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MSN Search Relevance Roiling Microsoft

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Microsoft asked Keynote Systems not to make a survey of search engine users available to the public.

MSN Search Relevance Roiling Microsoft
Does MSN Search Have Relevance Issues?

Editor’s Note: Can MSN meet Steve Ballmer’s call for search supremacy? Will MSN’s relevance impact your decision to advertise with them? Tell us about it at WebProWorld.


The numbers didn’t look good for the home team in Redmond, the Wall Street Journal reported, and that may have led Microsoft to request the suppression of a search engine study. In the study, MSN Search fell to 5th from 3rd among 2,000 users surveyed in the second quarter of 2005.

Relevance drove the drop, as 27 percent of users found their general search results lacking. 37 percent working with specific geographical locations, ie local search, didn’t find the relevance they wanted, WSJ cites the Keynote survey as reporting.

Microsoft says they asked Keynote not to disclose the study, which would have mentioned MSN Search’s drop in a press release. A MSN information services group director, Lisa Gurry, claims Microsoft had problems with Keynote’s methodology. The results they found didn’t match Microsoft’s research.

MSN claims that a better assessment of its search performance can be found in its search queries share in the US. WSJ notes comScore’s numbers have MSN’s percentage at 15.5 percent for July. In comparison, Google had 36.5 percent for the month, and Yahoo had 30.5 percent.

Yahoo figures in the MSN equation, because until February MSN used Yahoo’s search to handle its queries. Since the switch to in-house search technology, users have fled for more relevant search engine sites, according to the report.

One of those destinations has been Google, which continues to vex Microsoft with its rollout of products and the much-rumored massive network it is constructing. An internal paper on the Google threat, constructed by MSN execs and seen by the Journal, said “Google threatens Microsoft’s position on the Internet, and could potentially lock Microsoft out of its existing distribution channels and reduce the value of Windows.”

That document likely led to the recent reorganization of Microsoft’s corporate structure, paring seven divisions to three. This morning, Microsoft declared a dividend of 8 cents per share and announced a change to its corporate governance guidelines. Any director on Microsoft’s board who has a majority of votes withheld in an uncontested election must resign.

Those directors may be taking another look at the “Google — The Winner Takes All (And Not Just Search…)” paper, where executives noted the lack of innovative products created by MSN. It could be that an executive or two will be resigning before a director does, if MSN continues to slide, and putting the clamps on negative surveys won’t stop that slide from happening.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

MSN Search Relevance Roiling Microsoft
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