Microsoft is gunning for Google and Yahoo.

Now MSN Search, the third most popular search engine, accounts for 15% of all search queries. (Google is first with 45% market share, and Yahoo second with 32%.)

A lot is at stake here for Web marketers. Whether you are knowledgeable about search engine marketing or just an observer at this point, you need to follow this development. Your search rankings—free and paid—in all the major search engines are important marketing assets.

A 15% market share is certainly nothing to sneeze at. I would expect this to grow over time as Microsoft leverages its installed base of Windows users, embedding MSN Search right into the users' desktops in its new edition of Windows (codenamed "Longhorn.")

MSN Search is already in beta for integration into MSN Messenger, its instant messaging application. Microsoft also has access to a range of channels beyond the desktop, such as PDAs, mobile phones and interactive TV. You can be sure that the new MSN Search will start to make an appearance on all of these devices.

Recently, Microsoft President and CEO Steve Balmer stated that his company is "hell bent and determined" to challenge Google for leadership in Internet search. Given Microsoft's resources, it has as good a chance as anyone of achieving that goal.

Microsoft has been using Yahoo's Inktomi search technology to power its MSN Search. But it has been feverishly working on its own search technology to replace the Inktomi engine.

Microsoft's internally built MSN Search engine was soft-launched in beta mode in November. The long-awaited official launch that connects up with's home page occurred on February 1st.

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Stephan Spencer is the founder of Science of SEO and an SEO expert, author, and speaker.

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