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MSN search is live : what impact for legal marketing?

Two years after Microsoft announced it would have its own search engine, MSN’s search engine went live today with an accompanying letter from Bill Gates. Scouring the blogosphere the feedback was generally positive.

What’s it mean for lawyers and legal marketing professionals? I went to the main man – Danny Sullivan, the king of search engine marketing, who spoke with MSN Search & Shopping corporate vice president Christopher Payne.

Though there’s a few bells and whistles your kids may find of interest, here’s the things I learned from Sullivan’s post on MSN’s search engine that I thought you guys should be aware of.

Keys of MSN search

  • While Yahoo no longer supplies the search results at MSN Search, paid for sponsored links continue to come primarily from Yahoo-owned Overture.
  • Clicking the the “Near Me” button appearing next to the “Search” button button runs a local search for your query. In this release, the Near Me feature works only for searchers located in the U.S. By default, your browser’s IP address is used to determine your location. You can override this by explicitly entering your current location using the Settings command. Sullivan found the “Near Me” function to work quite well, primarily because Microsoft has tagged every web page in its index that has geographic information, using what the company calls an “overlapping tiles model,” starting with zip code, then including neighborhood, region, city, state and country information if available.
  • MSN home page redesign that features a larger, more prominent search box at the top. I also noted that the new MSN page is built on Web standards design, making it more accessible, faster loading and easier to maintain – something law firms should demand of their Web & blog designers.
  • Search Results Via Feed/RSS: A new &format=rss parameter added to the end of any search will allow you to receive those search results via RSS. The feature is still very much in testing and clunky per Sullivan.
  • Feed Discovery: New tools to help you locate and find feed content from across the web are available as part of My MSN, but as I have previously reported, this has a ways to go so stick with your desktop aggregator.

What’s coming with MSN search?

Here’s the list of possibilities Payne discussed with Sullivan:

  • Blog Search: MSN has promised to do this, something that no major search engine yet offers. When might it come? Nothing to announce yet, Payne said.
  • MSN Sponsored Link Program: MSN already offers its own paid links that can be purchased directly, but it is rumored to be working on an expansion of this program that would greatly reduce or eliminate those coming from Overture. Payne had nothing to announce on timing.

Google still leads the way with Yahoo following but Microsoft is now in the game and can be expected to make some significant gains. Stay tuned.

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