "George Bush" in his presentation. The sharper members of the audience saw big holes in the quality of these results. This MUST get fixed before MSN can start to gain market share. But if they can get the search result relevancy up, then I have seen, for the first time, evidence that MSN can take on Yahoo and maybe Google too.
Marketing on Live.com will eventually be done via Microsoft's AdCenter. Separate to Live.com, MSN's paid search product is nearing launch. If you are interested in developing marketing campaigns for MSN, why not contact us now to discuss budgets and strategy in preparation for the UK launch of Microsoft's paid search offering, due to hit the UK in the summer. Microsoft are already discussing search volumes with Receptional and we are already among the few UK businesses working with the beta version of their AdCenter product and developing expertise in this new search marketing technology. We also moderate the MSN forums at Webmasterworld and have several direct contacts now, both with the engineers and the account managers, who will soon be selling this search marketing opportunity into the UK. Contact Receptional online now and let's see what MSN search marketing can do for your business.