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Microsoft Trying to Murder Organic SEO?
Thursday, March 01, 2007
In case you missed it, Microsoft has been granted a new patent that will remove duplicate search engine results (ie. organic results). Actually the first three components of the patent claim explain the patent a bit more.

"1. A method for removing duplicate URLs from a plurality of listed URLs, said method comprising: determining a display URL for each of a plurality of listed URLs; and determining if any subset comprising at least two listed URLs from among the plurality of listed URLs have the same display URL and, if so, eliminating at least one listed URL from among the subset of listed URLs having the same display URL, wherein specific listed URLs from among the subset of listed URLs having the same display URL are selected for elimination based on a selection rule, wherein the selection rule for the elimination of specific listed URLs from among the subset of listed URLs having the same display URL is for lesser paying listed URLs to be eliminated. Translation: this means removing duplicate URLs

2. The method of claim 1 wherein the plurality of listed URLs are the results of a search engine query. Translation: when there are multiple results for the same URL based on a single search query.

3. The method of claim 1 wherein the plurality of listed URLs are derived from a compilation of search engine query results." Related queries with duplicate URLs
As Bill Slawski points out, in essence the patent explores the idea of "...filtering organic results when there's more than one URL pointing to the same page (i.e., http://www.example.com, http://www.example.com/home.html) on a search results page. It adds the possibility of removing a Web search listing from a search results page when there's also a paid listing pointing to the same page."

This doesn't make sense. Enquiro research has shown that most search users tend to click on the top organic results the majority of time. So let me get this straight, if by chance you have a sponsored result and a top organic result, Microsoft is thinking about removing the organic result. Hmm yeah this will help improve relevancy. You remove the top organic listing, the one that most users will click on. Yep that's one way to improve the user experience. (I'm rolling my eyes as I type this...) This sounds absurd to me. In my opinion, in terms of providing relevant results, Microsoft is a distant fourth behind ASK, Google and Yahoo.

If implemented, Microsoft’s would filter out your organic listing if you also appeared in their Sponsored Listings. By removing the organic results, Microsoft does not improve the user experience or improve the relevancy of the results. How can you have a listing that has been paid for (ie a sponsored result) be the most relevant result? Would it not be possible for eBay for example to bid on any key phrase and be listed in the top sponsored position for this particular key phrase? This doesn't mean that this is the most relevant result out there, and further, if the site listed in the number three sponsored position happened to be the most relevant but has had it's organic result removed, users may not find the most relevant result (based on the fact that they may ignore the side sponsored listings). The organic listing is the one that is ranking based on quality and relevancy, not the PPC listing which “ranks” solely because the advertiser paid the right price to be placed there.

Is it not true that organic and sponsored listings are supposed to be separate and that they are not supposed to affect each other? (Although I have seen evidence of this not being true, where paid listings have cannibalized organic listings.) It should be noted that Microsoft has not stated whether they will implement this patent, but it does raise some eyebrows.

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posted by Jody @ Thursday, March 01, 2007  
  • At 9:06 AM, Blogger Rob said…

    I doubt they'll filter organic in favor of sponsored - after all Microsoft is a follower in terms of search. It's been successful for Google to leave both up, so I'm sure Microsoft will follow suit.

    Another reason (as you've illustrated) is many people prefer organic listings. If I was an advertiser whose traffic all-of-a-sudden dropped from MSN (especially since I was bidding the most for a term I knew I already had high rankings) I'd be pretty choked and would probably drop MSN from my advertising budget.

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