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The great and often-quoted baseball player Yogi Berra once said: "You can observe a lot by just watching." That’s what I have been doing with the new MSN search engine that was recently launched with a lot of fanfare.
I observed two interesting things which I would like to pass on to you.
If you put a keyword rich paragraph near the top of the page, either in the first or second paragraph, then your page "may" do well in search requests for the keywords in that paragraph. I put "may" in quotation marks because it is not guaranteed.
If a page is well optimized in all aspects, this initial paragraph can give you the oomph that is needed to make a good showing at MSN. That is what happened in the case of a few of my new client’s sites.
Stating exactly what you are doing and describing it plainly right at the start is good practice in any case because most people spend only a few seconds on a web site. If the first paragraph is clear then it is to your advantage if you want to keep a restless surfer on your page.
I did some more keyword searches and then noticed another preference of the new search engine. When searching for some keywords I found one or two sites highly placed in the rankings, but their main contents had little to do with the keywords. However, at the very bottom of the pages they did have links to another site with those keywords in the clickable link text.
There are two things that can be learned from this:
1. keywords placed inside link text are considered important by search engines, because they indicate that your page is genuinely dealing with those keywords by giving more references to them.
2. keywords placed at the very end of a page are important because it tells the search engine that a page which started out describing a concept such as "search engine optimization" is still talking about it even at the very end.
Putting keywords in a strong paragraph at the beginning, putting keywords in link text, and repeating keywords near the end of a page are not new ideas. This has always been part of good optimization practice, and it also makes good sense in terms of providing solid information for website users.
However, it is the emphasis on these elements in the new MSN search engine that is interesting. In any case, try your hand at it and see if you can tweak your pages so that you do well in the MSN engine, and the others as well.